Not long ago Michael Swanson, a MN boy drove to Iowa and mindlessly shot to death two innocent night clerks in convenience stores.  Not long before that another MN boy, Jeff Weise, shot his grandfather to death along with 14 others before he put the gun to his own head.  Jeff wrote about homicide & suicide long before the tragedy occurred.  Michael Swanson’s mother had been trying for years to find mental health services for her son only to be turned away again and again.  Almost every day in my state some crazed youth shoots a five year old, rapes a ten year old, or beats near to death some other innocent person.

Things are no better in Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, (or just about anywhere else in this nation).  Our communities have no appetite for providing services for people suffering from even the most serious mental health needs.

My experience in child protection services strongly supports the national statistic that 2/3 of youth in the juvenile justice system have mental health problems and one half of them have multiple, chronic, and serious problems.

Judge Heidi Schellhas shared with me the pages and pages of psychotropic medications used by children in her courtroom (some as young as 4 years old).

Dr Bruce Perry with 30 years of research claims that if we do not address the mental health issues facing the children of this nation quickly, that 25% of Americans will be special needs people by the end of this generation.

I know families that facilitated their own child’s entrance into the juvenile justice system with the hope that there would be mental health services unobtainable otherwise.  How cruel to find that there aren’t any, and now the child has a record.

I know parents who have lost children to murder and violent death.  It ruins lives far beyond the coffin.  Violent Death spouse and children stay with us forever.

Still, no likes the conversation.  James Holmes, Virginia Tech, Mental health, child rape, babies in dumpsters are forgotten quickly as they happen. Blame someone and move on.

More than one current politician is saying that we don’t need teachers, we don’t need police, firemen, public health nurses, day care workers, and certainly not mental health services.  In my state, MN, we have 1300 students per counselor in the schools (and tons of psychotropic medicines).  Day care workers are paid less than food service workers (the least paid workers in our society).  A few years ago New Jersey eliminated all mental health services in their schools (all disruptive youth are now sent to jail).

This is what we think of children and mental health in America.

Find a mirror America, “What we do to our children, they will do to society” Pliny the Elder, 2500 years ago.

 

4 Comments

  1. Sadly, our modern American culture is primarily concerned with visible, overt, attractive and tantalizing issues. And lets face it, mental health and social problems rarely fit this profile. Occurences such as the recent Aurora massacre receive world-wide attention because they are dramatically tantalizing and important for media ratings. Effective responses to most of our social ills require long-term dedication and planned, strategic solutions. Unfortunately, these planned responses often stretch far beyond most politicians’ tenures, and far beyond any seed money granted to non-profits to make measurable differences. Programs that actually survive implementation, and some that even begin to show effectiveness, are often the first on the chopping blocks of departments (states and even the federal government) looking to cut costs. Mental illness, and the plethora of social ills it contributes to and is affected by, is certainly one of our generation’s invisible, pandemic plagues. If we can just find a way to make the invisible visible to people, I believe Americans would have the same compassionate response to mental health problems as we have shown to have to physical health problems. We don’t lock people up for having diabetes or epilepsy (anymore anyway), so why should we continue with our failed policy of incarcerating people who are cognitively ill? I sincerely believe that we who advocate for mental health will need to make our arguments clear by demonstrating the bottom lines financially, even though our primary concerns are for the health and welfare of people.

  2. Thanks for this information. I worked for one year in Mental Institutions here in Durban, S.A. Today there are many who come to me for help and they have no money to pay for my services. My prayers are for you all out there. May God Richly Reward you for the work that you do.

  3. While I agree with the intent of your article, I am offended that you use Michael’s name with others that planned and then carried out a horrible event. Michael did not have a plan to hurt anyone, that was not his intent while these others – that was their intent to hurt as many as possible. If it helps to spresd the word that we need to start recognizing that we need to treat mental illness before tragedy can happen, then I am happy to invoke Michaels name.
    We need to recognize the existance of mental illness and we need to recognize that there really is no Mental Health care. We no longer have places to bring someone that is psychoatic, we got rid of state hospitals – we now use prisons. Prisons are now where we house our mentally ill, there they get no therapy just meds to manage them. Big Pharma is part of the problem they have sold the idea that meds are the answer, we don’t need mental hospitals anymore right?
    Prisons are big business – and if you contract it out then there is a need to house as many as possible, while providing as little services as possible. So if we have mentally ill in prisons that are just getting meds and they are released – then what are they to do? Mental health services are almost nonexistent. we need to recognize the problen and we need to recognize that there are way too many drugs being given to our children, from drs and what is in their food. It is my belief we are in a pandemic – people talk about AIDS and talk about obesity – where is the talk about the mentally ill? We talk about curing AIDS, cancer, heart disease – where is the talk of curing mental illness? Instead we pretend it doesn’t exist until tragedy happens, then we pay attention, do nothing until the next tragedy. We come up with excuses – must have had bad parents, msut have been off his meds, must have just gone nuts -when chances are there were signs and warning and people trying to get help but there was nothing there.

  4. Please appreciate that we are in complete agreement that there is no adequate mental health care available to the 99% in the U.S. & that the big business of prisons is destroying the fabric of our nation.

    Many of the really troubled youth I know that have done very bad things were not of sound mind when they committed those acts.

    Intent had little to do with it. These were long suffering, unbalanced children struggling against the profound pain and uncertainty of mental illness. Most of them were on psychotropic meds with little or no therapeutic help.

    Those unfamiliar with mental illness can’t grasp the forces driving people to do bad things (especially the profound impact of poorly regulated medications that can trigger as well as control terrible behaviors).

    Psychotropic medications are the most under-regulated, overused, misunderstood, and perhaps dangerous drugs on the planet.

    Ritalin was banned in Sweden in 1968 because of a terrific spike in suicides.

    I have seen this drug proscribed to 4 year olds without proper therapy.

    America is in a pandemic & many medical professionals support this statement. Dr Bruce Perry has done 30 years of research and makes the statement that by ignoring this problem, 25% of
    Americans will be special needs people by the end of this generation.

    Until people become comfortable with the discussion about mental health and begin to understand the giant need for treating it rather than incarcerating people, our jails will remain full, our schools to fail, and our newspapers filled with avoidable tragedies.

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