In the wake of the recent tragedy in California the mainstream media has begun the blame game complete with the exploitation of the grieving and call for gun control. Instead of winging blame around let us try and look at this tragedy from a rational point of view. The problem is too complicated to address by blaming guns or “affulenza”. Elliot Rodger was obviously very mentally ill. By all accounts his parents knew this and were trying to do something about it. Concerned about his actions and disturbing videos they called police to check on him. The police who went to his door for a wellness check did not have the expertise to accurately assess Rodger mental state. This lack of expertise was not the fault of the police but of the broken mental health system that predominates this country.
Our mental health system is broken. At this point the only thing holding it together is the hard work of mental health professionals, the families of the mentally ill, recovering mentally ill individuals and mental health advocates. No the system is broken due to the lack of funding and understanding of mental illness. No political power wants to allocate the appropriate funding to fix the system and help the mentally ill. The political and economic powers of the country have instead opted to take a reactive stance. It is cheaper to pay off families of those who who get killed than it is to spend the billions of dollars to fix the mental health system.
Rodger was under a Doctor and therapist care. It must be pointed out that even with the best talk or cognitive behavioral therapy many mental illnesses need be treated with medication too. Just as some cases of diabetes must be treated with insulin. Rodger was reported as being non med compliant (he would not take the prescribed psychiatric medication needed to control his delusions). This factor may have been the tipping point for this young man. If he had taken his prescribed antipsychotics his delusions may have been less severe and thus his reactions may have been non violent. I say “may” as none of us can with 100% accuracy tell what could have been or what will be. Had Rodgers been admitted to a long term residential psychiatric hospital, had proper medication given and taken as prescribed and intensive long term therapy there is better than a good chance that this tragedy would not have occurred. But due to our current mental health system this scenario did not happen.
Regardless of how much money or power one possess, it is difficult to cope with an adult who has severe mental illness such as Rodgers. One cannot simply “lock up” a mentally ill person nor can they make an adult take prescribed medication. The current mental health laws often allow people who are very unstable to be in the general population. I am not advocating for locking up the mentally ill but for a system that does what is in the best interest of the mentally ill person and society. The current system is written with more concern for a persons right to be in the least restrictive environment than in the person’s right to proper and effective help for their problems.
Sadly instead of focusing on the plight of the mentally ill and their families and in this case the victims too, the media reacts like a pack of wolves clambering for a bite of sensationalism to up their ratings. Like ambulance chasing lawyers, the gun control advocates continue to take advantage of any crisis that comes across their paths. As it has been put forth time and again, why waste a good tragedy or crisis? So instead of placing the focus on the true cause of the tragedy, a broken mental health system, the onus has once again been placed upon an inanimate object, a gun.