Tragedy in Arizona and the Lack of Common Sense

Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)—January 13, 2011.  In the aftermath of Saturday’s tragic events in Arizona, there has been a great deal of time spent by politicians, pundits and the media playing the ‘blame game.’ Many have called for toning down the hostile and often less than truthful political rhetoric as a way to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future while others claim that such requests are infringing on their Constitutional right to free speech.

As more details about the life of the accused shooter Jared Loughner emerge, it becomes clear that this individual is yet another sad case where the needs of a seriously mentally ill individual were not met.

We proudly wear colored ribbons and give of our time to raise money for those afflicted with medical conditions such as cancer and even HIV/AIDS for example.  However, the sad truth is that having a mental illness in the United States is still considered a stigma – something to either be discussed in the confines of one’s home or far too often, just ignored, because those afflicted with this disease, or their families, are too ashamed to let others know their ‘dirty’ secret.

From my own experience as a health care professional that has worked in a case management capacity for those with mental illness, I can testify first-hand that it doesn’t matter if you have insurance or not, the availability of mental health services are woefully inadequate not just in Illinois but throughout the country.  This is especially true for young adults. The lack of community mental health services in a country as rich as the United States is one of the greatest moral and ethical tragedies of our time.

My paternal grandmother, Mary grew up in a small town in Austria. While she never finished high school, she probably was one of the smartest women I’ve ever known. Grandma Mary was always very proud of her grandchildren’s educational accomplishments but was always quick to point out that those that will be successful in life not only need to be ‘book smart’ but to learn to use their common sense. If Grandma Mary were alive today, I’m sure she would be reminding us that while we certainly have the right to speak our mind, we need to have some common sense about those that are listening to our messages.

The best outcome that could happen from the tragic events that occurred in Tucson will be for a national conversation to begin about how we identify, treat and house those with mental illness.  This conversation should also address how time-and-time again, unqualified people are so easily able to gain access to handguns. Until we address the real problems here, more tragedies such as the one in Arizona, are just waiting to happen.

And in the interim, all of us should exercise a little common sense and keep in mind that our words, writings, videos, etc. are being heard and seen not just by those who share our point of view, but by disturbed individuals that just may not hear your message in the manner it was intended.