The Free Press, Mankato, MN


December 18, 2012

Our View: We must stop ignoring mental illness as a problem

In the wake of the horrific killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., politicians are now caught in a nation’s glare looking for a response.

President Obama said of yet one more mass killing “we cannot tolerate this anymore.” Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a conservative Democrat and longtime NRA member, called for action on assault rifles. Conservative talk show host Joe Scarborough, who received the NRA’s highest ratings while he was in Congress, is calling for a discussion on gun control. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., called for greater background checks and curbing high-capacity clips.

Meanwhile, others — including Minnesota lawmaker Tony Cornish — have called for arming our teachers. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said the principal at Sandy Hook should have been armed. “I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office.” 

Clearly, the debate already is steamrolling along as lawmakers address the “how” in the killings — weapons. Frankly, that’s the easiest of the answers. We as a nation will zero in on what constitutes an assault weapon and how many clips are too many, pass more regulations and feel we have done our job. But that is woefully inadequate if we continue to overlook the much bigger question of “why”?

In a recent report by the investigative magazine Mother Jones, it was found that no less than 80 percent of the perpetrators in 61 mass murders obtained their weapons legally. However, there were many recorded instances of acute paranoia, delusions and depression among them, with at least 35 of the killers committing suicide on or near the scene. (Seven others died in police shootouts regarded as “suicide by cop.”) At least 38 of them displayed signs of mental health problems prior to the killings.

Could these killings have been prevented knowing mental illness was a contributing factor? The answer is hard to pinpoint with any reasonable accuracy partly because we as a society have spent more time and money on physical illness and not enough on mental illness, its causes and treatments.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • Books can be crunchy fun for all Talk about extra-crunchy fun! If you haven't heard of Dave Pilkey's series of books that take kid humor in all of its silliness, grossness and creativity to the max, you have now. The "Captain Underpants" books topped the American Library Association

    April 21, 2014

  • Spear smile.jpg Spear column: Hoffner case tested first and right rules

    The biggest news stories carry the biggest risk

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • SCC leads the way on work ed The importance of higher education has never been more pronounced than with the changes occurring in our economy, especially in manufacturing. Bloomberg News noted that manufacturing accounts for 80 percent of our exports and for every one high-tech

    April 20, 2014

  • Our View: Y helps kids with skatepark Thumbs up to the YMCA and supporters working quickly to open an interim roller sport park. When fire destroyed Chesley Roller Sports Park in February, the Y made the commitment to rebuild it this summer and fall. But the Y also moved to give skateboa

    April 19, 2014

  • Our View: Make course evaluations public There's been a considerable and legitimate debate over the years about whether students at a public university should have access to teacher and course evaluations. Whenever there is a legitimate debate, it's hard to be in favor of less information a

    April 18, 2014

  • Our View: Drawing the line after Ukraine Why it matters: Tensions are ramping up once more as Russia tries to dictate to Ukraine.

    April 17, 2014

  • Our View: Costs key in health care access While more uninsured got coverage, costs must be controlled to sustain programs

    April 16, 2014

  • Our View: Saving lives trumps booking drug users Changes to the drug laws would save lives of those who overdose

    April 15, 2014

  • Pay attention! Distraction a problem A few years ago safety experts focused heavily on the dangers of people talking on cellphones while driving. Some states passed laws prohibiting the use of hand-held phones in cars as a result. Today much attention is on motorists typing on tiny hand

    April 14, 2014

  • DEBATE MEDICAL MARIJUANA When Minnesota lawmakers return from their spring break, one of the issues they may face is medical marijuana. This has been kicked around too many times. We feel it deserves to be pushed from committee and debated on the floor. The issue has been tr

    April 13, 2014