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Mental Illness in America, or Guns Part 5

This is the 5th post in an ongoing series. Click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

AUSTIN TEXAS, Charles Whitman: America's First College Mass Murderer

I never could quite make it. These thoughts are too much for me.

We’ve considered many different aspects of the gun problem in America. We now turn our attention to mental health.

Much of the gun violence in America goes unnoticed. Individual victims receive a brief mention on the evening news, and a small story on the bottom fold of the local rag’s front page, unless they’re in a major metropolitan area. Then the victim is lucky to get a mention on page 2 of the local section. Many times these victims are young and poor, and often they are African-American or Hispanic. Our media doesn’t care about these folks, and the world moves on, never having known who or what its lost.

The stories we do hear about, the images plastered all over the national news, are the spree killings and massacres. Sandy Hook. Aurora. Virgina Tech. Columbine. These are all part of the American Tapestry. Stories woven into the hearts and minds of all of us. Pictures and interviews with family members of the victims are plastered all over the print media and airwaves. Creepy photographs of the shooters are blown up for all to gaze at in terror and awe, and printed on every website and magazine. We hear about this shooter‘s autism* and possible personality disorder. We hear about these shooters‘ depression and suicidal thoughts. Or this young man‘s mental illness.

As a nation, our attention is always held by these spree killings and massacres. Most Americans seem to find some macabre pleasure in hearing every last detail. This woman gave her life to shield a child, that man tackled the shooter, this perpetrator got rejected by the Army. Every detail, no matter how minute, or how gory, is water cooler conversationr fodder. All our friends and coworkers have heard the latest news. Everyone is following the aftermath of the school shooting du jour. The average individual craves information when these shootings occur. We want to know. We want to understand. Because we fear. Somewhere, within 6 – 8 hours of the initial eports of the shooting, the same question is on most tongues: How did this happen?

The answer to that particular question is always complicated, and never revealed in full, in my humble opinion. There are many factors, and each perpetrator’s or suspect’s case is unique. One thing, however, is certain; most of these spree killers have been treated for, or have been suspected of having, a mental illness.This information very rapidly comes to light after a spree shooting or massacre.

The topic for the media, within 2 to 3 days of the shooting, must then pivot to blame. Why wasn’t the shooter stopped? Why wasn’t he caught in time? Why wasn’t his mental illness treated more vigorously? Why did that crazy kid have those guns? Why didn’t we spot the warning signs and do something.

These questions are asked angrily by pundits, with much flourish and pounding of fists. They are asked breathlessly, as if a prayer or a plea, by morning show hosts and evening newscasters. These questions are always asked. Rarely answered.

The answer is simple, my dear firedogs, and has only two parts!

Part one – mental illness is heavily stigmatized in our country.

The stigmatization of mental illness in America has been discussed elsewhere by my betters:

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