Sunday, January 9, 2011

the shootings in Arizona

Keith Obermann said it perfectly, violence has no place in our rhetoric. Violence has no place in our society but it is here, everywhere, pervasive from our sport to our movies to now it seems our politics.  We can hold politicians and talking head accountable for their inflammatory speech designed to silence opponents or garner higher ratings, but if this individual truly has mental issues, as is being inferred by news outlets, there is another issue to be addressed:

Why if he is known by authorities to be violent and mentally unstable is he unsupervised and free to obtain a gun in our community?

In the United State conservatives have used the idea of individual freedom and due process to castrate the mental health systems' ability to hospitalize all but the most violently insane; even upon the statement by an individual that they are violent or suicidal. In the past month I know of two individuals with a  diagnosis of mental illness who actively sought hospitalization for violent and suicidal thoughts and/or impulses who were held for 6 and 12 hours respectively then released.

Did the hospital believe that they were mentally fit?


Neither have insurance and couldn't provide a method of payment for treatment.

This all comes back to the healthcare debate.

My position is that healthcare is a basic human right, like freedom of speech or the right to assemble. As an advanced society we have a responsibility to take care of our citizens and that means providing for their physical well-being as well as protecting their personal freedoms. After all, if someone is mentally unstable how are they going to hold a job that is going to provide medical benefits to them. This is both about providing healthcare to everyone and protecting public health both physical and mental.

Yes, there can be and have been issues of accountability at mental hospitals both in the admittance of patients and the retention of individuals, but past abuses call for better procedures and oversight not denial of treatment.  The stigmatism and fear of mental illness needs to be addressed much like the hysteria around diseases such as cancer and AIDs benefited from active educational campaigns.

Todays pharmacology, while not perfect, offers greater opportunities for stability to those facing the challenges of mental illness, but treatment is key. Alienation and refusal of treatment for lack of an ability to pay is just unconscionable.  Health care, like education, fire prevention and police services, is a basic social services, none of these should be about profit margins.

Yet, conservatives want to make healthcare about privilege. The privilege of having a job that can afford to provide individuals with health care, but really it is about profit margins that the healthcare industry has been able to build on the illness of the American people. To that I say shame, profit on illness is reprehensible.  The United States needs to overhaul its healthcare system and join modern societies in caring for all of its people by providing not just individual liberties but physical and mental health care.

The very tragic irony here is that Representative Gifford may have been targeted for her support of the Health Care Bill that might provide mental health care for her assailant.

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