In the days after a 26-year-old shot and killed nine people and injured several others at an Oregon community college, USA politicians were divided between those who blamed the gun lobby and those who saw it as an opportunity to speak out about the country’s failing mental health system. “The vast majority of gun violence is committed by non-mentally ill people. In fact, mentally ill people are far likelier to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators”, he explained of “the thing actors pretend to have in order to win Oscars”. The national conversation pinned untreated mental illnesses against easy access to guns.
“That’s nearly as many people as live in Greece, and most of us know a lot more about Greece than we know about our mental health system”, Oliver says. Republican presidential candidates were quick to blame the shooter’s possible mental illness despite the fact he was discharged from the U.S. Army with fears he would misuse firearms, yet had unimpeded access to them.
According to another depressing report, there are 10 times more people in jail than in state-funded psychiatric centers.
Oliver reports that, “in 2013, an estimated 43.8 million American adults dealt with a mental illness”.
“Using the criminal justice system to treat the mentally-ill isn’t just ineffective – it’s expensive and it’s risky”, he noted. Plus, “at least half of people shot and killed by police each year have mental health issues”. But that won’t be easy because of the “clusterfuck” of American agencies devoted to mental health.
So how are we combating mental illness?
But fine, let’s talk about mental illness, then! “And we need to be looking at the mentality of these individuals and seeing if there are any early warning clues that we can gather that will help us as a society to be able to identify these people ahead of time”, Ben Carson – a former neurosurgeon – told Hugh Hewitt”.