Gun Control vs. Teh Crazy
Monday, December 17, 2012
Let me first stipulate and make plain that gun control has no role in preventing mass shootings like the ones in CT or CO. I understand that people want to debate that, but allow me to make a few points regarding the mental health situation in the US or at least in CA.
After leaving active duty with tons of medical training and few other marketable skills, I worked at two mental hospitals on their locked units and with the San Diego PD Homeless Outreach Team focusing on evaluating people for involuntary psychiatric commitment under CA Code 5150. 5150 essentially states that a person can be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility for 72 hours if they are a danger to themselves or others or can be considered "gravely disabled". I'm no psychiatrist, but I have extensive knowledge of abnormal behavior and the way that the mentally ill interact with our legal system.
Back in the 1960s the federal government and some of the States began to rethink policies concerning the chronically mentally ill in the US. A combination of budget cuts and a strong "patient rights" movement conspired to change the way we looked at the mentally ill. The patient rights groups argued that these people were being systematically denied civil rights to make their own decisions (which is true), but after "freeing" them and patting themselves on the back, they didn't do anything much to address the subsequent issues that have obviously arisen.
Ostensibly there are are series of welfare/safety net programs to support the indigent, but in the case of the mentally ill, they are incapable of comprehending their own needs and advocating on their own behalf. Conservatorship is a mechanism by which a court appoints someone to make health, financial, and other decisions for an incompetent adult. The idea behind it is great, but there are powerful "patient advocate" groups and court appointed defense counsels whose mission it is to defeat these procedings especially when the conservatee's family is attempting to institute this remedy. The result of this struggle probably accounts for more than 50% of the US homeless population today. While full time welfare queens are out there gaming the system for every nickel, these mentally ill folk are left to rot in their own filth on sidewalks across America.
It takes a while for them to make it to the sidewalk though. Before that happens, their families are often tormented and threatened by their kin for years on end with nary an option aside for short stints in County Mental Health or County Jail. Psychosis and paranoia are powerful threats to the families of the mentally ill and few are equipped physically, psychologically, or financially to address them. After years of difficulty, altercations, threats, and public humiliation these families tend to exhaust their compassion for these people and they are cut loose on to the streets for people like me on the HOT Team to deal with.
There is tremendous power in psychosis because it lacks any acknowledgement of itself, has no conscience, no limitations, and it has a florid imagination, foolproof internal defense mechanisms and great physical strength owing to its "fight or flight" adrenaline charged nature. These people truly are to be pitied and cared for by our society. They can never hold a job, keep a schedule, manage their finances, properly nourish themselves, or maintain healthy relationships as their own minds conspire against them. Make no mistake, this is a medical/chemical condition and not a choice. In fact, the key feature of psychosis is avoidance of the medications that can reduce their delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. Their internal voices fiercely argue against treatment as they somehow understand that it would kill the symptoms that they exist to produce.
We have had the gun control discussion in this country for many years and clearly the American people recognize the importance of the Second Amendment. That ship has sailed. The conversation we need to have is about what we are not doing to address our mental health system. There are precious few beds in long term facilities and County facilities and prisons are constantly overflowing. Seeing the rank injustice of professional welfare scammers running up a tab on my tax bill while these utterly helpless people are left in a state of near constant panic, confusion, and paranoia ought to be a call to action especially now. Let's kick these freeloading bums of the teet and help the desperate few among us who truly cannot care for themselves.