Saturday, January 26, 2013
Previous and current administrations have used disasters to make changes to prevent future events or at least improve government response to disasters such as hurricanes and 9/11. The current administration claims gun control will prevent future tragedies such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The shooter at Sandy Hook was mentally ill. Another national tragedy is the loss of public mental hospitals in every state. Currently the largest repository for the mentally ill is the prison system.
Why did states close down mental hospitals? The drug lobby said that medication would decrease mental illness admissions to hospitals and save state government money. It did save money.
However, the mentally ill fail to thrive in our society. Why? Some of the medications have adverse reactions/side effects, especially for the schizophrenics.
The adverse effect is called tardive dyskinsia, a neurological syndrome causing involuntary twitches, muscle jerks and facial tics. Psychotropic drugs such as phenothiazines are in some cases miracle drugs, but for others, a nightmare.
The negative adverse effects are the main reason many patients stop taking their medication. When they stop the medication they revert to the unstable mental state that requires hospitalization until they are medicated and released from the hospital. Tardive dyskensia symptoms do not stop when stopping the medication. No one has solved that problem for the mentally ill.
While staffing Oregon Gov. Vic Atiyeh’s Mental Health Task Force in 1980, I learned from family members and patients what works best for them. Staying on their medication kept them stable. Problems arose when they forget to take their medication or they could not afford to pay for the next prescription.
Many did not live at home but survived in group homes, shelters or lived on the street, where their medication was often stolen. Funding services for the mentally ill was lacking after the public mental hospitals were shut down.
Inadequate state funding, Medicaid, is the primary reason for the lack of comprehensive services for the low-income mentally ill.
The tragedy at Newtown’s Sandy Hook school is the failure of our nation to care for its mentally ill. The Second Amendment has nothing to do with this nationwide tragedy.
More gun control will not help the mentally ill nor will it stop another school shooting.