Wisdom Comes Suddenly

It’s Raining Today

December 15th, 2012 · 3 Comments


I woke up to the sound of cold, December rain, and I wished the entire world could back up the clock and erase yesterday from history. My friend Jialun wrote to say the heavens are crying. Those tiny children.  I feel so helpless.  Looking at my own Kindergarten baby only brings tears.  I don’t discuss politics here.  I don’t care who you voted for, and I don’t care where you go to church.  You don’t have to agree with my ethos to be my friend.  We can disagree on almost all public policy and I’d still have you over for pie.

But there is one issue I have regularly discussed here, and will support to my dying day: mental health in America is extremely hard to access.  In the paper this morning I saw a gun control article side-by-side to a long listing of mass shootings going back 50 years.  The editors missed the link: they assumed what those shooters had in common was gun ownership.  What that long list had in common was UNTREATED SEVERE MENTAL ILLNESS.  ALL OF THEM. Listed after the date, the details of the tragedy, and the fate of the shooter, why wasn’t a post-hoc diagnosis listed?

It’s extremely rare that someone ill enough to commit a crime of this magnitude is organized enough to create a plan and access guns, but clearly, it’s possible. But before the metal detectors, before the gun control, what mentally ill patients need is help.  I wonder how many people knew he was sick, but didn’t know how or where to ask for help?  Psychotic disorders don’t unravel overnight.  He was 20…ripe age for a psychotic break. He was probably decompensating for months.

As humans, shouldn’t we care for each other first?  Before all other things? Shouldn’t we find a way to give healthcare to those who so desperately need it? It’s in our best interest as a species, after all…isn’t it? On today of all days, Godspeed to you my friends.  I hug you all, across the continents and states which separate us.  As for our house, our children are young.  We’re throwing away the paper quickly and keeping the TV off.  I pray the parents of their friends do the same.

Tags: The Girls

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Prefer to Remain Anonymous // Dec 15, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    What happened today was a tragedy beyond the scope of what I can even imagine. Shock is too soft of a word, and gut wrenching isn’t close enough either. While trying to understand what has happened, and as facts are still coming in, I do think it is important to think about the policies that can be put in place to make shootings like this rare.

    First and foremost, we need to have a grown up conversation about mental illness. We need to consider mental health care to be something that we strive to provide, not something that is cut first when times are tough. We need to change our norms so that we stop walking to the other side of the street when we see someone who is mentally unbalanced, but run to someone who we see is bleeding. You cannot be of sound mind and open fire on innocent people. You can’t. How do these people slip through the cracks, and what else can we do to stop it?

    And yes, we should talk about our gun culture. Of the 11 worst shootings in US history, 5 have happened in the last 5 years. There is something wrong and we need to talk about it. Clearly guns are getting in the hands of the people that should not have them, and it should be uncontroversial that we need to prevent that from happening. If collapsing bridges killed 10,000 people a year, we would build safer bridges, we wouldn’t tell people to not drive. Likewise, there is a difference between intelligent gun laws and taking away people’s rights to protect themselves.

    Nothing will permanently stop these terrible and tragic attacks, but to demand that no one talk about them until no one cares is not a good way to make policy. Conversations are important and conversations honor those who were hurt and killed. Ignoring what caused problems until they happen again compounds the tragedy.

    We must also remember that shooting in schools is not isolated to these events, that more school children in Chicago have been killed than soldiers fighting organized and well funded terrorists in Afghanistan this year. We have to do better than this, we can’t be jaded by a child being shot and getting only an inch or two on the 3rd page of the Metro section. We need to be outraged by every single one, regardless of the child’s race, class, or location.

    I am so tired of being shocked by these attacks. I am so tired of being heart broken by people being gunned down when talking to a congresswoman, or going to a mall, or seeing a new movie, or going to class where they are excited about finger paint day. I am tired about not being able to talk about these events except in the increasingly short periods of time in between them.

    We can’t prevent every attack or save every life, but dammit we can do better than this.

  • 2 Sue // Dec 15, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Hugs right back at you and your girls. I can not wrap my head around what happened yesterday. Innocent children… But I do honestly agree with you on the mental health issue. Gun control has nothing to do with what happened yesterday. I have worked with children in one capacity or another my whole life. And for the past 13 1/2 yrs worked in a Juvenile Detention Center working with the criminal side of things. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of psychotropic drugs these kids were on. 99.99% of the juveniles that came through there were on some sort of medication for mental health issues. HELLO doesn’t that tell you something. I know first hand how hard it was to get someone, anyone to help these kids. I could go on and on and on about this but I won’t. Right now all I wish is for the people affected by this totally senseless act get the comfort they need and are going to need. I for one am keeping them in my prayers.

  • 3 Karin W // Dec 16, 2012 at 10:29 am

    I’m trying really hard to avoid reading the posts on facebook calling for gun control because that’s not the problem. The politicing needs to be focused on affordable comprehensive mental health coverage. When I read about people who are struggling to pay medical bills, 2 types of treatment come up: cancer treatment and mental health and the serious mental health folks are reaching their lifetime max before they are off their parents’ insurance. That’s a sad statement. If we aren’t regulating the private insurers to provide affordable treatment, we must find a way to cover them under government healthcare.