January 23, 2013Most of you who read my columns know that I tend to speak pretty candidly about the issues that face our nation. I am lucky in that I have a platform with which to voice my opinions and that I have an editor and publisher who, even though our opinions may differ, allow my voice to be heard.
That's not so in many professions.
I'd like to take this opportunity that has been afforded to me to continue to utilize my First Amendment rights.
Most of you have heard about the shootings in Newtown, Conn., at Sandy Hook Elementary School, early last month. If you haven't, please tell me where you went to get away from it, because it was, and remains, heartbreaking to see the coverage.
I'm not here to discuss whether officials are working to keep the details of the shooting under wraps. Whether they are or not doesn't change the reality that 26 people — 20 of them children age 7 or younger — had their lives cut terribly short in a vicious manner.
The Sandy Hook shootings are being used to push both pro- and anti-gun regulation, and that's not my intention.What I'd like to do is give my thoughts on the issue.
I'm like a lot of people, completely average. I don't own a firearm — though, thanks to my brother, I know how to handle one and enjoy time spent at the firing range — and I don't have a concealed carry permit. I'm not a member of the NRA, nor do I hunt. However, I don't begrudge those who are and do. It just doesn't happen to be where my interests lie.
As a completely average individual, it is not my belief that we should strip away a citizen's rights to protect themselves. Could I compromise and say that there needs to be a more effective screening process? Sure, but who decides that and where does it end?
We were ALL given the right to bear arms and it is a right that we must work to protect for the simple reason that we must not allow government to erode and infringe upon that which is laid down in the Constitution to be ours.
If we allow our Second Amendment right to be abolished, what is to keep our Fourth, Fifth, Sixth or Eighth Amendment rights from also being taken away? Don't know what those amendments hold? It is my humble suggestion that you look them up.
To me, there is a bigger problem at hand here and one that is decisively less controversial in nature, though no one is paying much attention to it. Mostly only in passing.
People kill people. It's very simple in saying, but why?
Has there ever been a "rational" murderer? No, they often plead insanity or mental illness and, for the most part, many are found to have some sort of mental illness or instability that has been left untreated or generally ignored.
Why is that? Why do people have to go to jail to receive proper mental health care?
Well, I have a guess.
People don't get evaluated and treated for mental illnesses in the United States because doing so carries a HUGE stigma. And, really, who wants to be an outcast?
The United States has one of the most comprehensive mental health care systems in the developed world, and it is vastly underutilized.
That underutilization is due largely to the stigma that is placed upon those who seek help and, according to the surgeon general's report released in 1999, the fact that seeing a mental health care professional is unaffordable or unattainable except for those with an elevated financial status. That is no longer the case.
In 2013, financial hardship won't keep most people from being qualified to receive adequate and professional mental health care.
Almost every university and college in the United States keeps a psychologist (most times more than one) on staff to make sure that all student needs are met. Why is that? Because, according to a study by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the college years are when many mental health disorders can begin to manifest and the cost for students is generally free or greatly reduced.
Many corporations also keep psychologists on staff for their employees and for consultation regarding company policies dealing with health care. Again, for the most part, the service is free or offered at a greatly-reduced cost for employees. In addition, hospitals and health care cooperatives often offer free and reduced-cost counseling sessions with their health care professionals.
Have you ever read your health insurance coverage? I'd be willing to bet that if you read closely enough, you'd find that some or all of the cost to see a psychologist, psychiatrist or counselor is covered.
Mental illness could be anything from depression to an anxiety disorder to dissociative identity disorder, but the truth is — like most medical conditions — mental illnesses can take on many shapes and sizes.
However, no one gets scrutinized for going to the doctor for cancer, diabetes or the common cold.
So, if it's readily available — and obviously needed — why the disdain?
Just because someone is bipolar or suffers from depression or another of the many disorders doesn't mean that they they're going to be violent and hurt people. It seems that, as a society, we want to distance ourselves from labels while at the same time labeling others.
The real truth is that, as a nation, we aren't ready to look past each other's differences enough not to discriminate against one another, even if, at the end of the day, it could get people the help they need and ultimately save lives.
What a shame.