A perfect example of what happens when mental illness is neglected: Jared Loughner

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice
When Jared Loughner committed murder in Arizona against a 9 year old girl, federal judge and a Congresswoman, among others, the editorials in our country focused on gun control.  Specifically, whether the lax gun control laws in our country contributed to causing the shootings that seem like an every-day occurrence in the United States.  While gun control is a worthy subject of the editorials, it occurred to me that the columnists were missing an important point. Untreated mental ilness, more than anything else, caused the killings in Arizona.

What do we know about Jared Loughner's mental illness? Or, perhaps, are we just assuming that Jared has a mental illness in view of the heinous crimes he committed?  The mug shots taken of Jared Loughner with a smirk on his face seem to tell a lot, but even more telling are the stories that Jared has a glib smirk on his face when he appears in court and while sitting in his cell.  The mug shots and stories about Jared tell a vivid story of a young man with a serious mental illness, which it appears had been untreated for years.  What lesson can we learn from Jared?

It is estimated that 4 million people in the United States had mental illnesses and 1.8 million of them go untreated.  200,000 of them are homeless and 300,000 are in prison. Roughly 15% of those suffering from mental illness kill themselves, and they commit about 1,600 murders each year.

In the 1960's, states began releasing mentally ill persons from, mental hospitals.  As the numbers of mentally ill in institutions declined in the 1970's and 1980's, the numbers of homeless or in prison increased. Unfortunately, mental illness is the only disease today that has political lobbies devoted to not treating it.

What are the ramifications of this sytem of not treating the mentally ill? Jared Loughner is a perfect example.  Did our country's lax gun control laws play a role in the Arizona murders? Perhaps.  However, that is a very superficial assessment.  A more telling picture comes from the mug shot of Jared Loughner and the mental illness of a young 22 year old that, for whatever reason, was never treated.


1 Comments
The topic is cover quite well in E. Fuller Torrey's book, "The Insanity Offense: How America's Failure to Treat the Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizens," published in 2008. It amazes me the extent our culture will go to avoid facing this issue. We'll talk about gun control, about political civility, and every other topic under the sun before sitting down and confronting how we treat or don't treat our mentally ill. Not that these other issues don't have a place in the discussion. They do. But my guess is that, although being discussed to some extent now, the issue of the mentally ill will be soon buried and forgotten, as it always is after a tragedy like this one in Arizona.
by Doug Capra January 16, 2011 at 01:36 AM
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