Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Guns & Mental Illness

Shooter Adam Lanza
Another mass school shooting by a deranged, well-heeled white adolescent, this time aimed at a younger group of students and everyone is up in arms, so to speak, at the gun laws which allow private citizens to purchase semi-automatic weapons like AK-47's without so much as a background check.

And they are right. The American gun addiction and romance with the second amendment is inexplicable and terrifying to a Jew like me who, as a youngster, never got near a forest let alone a hunting rifle. The other factor that has been ignored or underconsidered in these shootings is how alienation, bullying and mental illness sometimes unite to monstrous ends.

The mentally ill are and have been greatly neglected by our society. Releasing people to the streets on mind-numbing drugs that they have no motivation or desire to take is not an answer. Neither is warehousing drugged patients in understaffed facilities. We need to find other options because this problem is not going away anytime soon

When I worked on the reference desk at San Francisco Public Library, I saw and tried to help a lot of mentally ill people. Many were homeless or lived in SROs (single resident occupancy hotels, one step from the streets). Most of the problematic types admitted to being off their medication. Tourists from Europe would often comment on the pathetic state of affairs on the San Francisco streets. Can't anything more be done for them? was a question we librarians were repeatedly asked.

I don't have any pat answer. This is an issue that is finally beginning to shake our souls.But until we find a pill to correct the hormonal imbalance that produces schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders, we must find a more productive way to care for the most disturbed among us.