To the Journal editor:
The latest school shooting in Newton, Conn., has once again opened the national debate about gun control. Why do we choose this problem as the focus of our energy?
The cat is already out of the bag. We have exponentially more guns per capita than any other nation. Anyone can and will obtain the weapons needed to shoot any number of people regardless of the laws. The gun control debate simply drives the sale of even more weapons.
So, what are we missing here? A mother sacrificed her life to raise a son with some serious mental health problems.
This is only one of the hundreds of families caring for a potentially dangerous family member. I believe we continue to talk about the guns because the problem of poor mental health care makes us uncomfortable.
The only options such families have are to either abandon their suffering children, siblings, or parents to the street or to a prison system which offers enough punishment to destroy all hopes of a reasonable adaptation to society, but does not offer more than the most rudimentary forms of treatment.
We can and we must improve our assistance to such families. Yes, that means we would have to pay for mental health care with our tax dollars. Oh no, more taxes? Now we are uncomfortable! But wait! We might not have to increase taxes.
We could shift some of the funding for privatized punishment centers to mental health care for seriously ill citizens. That would require a shift from having a "war on" something to developing a program of care for someone. Perhaps we could think of it as an investment in safety and quality of life.
Most people with mental illness are not dangerous, but we do have people with needs for safe containment and focused treatment.
We need to stop pretending that families can and should solve these problems alone.
Dr. Mary Pelton Cooper