Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Newtown: Mental Health, Gun Control Or God in Schools?

Posted by Hannah at 9:09 AM

do not pick up hitch hikers
All across the world right now we see people struggling with the Newtown shootings.  Theories pop up for the why’s and how’s.  The President calling for change, because we can’t tolerate it anymore.

I know I’m not the only person that has been left in tears over what happened.  No doubt I’m hardly the only one struggling with WHY this happened as well.  Honestly, I have to wonder if we will ever know all the answers.  I somehow doubt it.

In our extremely polarized society the in fighting began almost immediately.   Its similar to the same type of polarization that has also spread to churches as we see people fighting over doctrine, etc. as well.  We will never get anything accomplished if our hearts do not change, and we can’t stop looking at others with different opinions as almost the devil in person.  I realize in history you always had fighting of some sort, but I don’t remember a time when it has been so bad.

There are compassionate views on gun control in the United States.  I doubt very many people would NOT agree with some common sense practices that need to be put in place.  Yes, that includes the individuals that do have guns as well.  Although from some viewpoints you would have to wonder if they (gun owners) can possibly be included in the discussion at all.  Our polarization is showing there as well.  If you look in the opposite direction – gun owners towards the gun control parties?  You see the same thing.  Then you have those that feel this is what happens when you leave God out of schools.  Others want armed guards at school.  Both sides towards any angle hate on the same level – about the only thing they have in common.

Our tunnel vision seems to be an issue to me.  We seem to only see one factor that could be contributing to these horrors, and we seem blind almost all the others.  All you have to do is see commentaries on televisions, facebook, comments on news articles to realize it.  We tend to place band aids on things when the stronger view wins in the end, and wonder WHY it keeps happening.  The attacks start again, and we may even go down another path.  Most of the time nothing of value ever happens.

I hope we find a combination plan to help ease things, but I doubt we will ever stop it completely.  Ugly things like this have happened since time began.  If we could stop the polarization MAYBE we could slow it down.

When stories started to surface about the killer Adam Lanza the first thing that popped into my mind was a sign off a main road in a town near our house.  Its not the only answer, but it seems to be a universal issue for the world.  We all bring our personal vantage points to the table, and for some reason this SIGN kept popping up in my head.

Keep in mind its just ONE factor of many….

Don’t Pick Up Hitch Hikers

There is a large town here nearby, and off one of the main roads is a mental hospital.

States all across this nation cut funding to the mentally ill, and the facilities that patients called home are closed.   We aren’t speaking of criminals here, but those that aren’t able to live in society due to all kinds of different circumstances.

When those cuts happened here they released most of the patients at their front entrance, and they didn’t have any place to go.  The state decided to put up signs like the one I have pictured warning people NOT to pick up hitch hikers.  I remember the newspapers have a field day over this, because they knew that mentally ill people would be wandering the streets.

I had a number of clients during this time that worked with charities, homeless shelters, police organizations.  Most of them had very little state funding, and most of it came from fund raising.  They were completely overrun with new clients, and didn’t know what they could do for all of them.

Most patients didn’t have families, and other’s had families with no way to help them.  Most ended up homeless, and stayed homeless to this day.  The homeless shelters are full each and every night to capacity.  Others didn’t know how to deal with life beyond the mental hospital, and ended up in jail for breaking the law.  Then you have others that end up in emergency rooms for their temporary fix for their current episode.

To me it was a very inhumane way of dealing with these people.  Most will never be able function in society on any level, and more and more end up in jail instead.  Our jail systems are not set up to deal with them, and very few have areas for them to reside in safety.  The prison personnel know they don’t belong there, but we have closed every other place else they could go.

Mentally Ill Living At Home

Then you look at the families that have members with these disabilities, and you can see how completely overwhelmed they are.  I worked with a woman that had an adult son at that point, and he lived with her.  He was not capable of living anywhere else, and if I remember correctly he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. 

He was a decent man when he wasn’t having an episode, and during one he was downright scary.   Funding for him had pretty much dried up – per the resources you could get for him.   She was a widow,  and he was adult man.  She was in no position to handle him when he got violent.  He would be placed in a hospital for a short period of time, or the police could arrest him.  She always had to check to be sure he was taking his medicine, and that could be fight as well.  There was nothing else they could do, except to keep repeating this cycle.

He was one of the lucky ones, because his mother would ‘put up with him’ I guess you could say.  Most of the time she was overwhelmed, and what I called fried to a crisp.  There was no other place for him to go, and she could have chosen to allow him to live on the streets.  Police could have arrested him, and placed him in prison.   There wasn’t too many options for him.  For his mother there was no relief services, and she needed them badly.

The plights of the mental ill tear me up when I hear about them.  I have been helping with organizations for them, and have heard all kinds of awful stories.  The mental hospital in that nearby town has dozens of empty buildings, and you can still see the fences around them with basketball courts, etc.  We have retirees here in our town that used to work there, and the stories they tell about the patients could scare you to death.  They used the buildings for the last time when had housed people after Katrina hit.  Otherwise most of them lay empty except for the ones that house the criminally insane.

What Happens to those Towns

The nearby town that the hospital resides in has a gang problem, and sadly the patients that were released are targeted.  No doubt out of fear of them, but in others just due to cruelty.  The patients themselves have become afraid to come to the shelters at night, or the food pantries to eat.  Instead they get themselves into other types of trouble.  A number of years ago they went under a bridge to burn a sofa for warmth from the winter wind.  The fire spread to the bridge itself, and then to the infrastructure for electricity, telephone lines, etc.   People were hurt, and the homeless scattered.  It took weeks to fix everything.

I have no doubt in my mind that families cut them loose after a while as well.  They get so overwhelmed, and when I think of the woman I worked with?  She have no life outside the world of schizophrenia.  Work was her only time off, and she scooted home during lunch breaks to check on him.  She had to work.  She had no vacations.  No time off.  He could be dangerous if you didn’t keep an eye on him.  Her son passed away, and she had a chance to have a life of her own.  You have to wonder what would have happened to both of them in her aging years.

The resources for charities, homeless shelters, etc. have always been hard.  Its just a reality.  It gets harder still when you are faced with hundreds of mentally challenged people that were cut loose from a state mental hospital.  The state doesn’t figure out WHAT to do with these people, and claims the resources aren’t there and allow them to walk out the front door instead.  Alone.  Scared, and having no place to go.  Then you have the charities, local police, hospitals with even LESS resources trying scramble to find ways of keeping everyone safe.  Its irresponsible plain and simple.

I think of the mother of the shooter.  I think of others I know that have family members with challenges, and you do get tired after a while.  When you get tired or burned out things will happen.  Your viewpoint starts to change, and at times you let your guard down.  You allow them time to themselves unsupervised, because you just can’t seem to keep up with them ALL the time.  Its not an excuse!  Don’t get me wrong…its reality.  It doesn’t matter how strong you are, because we all need help at one time or another.  Problem is the support systems are just not there.  Our Grade for dealing with the mentally ill is a D-! 

We had a man in our town that landed in the mental hospital near by.  He had insurance for this trip, but once those funds ran out?  He was cut loose.  It was plain to everyone that he needed to stay longer.  It just wasn’t possible.  You can imagine the reactions when he proudly announced that they had offered him a FREE electroshock therapy session, because his insurance had already paid for the others.  I didn’t even know they did that anymore.  He was so excited about this GREAT offer he was presented with, and he was puffed up like a peacock.   To him it was an awesome buy one get one free deal!  Disturbing isn’t even a term that describes our reactions properly.

We deal with these people with signs that say Don’t pick up Hitch Hikers.  We know some are a danger, but that’s about it.  Most will never be a danger to society like this shooter was, but they will be a nuisance.   Its not on purpose, because they don’t have the tools to live. 

We closed up everyone avenue they had for help, and I have to wonder if this also is just one aspect that we overlook.

In the coming weeks we will find out more of how this started to unravel, and we should all pray for the victims and their families.  I highly doubt we will find just one aspect, and not hints of others in this awful murderous spree.  Pray that we address them all in some way, so we can slow down this type of crimes.  Pray that we season our decisions with facts, and not emotions completely.

Does God Avoid American Schools?

God Control and the Tragedy at Sandy Hook

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