In all my reading of the sad news story this past week after the massacre in Tucson, one thing stands out to me: The fact that Loughner was mentally ill, and somehow fell through the cracks. He was kicked out of his college for erratic behavior, but that seems to be as far as any sort of intervention when on his behalf.
Was it because he was of legal age? Can a mentally ill person only be committed and get help if they commit themselves to medical care? (I think the answer to that is yes, unless they make a suicide attempt, or kill someone).
There as a clear line in the sand between sanity and insanity and this young man crossed it months ago. His community KNEW he crossed it.
And yet, the people nearest to him were unable to help him, I guess.
It is often very difficult for the people who are closest to a mentally ill person to really see what's going on. Sometimes it's glaringly obvious, when there is a crisis. But when the situation with that person is not a crisis, or has not yet reached a crisis point but has been subtly getting worse for a while, it's easy to be in denial, or to really not know what it going on. I think it's normal to want to withdraw, mentally, from the possibility. It's too much to contemplate or consider, or realize and ackknowledge.
I remember being out on a walk by myself, years ago...when B was only about 11, wondering if she were mentally ill. And worrying about it. And then having that withdrawal reaction. I was seeing the signs...the very beginnings of trouble brewing, but I did not know what to do with that information. So I shut down. But not completely. I did call a doctor and got her some help. The beginnings of help. But things got so much worse from there. But I digress-only to say that I know what it's like to be in the parents' seat.
But here is Laughner, spinning downward, out of control into sociopathic thinking. He was not being silent with his sociopathic thoughts, either. No, he was posting them on youtube and on myspace, etc.
And yet, it's always someone else's problem, isn't it?
Have we, as a society gotten to the point where we can't call someone to accountability when they are clearly sociopathic...until it's too late?