Sunday, December 16, 2012

The answer is not gun control... the issue is mental health!

Just type 'Connecticut' on Google and the only things that comes up are stories of the Connecticut shooting. The fourth richest state, as per several reports, and the only thing that comes up are stories of the brutal shooting. Although what is more annoying, is the fact that almost all analyses are ex-post. It takes a shooting of this magnitude for people to take notice, and that is what is by and far the most appalling fact of all.

A rather interesting post is doing the rounds on Facebook, with Morgan Freeman apparently having made a statement that the media is in effect responsible for what happened. In a way, maybe. Imagine someone, who is shy, socially awkward, had no friends, and absolutely could not make a name for himself in today's cutthroat world. When faced with two options, one,of maybe using a firearm on himself, in the quiet confines of his basement, or option 2, discharging the same firearm on himself, after causing a sufficient carnage, enough to let him stay remembered in the annals of notorious history, any sociopath with even a little bit of logic in his thinking would choose the latter. With predecessors like the Columbine shooting incident and the Virginia Tech incident, the outcomes are rather clear. In fact, an illustrious director like Gus van Sant made 'Elephant', that has been acknowledged as having been inspired by the Columbine shooting! So, did Adam Lanza have what it took to have his life made into a major motion picture? Given that his yearbook didn't even have a photograph of him, as he was termed 'camera shy', probably not. Did Adam Lanza want his life to be the subject of discussion with so many people? Who knows? But given how something like Facebook has caught on, where everyone wants their minutest of sentiments, desires and feelings to be known to everyone and their grandfathers, it is not a surprise to imagine that maybe, even sociopaths want their 15 seconds of fame, like every other human being. If not in general, at least during those freak flashes of humanity, where their underlying human nature rips out of the monstrous veneer and shows itself.

So is media the cause? Well, it is easy to pinpoint the BBCs, CNNs and NDTVs of the world and say that the viciousness of sensationalist media is the root cause of everything. Now there are headlines of imminent gun control in the USA. Will that help? Well, the mentally disturbed, could resort to other weapons! Simply gasoline and a matchstick. Or like the Chinese man who went on a rampage with a knife. taking guns out of unworthy hands is perhaps one way of minimizing repeats of such stories. But that is akin to curing the symptoms, while leaving the infection to fester. The key issue at hand is not seeing any resolution.

Why does the world have to sit up and realize that mental health is a serious issue in this part of the world. History has given us numerous instances of artists, musicians and even simple, common people afflicted with diseases of the mind. Van Gogh, Chopin, Gogol, Mozart, the names are numerous!! Maybe it's the lack of sunlight. Maybe it's the long, dreary, cold unending days. The real causes of such maladies are difficult to pinpoint, but the signs are rather easy to discern for the most part. When Britney Spears fell victim to bipolar disorder, the world took notice. Not of the disease, but of her behavior. Never once was an awareness campaign brought out, to let people know of the signs. There is never any mention of what one should do, if a known person is found to be mentally unsound.

A person who used to work with someone I know had been let go from his organization for incessant 'anger' issues. For unruly, uncouth behavior at work. That man, could never hold on to a job. All this, despite a decent education, coming here as a new immigrant, trying to make a life. The going was good for a while, till slowly, the issues started to show up. The organization he worked in, let him go, as they were in the business of doing business, and not running an asylum. This man, though, kept calling up this person I knew, asking for any job offers, vacancies and so on. When I spoke to my acquaintance, asking why he couldn't refer the man  to a mental health practitioner, I was told that the laws are against it. Only next of kin can do so. But what if the person would not respect his next of kin? What if, the issue went untreated? I was told that it was not my acquaintance's business to do something here. I immediately wondered, how difficult it would be for such an affected person, who is also frustrated by the events in his life, to take to violence? Especially when such a person is the least bit rational and very prone to following their own kangaroo logic? The answer is blunt and blatant. Not at all hard. 

 If the carnage is at a theater or a place of worship, the uproar is loud.If a school, the uproar is longer and louder. But eventually it dies down and talks go back to whether Kristen Stewart is with the vampire or someone else, or whether Kate Middleton is expecting twins or sextuplets or who is going to design the newborn child/ childrens' first outfit. Till someone gets tired of his life and decides to go out with a bang, after creating a sufficient level of mindless, insane, violence. 

Some steps need to be taken, and the steps have to be to have psychological evaluations as part of every test and examination, observing students, especially those with developmental disorders, providing counseling to children from extraordinary homes and so on. The western world is lucky that their classrooms have downwards of 30 kids each, unlike countries like India, where the average class has 60 kids. If teachers here are responsible for 30 kids, they might as well be supported in taking full responsibility of the learning and mental well-being of these kids. Some form of a checks and balances method has to be internalized, or the monsters would continue to show up, whether or not it is Halloween.

Hoping for a better world, where kids can feel safe and the mentally ill do not feel marginalized.....