The mass killings in Isla Vista recently have prompted some Facebook friends to blame the problem on guns – except what about the 3 people the killer stabbed to death and the 4 people he hit with his car? Another friend just posted an ill-informed article about how all the recent mass killers were taking powerful psychotropic medicines and blaming these medicines for the violence.
NO, NO, NO!
Both these points of view miss the mark. How do I know that? Because my brother suffers from schizophrenia. He is not violent. He is deeply disturbed, however. He has an illness. My family has been dealing with it for more than 20 years. Do you know how he finally got treated? He was arrested during a traffic stop and sent to the state hospital, where he stayed for 9 months before he was stable enough to be freed. He’s been on medication since then.
How would you like it if you broke your arm and instead of going to the hospital for treatment, you were arrested and sent to jail? How would you like if you suffered from cancer and instead of going to the doctor for treatment you were arrested and sent to jail? It’s the same thing. Mental illness is pervasive and misunderstood and EVERYWHERE.
Very few people understand the difficulties involved. I even have members of my own family telling me that my brother should just get a job instead of being on government assistance. Not only is that judgmental, it is supremely unhelpful. He could maybe work 10 hours a week or so at some fast food joint – maybe. That doesn’t pay his living expenses. It doesn’t BEGIN to pay his living expenses. If it weren’t for living at my parent’s house he could very well be homeless. And you know what? MANY, MANY people with severe mental illness ARE homeless. I’ve worked in social services and have seen firsthand the incredible suffering these people endure. Do they turn to drugs and alcohol to “help” themselves. They do, quite often. Wouldn’t you?
What happens if you have mental illness? You are misunderstood. You are ignored. You are judged. You are begrudgingly helped by the criminal justice system if you become a danger to yourself or someone else.
This does not mean I am excusing the behavior of the Isla Vista killer. Not in the least. It is completely tragic, in all senses of the word. For ALL of the families involved, including the killer’s.
In future years society will look back at the draconian lack of resources and treatment for mentally ill people that we have available in America today. Mass killings like this will continue, and the ever more present silent suffering of thousands upon thousands of people who are not violent will continue because of these misunderstood conditions.