Sunday, July 29, 2012

U.S. Media is Missing The Point; Our Mental Health System is Broken.

In the early morning hours of 7/20, a mentally ill young man enrolled at The University of Colorado kills 12 (now 13 with a miscarriage) and wounds 52 in an Aurora Colorado movie theater.  

On January 8th of 2011 a shooter killed six people, including Chief U.S. District Court Judge John Roll. The shooting also left 14 others injured, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Gifford's. He has been indicted on 49 counts by federal grand juries in Arizona.  The mentally ill man charged in the Tucson shooting rampage isn't expected to go to trial in 2012 as he continues to be forcibly medicated to make him psychologically fit to stand trial.

On April 16, 2007, on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia a lone shooter shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in two separate attacks, approximately two hours apart, before committing suicide. The massacre is the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history.

All these shooters should have been stopped.  They were either current or recently enrolled students known to College officials as posing a danger to themselves or others.  The point here is that not only did someone know of these individuals and their illness's but that each College had threat assessment teams in place to evaluate students for just such actions.  The local Community College where the Arizona shooter previously attended school even went so far as to have the shooter barred from campus as a precaution.

These 3 epic failures of our mental health system in the past 5 years show us how bad things are.  Looking at the past 15 years, the United States has suffered 12 mass shootings that have claimed 262 people, including the Columbine tragedy.  262 innocent people targeted by mentally ill shooters means an average of 17 plus people are killed each year in the USA in mass shootings by known offenders with mental health issues.

Living just outside the boarders of Chicago, as I do, can make one apathetic to the numbers of shooting victims.  And 17 per year seems small by comparison but 17 per year is not small.  262 Victims of mass shootings is an outrage and something we could stop if the mental health system was functional.

In the three cases mentioned above, not only did mental health professionals know about these shooters before they claimed innocent lives but, school threat assessment teams knew as well and failed to stop them.  The U.S. press should be asking more about this issue. 

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