In response to the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, fellow Congresswoman Grace Napolitano wants to invest $200 million dollars into education to hire social service professionals in schools. In her opinion, an adequately trained professional could have diagnosed Jared Lee Loughner before his shooting spree severely harmed Congresswoman Giffords and killed both a federal judge and young girl. This recent terrible incident hearkens back to the 2007 Virginia Tech shoot-out at the hands of another troubled college student, one whose mental illness went unnoticed by administrators, staff, and students, before it was too late.
I am glad that Napolitano is not arguing for the curtailing of gun sales ("guns do not kill people; people kill people"), and it is good to see politicians take steps to invest in proactive mental health care. However, a blanket government invest into wide-spread programs throughout the country will ultimately have little effect on curbing the deviant behavior of mentally ill college students. Desperate times invoke desperate measures, which in turn cannot treat the individual needs or prevent the sinister threats which any one individual may pose to another.
This attempted subsidy smacks of puritan progressivism, tailoring a one-size-fits-all approach to treat a problem in the wake of one devastating tragedy. I do hope that distinct college campuses will devise better methods and train medical staff more effectively. I also hope that the stigma of mental illness will subside so that students who are troubled, or the loved ones who suspect problems, can seek proper assistance. Another government grant, however, cannot meet this problem head-on in such a blunt fashion.
Consider the case of a young child in a San Pedro elementary school who shared a sinister drawing with a teacher, stating that he was thinking about dying. The school responded by reporting the incident and having the student locked up for a short period of time, away from his parents. This extreme reaction was as traumatizing, if not more so, as the grief which the child and his family were already facing. If this is the normal state-response to mental illness, or even a hint of concern relating to such a problem, it's little wonder that so many people choose to hide their pain rather than seek help.
As I mentioned before, let's hope that communities can create more hospitable and welcoming conditions for individual patients to seek help, of for friends and family to detect the warning signs of mental instability, so that they will be more likely to seek help for their loved ones.