The lead editorial in today's Chicago Tribune is entitled "Speak up". It offers an excellent example of the dangerously false logic in virtually all popular conversation about mental health and violence since the Tucson shootings.
To begin with we might ask ... WHY should we speak up when our friends, relatives, or neighbors seem troubled or unstable? Is it our intention to help the person, or to protect society?
Everyone would love to say both, of course, but that's worse than naive. The Trib editorial ignores or obscures the fact that these purposes often do not align at all. Why don't we just put angry, eccentric, and unpleasant people in concentration camps and fine-tune their brain chemistry until they are happier and fully social?
Could it be that we think everyone has certain human rights which we don't really like to take away? Like ... rights to refuse unwanted medical treatment, to be at liberty, to control one's own body, to have privacy, to be left alone, to speak and think one's own thoughts?
Could it be that we actually have no idea how to fine-tune anyone's brain chemistry to make them happy and perfect, or even to gently and reliably disable them from violence?
The Trib implicitly equates forced hospitalization and drugging with "help from your family doctor." Many thousands of psychiatric victims can attest to a stark, brutal difference. Society ignores this massive legacy at its own peril. In the last century, Soviet and Nazi psychiatric policies were based on a presumption that protecting the social order and "helping" certain types of individuals were easy goals to coordinate, given only the iron will to do so.
The opening paragraphs of the Trib editorial cite cases of individuals who supposedly were "helped" with their mental illnesses (Seung-Hui Cho and Steven Kazmierczak), but who promptly went out on shooting rampages, killing dozens of innocents. And by the way, there are plenty more of those. How exactly does pushing this sort of "help" protect anyone?
Wake up. We still need police in the world, and people who try to hurt others have to be stopped. But doing nothing might be much better than psychiatry!