The mental illness monster
Fun fact those of us who suffer from mental illness are more likely to harm ourselves than others. That isn’t to say it doesn’t happen, but the rate of violent behavior among people who have mental illness is no higher than the average. So when a politician, who isn’t even qualified to speak on the topic, much less give an option, blames mental health for…. oh I don’t know someone shooting a school, it makes me angry. Being an asshole isn’t a mental illness and going on a murder spree doesn’t qualify as a mental illness. The problem isn’t mental illness, it’s access to firearms. Yes, I’m am a monster, but the only one in danger is me.
It’s been a few days since the last major school shooting, I’m not even sure how many other shootings have occured since. I know someone recently got caught before it happened, I think? It’s hard to keep up with the news when we have so many mass shootings that you can’t be sure which one everyone is talking about. Like we just had three in three different states all on the same day, that was confusing and more importantly terrifying.
We live in a country where access to firearms is easier than access to healthcare and we call that freedom. All because a few hundred years ago a group of slave owners decided the right to arms should be enshrined in the constitution that our country is founded on. We are so ignorant that we just assume what held true then should hold true today, like weapons haven’t evolved beyond the imaginings of the people who wrote the constitution in the brief time our country has existed.
I’m angry and I think most people who actually give a shit about others are angry too. We have a system in place that doesn’t give a shit how much blood is spilled as long as the gears keep turning and the rich keep getting paid. We were born into that system and a not insignificant amount of us are okay with that system even when they are the ones being stepped on personally by that system. We’ve been lied to and the propaganda machine is alive and churning out “new” (old) conspiracy theories about what the problem is everytime someone dies.
When COVID came on the scene the propaganda machine pumped out nothing but vile racist tropes about blaming China for the problem and claiming it was manmade. The same machine pumps out disinformation about the vaccine that was developed to help solve the problem and the people who are buying into it are literally the same people who are defending this pipeline to their literal dying breaths. For some, only on their literal deathbeds does the realization that they have been lied to set in.
So when we have yet another school shooting, or a church shooting, or a shooting at a store, nightclub, basically everywhere, the propaganda machine pumps out tons of disinformation to prevent anything from changing. First it was the whole, “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is good guys with guns” lie.
First, that has never been the case. No one is safer around firearms and if you’re non-white even something remotely firearm shaped like say a candy bar is grounds for being shot. Yet in this semi-latest incident even that lie was so blatantly false they couldn’t use it. So we get people blaming architecture, too many doors? Or we get people arguing that we need “Home Alone” style boobytraps to defend schools with tripwires and it just blows my mind that anyone would believe it much less that people would actually say things like that.
Out of all the egregious lies that make me angry, the one blaming mental health is especially infuriating. Because we know that’s not the case. It’s been studied, over and over again. In the end mental health is not an indicator of violent behavior to others. In fact, we’re more likely to self harm than harm others. Those who are convicted of violence against others who actually do suffer from mental health issues often do so, not because they are inherently violent, but because they literally don’t have a connection with reality. Like the story I told about my friend who lost an eye to a schizophrenic brother (here).
The problem is the system. When I hear someone blaming mental health for mass shootings I get angry because while we need better mental health care here in the US, the access to firearms is the goddamned problem! Laws requiring mental health screenings before you can purchase a firearm have been struck down. The same people who argue that the problem is mental health are the same people who reject budgets that have funding to provide better mental health support to people.
Here’s the cold hard truth. The people in power want nothing to change because the system as it is now is the only reason they are in power.
Being crazy is already a crime. People get shot and killed, by police no less, over mental health crises all the time. Like this story about police officers shooting a man 21 times to … reads story… prevent him from harming himself (here). Oh and they were reinstated for that (not so fun fact). “Welfare” checks on people who have mental health issues are often carried out by police, which only causes serious problems to start with, because the last thing you need when dealing with a mental health crisis is someone who’s all too excited to use a firearm.
The point being that mass shootings like this are overwhelmingly the symptom of lax gun laws here in the US. Or as the Onion puts it…
There are two very frustrating things in play here. First is that we definitely need better gun laws, but we have organizations (the NRA) who are literally buying politicians to prevent that from happening. The second is we definitely need better access to mental health care and frankly healthcare in general.
It’s easier for me to go out and buy a firearm than it is to get the care I need and that shouldn’t be the case. Plus I’m a veteran so I already have access to the crappiest free care the government can provide. Which is to say, not really healthcare as it is a slow moving slaughterhouse. But again that’s the system at work, it’s working as designed, so why change it? We have veterans killing themselves in the VA parking lots to highlight the need for better mental health care and no one is paying attention… because the system is working exactly as it should be.
It would be even worse if I wasn’t a veteran. I mean crappy care is still better than no care, right? At least that’s what I keep telling myself. I at least don’t have to worry about going into seriously large amounts of debt if I have to go to the emergency room. I may die from it or be treated like crap, but I won’t be in so much debt that I could never get out. Most people aren’t even that lucky.
So while I agree that we need better healthcare (and mental health care), the problem is the fucking guns. We’ve studied this, over and over (like here for example)(or this article discussing findings like this). At the end of the day I doubt anything will change, because if I haven’t made it clear enough yet, the system is working exactly as it was designed. But being quiet about it isn’t the answer either.
I’m just one person. One person is easy to ignore, but ten, one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand people, that’s not so easy to ignore. Maybe we just need to be a little louder if we want something to change, because at the end of the day the politicians aren’t going to save us, so it’s up to us to save ourselves.
We didn’t build this system, but that doesn’t mean we have to live with it.