Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Washington Post - ABC Poll

I saw this poll yesterday and got busy with other things.  Jazz Shaw picked it up over at Hot Air, and highlighted the poll.  It seems that Americans believe by an overwhelming margin that mental illness plays a big part in mass shootings.  The graphic tells the tale.

The history of mental health treatment in the US is an interesting one.    As this Mother Jones article relates, for most of our history, we institutionalized people with mental health problems,  In the late 1950s and the 1960s medical research made dramatic strides across all disciplines of medical care and we began to look at mental illness in a new light.  During the late '70s the focus changed to a more community-oriented model of treating mental illness, and in the early '80s, federal funding started decreasing for the large mental health hospitals.

Locally, we had a hospital in Pineville, Central State Hospital, that was a huge mental health facility.  It was a huge, sprawling campus with several residential halls, specialty clinics, doctors and nurses galore, and all the ancillary staff that was necessary to run such a large institution.  But, with the focus on community mental health, it started shrinking, got smaller, and smaller, and smaller, till today it's closed.  There are a few tenants leasing space at the old Central, but the hospital itself is gone.

Medical science has made huge strides in the past 50 years, but we still have the common cold, and we still have mental illness.  As a corrections professional in the decades from 1980-2002, I saw the results of de-institutionalization  Many of the most violent were in our prisons.  I can't pretend to tell you want percentage of our prison population is mentally ill, but my experience tells me that a measurable population is.

Often, as a new offender was being processed, the word would go out around the staff "Watch him, he's crazy", a simple warning that even in our vigilance, we needed to pay extra attention to a particular person. With the decline in large, institutional mental health hospitals, the move toward community-based mental health treatment, and the normal increase in our population as a nation, the simple truth is that lots of mental health issues slip through the cracks and some of the more extreme eamples wind up homeless on our streets, or in our prisons.  That's simply a fact.

We don't want to label people, and I understand why medical professionals are reluctant to do so, but mental illness is a problem inn this country.  The Post-ABC poll showed us that lots of people realize it.  Mass shootings is one indicator of this problem, and instead of blaming guns, maybe we should be honest in identifying those people who need help and get them that help before they go off the rails.

I'm just saying.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

And don't forget the ACLU suits that forced many states (including Louisiana) to turn mental health cases out on the streets...