I have a strongly personal – almost entirely negative- take on the contemporary mental health industry. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog. But much as I’d like to “blame” the Tucson killings on the failure of the health care system, as some – quite plausibly – do, I think the failure is occurring on a far more fundamental level – the human level, the DNA level.
Now that it’s safely too late, the people who were in contact with Jared Loughner long before he killed six people and wounded 19 others, are describing his weird, aggressive – insane, to be blunt – behavior. He scared the crap out of a woman in a class he was taking; the teacher of the class, who tried to throw Loughner out (Loughner refused to leave) kept sneaking peaks out of the corner of his eye to make sure Loughner didn’t have a weapon. Another neighborhood resident thought he was a serial killer waiting to happen. “Ticking time bomb” were the words. But once he was expelled from the community college last summer, those same people who were afraid for their own safety forgot about him – and the safety of anyone else. No one who now says Loughner frightened them ever lifted a finger to contact a health care agency, or any other public agency that, it seems reasonable to think, would have seen that there was something very wrong. The community college certainly knew there was something very wrong; they expelled him. But once he was gone, and Loughner took his “hysterical laughter, bizarre non sequiturs and aggressive outbursts” elsewhere, those same folks were back to normal. No complaints.
This is not the failure of a system. It’s failure at a more fundamental, intractable level – the individual human DNA level. Ground zero. I don’t know the way up or back from that. You can’t pass a law reforming it or create a commission to investigate it. You can’t subpoena it, sanction it, put it in jail or execute it. You can’t give it a deadline to change. Human nature will just go on replicating itself and refusing to leave.