Christian Living

Family Matters 01/13/11

Mental Illness, Not Political Nonsense

When a family member exhibits mental instability and no treatment is taken, the condition can worsen. The end result can be a criminal act or a shooting like we saw last week in Tucson, Arizona, when Jared Lee Loughner killed six and critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

In their coverage of the shooting, The Wall Street Journal reported some details of the Loughner’s background. His personal history included rejection, loose associations in thinking, delusional and paranoid thinking, drug and alcohol use and minor incidents with the law. He dropped out of high school and was expelled from a community college for outbursts and refusal to submit to a mental health evaluation. Hate for the government was noted on social media websites; and he appears to be fixated with the congresswoman, based on evidence found in his home safe. In addition, other reports indicated a shrine-like altar that may indicate dark spiritual involvement. We know he ranted against religion.  The details are still being pieced together, but so far, what we know is consistent with mental and criminal problems.

Mentally ill people can be incited by anything, and most times the triggers do not make sense. After years of working in inpatient psychiatric units, you learn that the thoughts of a mentally ill person do not take logical form. My patients often confused me for government and religious figures, calling me the Attorney General of Tennessee, when they were in a delusional state. The difficult part was always trying to predict who would become violent. It is not an exact science.

When a shooting like the one in Tucson occurs, the most natural question is, “Could this have been prevented?” It’s an important question to ask in the grieving process. And it is an important question in terms of possible change. On those occasions when we can look back and add preventative steps, the question brings reform. Other times, the question remains unanswered.

We do not like feeling helpless and vulnerable. We don’t want to believe that a young girl’s interest in attending a political event was the difference between life and death. We don’t want to see the face of evil or be mindful of the fact that our lives are temporary and only God knows tomorrow.

These events make us wonder if we can live without anxiety or fear. I believe all the posturing we see in media is related to this fear. Without a deep trust in God, life appears random and out of control. God is who centers us during tragic times.

Rather than speculate on political nonsense, let’s answer these questions: How do we help people like Jared Loughner from becoming violent? Can we do better in not only identifying those in trouble, but also in treating them? And what do we do with those who refuse mental health help and end up as criminals? How do we help families do better at managing out of control kids or identifying those in trouble so they do not grow up and commit criminal acts?

Perhaps the best thing we can do right now is pray for the families of the wounded and dead, and urge people we know to get help for anyone showing signs of mental illness.

For more, visit Dr. Linda Mintle’s website, www.drlindamintle.com and sign up for her free e-newsletter, follow her on Twitter, www.twitter.com/drlindahelps.

Also, check out related articles in our Emotional Wellness section.

For more on the Tucson, go to CBNNews.com.

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