The recent tragedy in Louisiana only underscores for me the problems with mental health in our country. John Houser stood up in a crowded movie theater and shot 11 people with a legally obtained handgun. Two women died from being in the wrong place at the wrong time, 9 have been injured.
I will be the first to tell you that I do not know how the mental health system in Georgia works and that is part of the problem. Every state has a different set of laws and every state does its funding differently. As a result, depending on where you live you will be treated differently for mental health issues. To a certain extent, for various health issues you will be treated differently in the United states depending on where you live. But pretty much if you fall and break your hip in New York or in Florida except for the expertise of the surgeon you will be treated the same. Not so in the mental health arena. If you have bipolar disorder in Florida you will be treating very different than if you are in New York. Generally also only in the mental arena do you encounter individuals who because of their disease process will commit violent crimes. There are a few exceptions to this rule but not many. For instance, if you have cancer and you are certain to die, it has been known for people not only to kill themselves but their loved ones too. But you can argue that it was the depression that caused it not the cancer itself.
I wish to go over what this individual apparently had in a real quick context. I am going by news reports on his diagnosis but many of his characteristics throughout his life seems to support his diagnosis. This man had bipolar disorder with psychotic features. This is not to say everyone with bipolar disorder will kill people but it is a very dangerous disease.
Bipolar disorder is also called manic-depressive disorder. It causes highs and lows. In a manic episode you are overly happy and you also can be extremely irritable. These people talk very fast and jump from one topic to another. They will talk about their thoughts are racing. They often do not sleep which can bring about a psychosis. They will pursue activities that are pleasurable and often high risk. They can become grandiose and believe they either have more money than they think they have or more power than they think they have. All of the sudden these people think they are a great CEO or a consultant to the president or any number of things that are very important. I had one man tell me once in a manic episode that he had all the qualities of Jesus and could even heal like he could. He went around my mental health unit “curing” everyone and pronouncing them healed. When these people are depressed they feel sad or hopeless. They lost all interest in activities and sometimes stay in bed all day. They may not even eat or bathe. They may have suicidal thoughts. They have a lot of trouble making any kind of decisions at this stage. Sometimes you can have a mixed state where a bipolar person becomes explosive and irritable. It sounds like this man was in a mixed state. This man had several stressors going on including the foreclosure of his house. I think there was a reason he chose Trainwreck, that is how he felt his life was at that point. I am sure the date and time also had some significance for him. It is important to realize we may never have all the answers for why he did what he did and I am not sure that is what is important. The important thing is that this man was able to purchase a gun legally.
I am all for state rights and individual rights as I state this. I may not agree with you but I will protect your rights as awarded in the Constitution. Here is where I draw the line, you cannot hurt someone else in pursuit of those rights. I believe strongly that if an individual anywhere in this country has two mental conditions they should never be able to purchase a gun and maybe in a third. One of them is schizophrenia and the other is bipolar disorder. In a severely depressed individual who might take his life that should also be a factor but you an recover from that disease. If you are diagnosed with bipolar or schizophrenia , you can control it with medication but it is never cured and then you can move on, you always have it. That is not to say you cannot lead a normal life but just like if you have epilepsy you cannot drive a car, in these disease you should not own a gun. These people have to be on medication. That is no different than a disease like diabetes. But with these individuals many do not believe they need medication or in the worst case scenario they medicate themselves. What I am referring to here is substance abuse and that in itself can be a whole new topic for a different blog.
I understand HIPPA but different diseases we have to do different things. If you have tuberculosis in Florida, you have to take your medication. If you do not for the public good, you can be placed in jail and you remain there in an isolation room until you take your medication. What I am proposing is for the public good. I invite you to add your comments to this but I believe there should be a federal law that if you are diagnosed with either one of these disorders then you cannot own a gun and I you have to be placed on a national database to exclude you. I realize this will not stop all tragedies but it would have stopped this one. And the two people who lost their lives would still be around today to give their families joy.
Ellis, R. & Botelho, G. (2015) Lafayette theater shooter brought gun legally CNN Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/24/us/louisiana-theater-shooting
National Institute of Mental Health Bipolar Disorder in Adults Retreived from: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder-in adults/index.shtml