There is a lot of talk about the Tucson, AZ shootings. There is even more speculation, rhetoric, anger and blaming surrounding the events, the victims, the suspect, and the friends/foes/family of everyone even slightly involved, not to mention their principles and politics. Frankly, it didn’t take long for it all to turn from informative discourse into so much angry noise.
Normally, I would be all for a good rant-fest against certain political factions (or perhaps just their chosen representatives) and their tactics for inspiring loyalty and expressing their displeasure with their ideological opponents. Normally, I’d jump on an excuse to explain in excruciating detail why being a professional douchebag in the fashion that certain people have chosen to go about it means there are specific consequences.
But, there are enough people calling out for blood. There are already plenty of voices raised in outrage and vengeance, and I don’t really want to add to that clamor. Yes, it was a tragedy. I can’t imagine being any one of the players in that real-life drama, and I don’t want to think too hard about what it must be like to bury a loved one or stand with bated breath by a hospital bed, just waiting. It must be horrible. It should never have happened.
The man who pulled the trigger was not in his right mind. I don’t think anyone who guns down strangers could possibly be considered sane. In this case, he might have latched onto someone’s carelessly-phrased mock-threat, or perhaps he misunderstood the intent behind certain political catchphrases. It’s entirely possible that the targets of his psychosis were more or less chosen arbitrarily. All I know is, he isn’t well.
What I want to focus on here, now, is that his condition…whatever it is…did not happen overnight. What I want to talk about is, was he receiving help for it? Now, I’m sure there are plenty of people trying to find out more about his mental condition and capacity, and answer all the questions surrounding this aspect of his story. Frankly, we don’t have to know the details of this individual’s medial history, and to disclose it all to the world seems invasive, despite the horrible pain he put people through. What we should focus on is the accessibility and success of our mental health system.
This man is not special, nor is his situation unusual. Everyone knows someone who has needed the services of a mental health professional at some point in their lives. I suspect most of us will face situations that could be more smoothly traversed with counsel, at the very least, and many desperately need help that they cannot, for whatever reason, get for themselves. Therapy is prohibitively expensive in most cases, except in the very short-term. Medicine and alternative treatments are controversial, costly, and frequently those in need of them also need advocates to keep them in their treatment schedules or on their medication, or just to navigate the paperwork so commonly involved with various insurances and the like. That is, if they have insurance at all. Even Medicaid is better than nothing, but providers that work with the state are badly over-booked and more workers and doctors are needed in many areas.
I don’t have a solution to this problem. Someone more clever and more knowledgeable than me might be able to come up with some better ideas, and I hope they do so soon. Like our whole medical system, there has got to be a better way.
All this said, none of it does any good if you don’t seek help when you need it. If you know something isn’t right, if people are telling you that they are concerned about you, don’t just blow them off. Don’t believe it’s too late, or that you should be able to fix yourself, or that it’s not important. There are things you cannot fix by yourself. There are things you might be able to work through alone, but how long will it take? Who will suffer while you take the time and energy you need to work through it? Ask. Ask for help. Tell someone you need help. Talk to someone. The first person you talk to may not be enough. You may have to alert a whole posse of people, but please, start somewhere.
Conversely, if you have been thinking that someone near and dear to you (or just near, or just dear) is having a hard time, or their perspective has gone wonky for a long time, don’t wait for them to come to you. YOU ask THEM if they’re okay. Don’t let them brush you off, either; don’t let them give you the Brave Soldier Face and tell you that everything is hunky-dory without telling them, REALLY telling them that you are ready to listen when they want to talk. Not if, when. Some people won’t ask for help until they are too far in the dark to remember what the light is like. Sometimes they have to be pushed, and there is no reason to wait. Don’t assume someone else is doing the pushing; the worst that can happen is that every one of their loved ones tells them that something is wrong, and they crack through the darkness imprisoning their thoughts just long enough to start getting help.
(Whoops, meant to post this days ago; apparently it’s been sitting as a draft instead.)