Monday, December 24, 2012

Mental Illness and Violence (Part I)

In the wake of another senseless shooting, I will offer my two cents on the subject of mental illness and violence. We can implement new gun control laws, but in my opinion, this is not going to stop senseless violence unless mental illness is addressed. I am not a medical professional so I am basing this writing on my personal experiences and my wife’s knowledge as an educator for 27 years. What is my personal experience – I was never diagnosed with any mental disorder, but there is no question I had ADHD with violent tendencies as a youth and young adult. My wife has firsthand knowledge of the school system and trying to get troubled kids identified and most importantly getting them the help they need. Here are the issues we identified with trying to treat mental illnesses:

Youths – According to WebMD, over 20% of youths have a mental illness and what is even more troubling is that many have more than one type of mental illness. This complicates the process of getting kids diagnosed properly. If we look at the demographics of these psychopathic mass murderers like Adam Lanza, they are generally young male adults. Hence, it is imperative that youths with mental disorders be identified ASAP, especially boys.

Cost – It is a costly process for parents to get a child the help they need outside the school system. Doctors, specialists, and psychologists are all expensive even with health insurance. Medications can also be expensive. And ObamaCare will do nothing to reduce these costs; in fact, it will make it more expensive for middle class families to deal with mental disorders. To complicate matters, many insurance companies do not cover many mental disorders. One reason for this is that there are thousands of different disorders with new ones being uncovered daily. There’s a disorder for any ailment and many are merely excuses for the lack of responsibility and accountability. Hence, it is hard for insurance companies to determine those illnesses that are real and those that are excuses. For insurance companies to cover all these made up disorders it would raise the cost of insurance premiums for everyone by a substantial amount.

Education – It is not easy to get kids with mental disorders identified and placed in the system. First, the priority of the school is to identify kids with learning disabilities and not mental disabilities (although they often overlap). After all, schools are graded on the educational performance of their students and not in their performance to identify kids with mental disease. Secondly, school resources are limited, and with educational cuts to Title I and special education teachers, these resources are becoming even scarcer. Thirdly, the bureaucracy in the educational system is paramount. Teachers must have stacks of documentation over the course of the year to identify kids with mental disorders. Meanwhile, bad teachers will avoid this arduous, bureaucratic, and time consuming process. Administrators and guidance counselors must then conduct their research of those kids identified by teachers with mental disorders. Usually a school year passes without anything being done. And the process starts all over again the following year, especially if the paper work is lost in the system or if the student moves to another district.

1 comment:

  1. Putting the burden on teachers to identify children with mental disorders is kind of a catch-22, I’m afraid. Psychology is a complicated science that requires years of study in and of itself, and it’s asking quite a lot that teachers understand that science in addition to learning their own jobs. As a mother it concerns me to think that untrained people might have the power to label children as mentally disturbed and put them in “the system,” so to speak, where other children are likely to discover that they’ve been identified as such.

    I think you made an important point when you talked about environment contributing to or exacerbating mental illness. If that’s true, then the most important thing teachers can do, IMO, is to promote a healthy, nurturing environment at school. Every day in every classroom children are picked on, bullied or ostracized (I know, I was one of those kids). I think these behaviors encourage self-esteem and anger problems that amplify mental illness which might already be present due to genetics or conditions at home. If you look at the profiles of the people who commit mass shootings, what they often have in common is that they were bullied, teased or ostracized by their peers. So if we want to involve teachers in combating the problem of mental illness, perhaps their time would be best spent discouraging these destructive behaviors in their classrooms and on the playground.

    Of course, if a child exhibits violent tendencies, that's something teachers should discuss with parents and administrative officials.