An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation


I am not about to get political with you over what happened in Arizona this weekend (my husband does that much better and with more color than I do), but I don’t want to remain silent either. I’ve been trying to come up with something to say in addition to the expression of sadness and outrage over this tragedy, and I think the area in which I’m most equipped to make a comment or two is not in the debate over what is and isn’t acceptable political rhetoric, or whether or not you should have to jump through more hoops to buy a gun than you do a car. It’s this:

If any good dialogue comes out of this mess, please let part of it be about mental illness and access to treatment.

Did Loughner have access to mental health care? Did he seek it? Did he even know to seek it? Did anyone who cared about him urge him to get help? If he had wanted help, would he have been able to afford it?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but for most people who suffer from a mental illness, the answer to each and every one of them is almost always NO. And the result is all too often a life of debilitating sadness, occasionally suicide, and in this rare instance a mass killing.

My contribution to this dialogue: don’t be afraid to tell someone you care about that you are worried about them. You guys did that for me, and you saved my life.

  • Ketteringite

    On new year’s day in a trailer park near Springfield, Ohio, a man with mental illness fired his shotgun into the neighbor’s trailer because the neighbor’s dog had taken a crap in the tiny yard in front of HIS trailer. Of course the police were called and the mentally ill man proceeded to take that same shotgun and blow away, point blank, the 40-year-old female deputy sheriff who responded. And then he shot another officer who was trying to help the deputy who was down (the second officer survived). It’s still not known whether the crazy man died from the barrage of bullet fired by law enforcement into his trailer or whether he killed himself. The slain officer had married only 8 months earlier and left behind two young children. She was evidently a shining example of what a law enforcement officer should be.
    Ironically, the mentally ill man had been declared “not guilty by reason of insanity” for an armed standoff with police in another Ohio community in 2001.
    It appears the mentally ill man in recent years generally did fairly well but was known to go off his meds when he felt like he’d been OK for awhile. So I ask the same questions you did, as well as wondering if the law enforcement community should have known a crazy guy with guns was living in that trailer park. If Michael Ferryman had gotten the proper help with his mental health, maybe he’d still be alive and would not have killed Deputy Suzanne Hopper. A tragedy on so many levels.

  • Amy the Mom


    Like Strawberrygoldie in an earlier post, I’ve been involved in a similar situation for ten years now. The child in question is now 18, and just as Strawberry mentions, I have had to remove myself and my family from the situation for our own safety. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life as I have when dealing with mental health experts, county officials and school employees while attempting to get help for an obviously troubled and violent child-now a 6′ 4″ 270 pound man.

    I’ve asked the question so many times, “Is it going to take a murder to get someone to realize how ill this boy is?”

    In the case of my friend’s son, his high IQ is proving to be his greatest obstacle. It prevents his mother from getting guardianship, it empowers him to refuse treatment and medication, and it virtually guarantees his inability to get any assistance. There are so many cracks in the system, and so many patients fall through. I don’t know what the answers are today, any more than I did ten years ago. The young man is no closer to a diagnosis now, and the scope of his problems have discouraged doctors locally and even at the Mayo Clinic.

    I dread the day I pick up the newspaper and see my friend’s son’s name on the front page. That will be a very bad day.

  • laurenkayhouse

    Thanks for posting this. I just had a conversation with a friend telling her that I am concerned and would love to see her reach out for help and would help her do so financially or otherwise if she would accept it. Since then, I haven’t heard from her, and I started to question whether I said or did the right thing. So, thanks for posting this – because when someone’s thinking about hurting themselves, friends have to say something.

  • christineanela

    Heather, thank you for this! It brought tears to my eyes with just how true it is.

  • sophia_helix

    Yesterday this happened to a girl I worked with at our university paper years ago:

    It will get very little notice in the wake of the Tuscon tragedy, but it has the same roots — untreated mental illness. In Lisa’s case, I think the family knew there was something wrong, but didn’t know what to do for her father. My heart is seriously breaking today.

  • reymiland

    A homeless man froze to death last night just 4 blocks from my home.

    How can we as a society let this happen?

    People shooting children, people freezing to death, whole families hungry, over 30,000 children in Utah go to bed hungry every night.

    What has happened to us?

  • apostate

    If anybody hasn’t seen this article, you should read it.

    This is not the face of mental illness. This is the face of evil.

    Shoot him in the face. Stick him in solitary confinement for the rest of his days. Send him to prison to be raped up the ass daily. I don’t care.

    Any pity or compassion toward this monster is sadly misdirected.

  • AdventureGirl

    “but for most people who suffer from a mental illness, the answer to each and every one of them is almost always NO.”
    Heather – Whoa! You are making a very big and unsubstantiated statement. If I may say, it is not helpful to do that.

    It is widely documented that the vast majority of Americans DO have health insurance. Even if someone doesn’t, it is surprising how many people have adopted the most bizarre idea that you have to have insurance to get medical treatment. Where did people get that misinformation?

    Every day plenty of people go to Doctors and clinics and pay cash. Plus, there are county health departments and free or low cost clinics all over this country. Yes, really.

    Am I saying that reviewing our National health care policies isn’t worthy? Not at all. I think it should be always under review, with appropriate legislation when called for. It’s important to realize that there never will be perfection, just as there isn’t in ANY of the countries with socialized health systems.

    Please let me make a public service announcement here: health care in America is WIDELY available from a **big variety of sources.** And as someone who has purchased my own health insurance since 2003, I can say that there have never been more insurance policy options than there are right now. Far more than when I first began purchasing directly.

  • Anne Shaffer

    I too was wondering who, if anyone, had tried to help this guy… It’s quite obvious from the news coverage that he desperately needed help.

    When you’re deep into mental illness it seems almost impossible to help yourself. That’s why we need the people in our lives to step up to the plate.

    If someone had, in this guy’s case, then none of this would have probably happened.


  • beckieg

    Thank you for this. When I first heard of this, it was actually the first thing I thought of. I myself have bipolar disorder and have experienced firsthand the stigma that comes with having a mental illness, difficulty finding good care (even with insurance), and fearing what will happen when people find out. I’ve experienced even healthcare workers treating me with absolute disrespect…and either refusing to take me seriously or displaying an appalling lack of knowledge or compassion.

    I’m a nurse (and you can bet that when healthcare “professionals” treated me poorly they heard about it). I know how things SHOULD be. The disgusting state of the healthcare system, especially when it comes to mental illness, makes me sick.

    Unfortunately I think that instead of looking at what happened in Arizona and thinking how maybe we should start doing something about helping people with these diseases and raise awareness of them, many people will just shrug it off as “just another crazy person” (along with the hateful political ridiculousness being flung everywhere), and that’s just sad.

    This young man seems, from reports, to have had many people in his life who knew something was wrong and this still happened. If he is a paranoid schizophrenic, which seems likely, that in no way makes what he did excusable or okay but it does speak to the fact that he was probably one millions of people who slip through the cracks every day.

    Not all mentally ill people become violent (the VAST majority do not). Not all mentally ill people cannot function relatively “normally” (most do). But every mentally ill person deserves the same respect, medical treatment, ACCESS to that treatment, compassion, and absence of stigma that anyone else does. We’re so far from that right now and it’s awful.

  • Annie Rhiannon

    “He does seem a bit evil with the smirking…”

    Er, I have to stop commenting now because it’s making me angry, but I just saw this comment piece about mental health in the Guardian and thought it was interesting:

  • thatton

    Very well said!

  • alysia75

    So true. Oftentimes people are just so afraid of offending someone or hurting their feelings, when really they could be saving someone’s life, or at the very least helping to improve the quality of their life.

  • staceypea

    This is the angle of the story I was hoping would burble to the surface– thank you! A big component of the current hostility in AZ and over Giffords was her support of the health insurance overhaul. It’s not solely a matter of telling someone he/she needs help– it’s a matter of social services. Arizona in recent years has gutted theirs, and continues to rage vitriolic against public health care. This is what happens when we refuse to take care of our own.

    And before I hop off my soapbox, I should also point out that had Loughner been entered into such a system, had he been adjudicated mentally ill by a court, he likely would have been put on an NCIS watch list, and as such, would not have been able to legally purchase his firearm. I can’t believe that given this as an example of what happens, people wouldn’t support the social services that would allow a community college or other institutions to report behaviours that leave them suspicious.

    But also, Jon’s right, and we should stop being assholes to each other.

  • DeAn

    You know, I’m all for reaching out to people with mental illness, but as so many have mentioned (and apparently so few have heard), it is next to impossible to get severely mentally ill person into treatment. After years of dealing with his illness, my mother had to go before a judge and flat-out LIE, saying that she believed my brother was a danger to himself and others (which he wasn’t) in order to get him committed to a psychiatric hospital.

    It’s just an impossible situation and I feel so terrible for everyone involved.

  • MollyCT

    I second the recommendation of the jezebel article.

    From what I’ve read, it’s important to know that it is very, very rare for the mentally ill to become violent.

    But the possibility of this man being schizophrenic touches me deeply, since I’ve known more than one young person with schizophrenia whose mental health needs have completely overwhelmed their families. Their families–good, loving, supportive families–have confronted the total lack in our society of any place for their loved ones to go for long-term care. There is no place, at any price, for the seriously mentally ill to go where someone will continuously offer them skilled treatment, make sure they take their medications, and help them lead happy lives. It’s a devastating thing to realize that you cannot care for your brother, your son, your friend, and no one can help you.

    If that’s the case for a strong, middle-class family, imagine the outcome for someone less lucky? And right now, public mental health services are facing *even deeper* cuts. It’s like as a society we want the seriously mentally ill to just not exist.

  • jenna629

    I couldn’t agree with you more. More of us need to recognize that we have animal instincts and we can sense when a fellow human is a threat. As children we’re taught to ignore these instincts, to treat everyone equally, to give everyone a chance, and while in most cases this is sound advice, there is a small percentage of the population to whom this advice SHOULD NOT apply. These are the people who set off real alarm bells in us, bells which we also ignore.

    When I was a freshman, I switched from private school to public school and of necessity made a new group of friends. One of the guys in this group, Eric, just seemed “off”. In honors bio class, where we sat next to each other, he’d tell me how he’d sit in his living room in the middle of the night with a loaded shot gun in his lap. Now, there are a lot of weird people in the world, especially when you are a freshman. But that struck me as scary crazy, so I did what you SHOULD do – I went to the guidance counselor and told her all about it. My entire group of friends screamed at me in the school hallway when they found out what I’d done. It was humiliating, but I never doubted I’d done the right thing. My friends changed their minds too, when a few years later Eric murdered his three neighbors with a hammer, raping the mother. The one boy was his close friend.

    Maybe if someone had listened in freshman year, two families wouldn’t have been ripped apart. We all need to learn to listen to our instincts.

    An old article covering the story is below, for the morbidly curious. The article is accurate when it states that most folks thought he was perfectly normal – because people see what they want to see. He was quiet and had good grades. But all of us in our group of friends KNEW he was weird. The reason he had few close friends is because he creeped people out once you got close enough to know him. And he’d been interjecting weird violent fantasies into conversation at least as early as freshman year, as my story illustrates. He despised his family and wanted to hurt them, we all knew that, but people just chalked it up to “Oh, that’s normal for teenagers”. In my opinion, this tragedy could easily have been avoided if Eric had gotten the proper help when he was 14.

    For those curious to know the ending, he was convicted and received a life sentence. In 1998 he hanged himself in prison. Knowing him like I did, he didn’t hang himself out of remorse. He killed himself because he couldn’t stand being cooped up in prison. He hated being confined and told what to do.

  • acm

    it’s worth noting that *some* folks spoke up in this case. enough of his fellow students were concerned about his behavior that the college took specific action, asking his parents not to bring him back without documented evidence of treatment by a mental professional. don’t know what they thought about that, but at least somebody tried to get him help…

  • kacyd

    Great points Heather. Everyone the interviewed about him said they thought there was something wrong with him but yet no one reached out to help him. I think so many times people are afraid to get involved. Sometimes I think people are afraid to assume something is wrong and that the person they are trying to help will be offended by that but I think as a society we should all be more willing to help others especially those that don’t ask for help.

  • Plano Mom

    Yes. Exactly what I’ve been saying, but you have a much broader audience.

  • cjmama

    My husband died this last Thanksgiving at the age of 38. I’m fairly certain it wasn’t suicide, but I’ll never know for sure. My biggest regret and source of sadness is that he couldn’t have been happier while he was alive. He finally chose to go to therapy several years ago, which helped a lot. An accurate diagnosis and medication for ADHD helped even more. But the accompanying depression and anxiety for someone who lived their whole life feeling like a failure was still very difficult for him. We had money and access to mental health resources, but it still wasn’t enough. I wish I (and he) had been more persistent in terms of getting even more help. His psychiatrist was great for medication, but not so great at “talk therapy” and my husband needed that.

    But my husband’s life and experiences taught me so much. I have three young children (one of whom is exactly like his dad) and I get them all the care they need and am teaching them to feel comfortable reaching out for help whenever things are not going well. And I’m going to schedule an appointment right now for myself with a grief counselor.

    No one feels shame about getting cancer, but they sure do about mental illness. Thanks for making this part of the public conversation. There is far too much shame around this topic.

  • Midnight

    I couldn’t comment on Jon’s post (too lazy/incompetent to figure out how to sign in over there), but well said, both of you.

  • karenarens

    My brothers and I grew up with a mom who was schizophrenic. It was very scary when she talked back to the voices in her head. One time, she chased all four of us out of the house with no shoes on. We stayed out, barefoot, all day because we were afraid to go back before my dad got home. (Back then, we didn’t have cell phones.) And it’s pretty hard to describe what goes through a 6-year old’s mind as she watches her mom lay on the couch in a catatonic state. All these things happened despite the fact that my dad was desperately trying to find a doctor that would get her meds right. She was hospitalized multiple times, and they would change her meds, but part of the sickness is that she doesn’t think she sick, and she stops taking those meds. I don’t know what this guy’s parent went through, but from what I read about their own poor social skills, they were probably in way over their heads. The sad thing is, once my mom levels out on her meds, she’s pretty good. She takes care of her house and her money. If this guy had gotten the help he need – a few pills a day – he’d be back at college, and six people would still be alive. For want of a handful of pills . . .

  • Kristen from MA


  • dianemaggipintovoiceover


    i’m so sorry to hear about your husband/your children’s father. i hope you’re finding the support you need, as well as the energy and wherewithal to carry on for yourself and your kids. 🙁

  • TexasKatie

    Honestly, the whole mental health system is just screwed up. All the insurance companies want to do is institutionalize people in residential facilities where people with psychosis and other major mental problems can molder and be forgotten. Other than that, people fall through the cracks. People can say over and over that someone is a danger to themselves or those around them, and they can only be held for 48 hours – and in that time, they are heavily medicated, doped up, and sent home, only to spiral back down into psychosis. The whole system is just so screwed up beyond belief. Everyone can say “Why didn’t someone do something?” or “What is wrong with his parents for not putting him away?” There are just so many levels to what people have to deal with when dealing with a schizophrenic family member.

    Check out the blog of January Schofield’s parents. She is a schizophrenic child (only 8 years old) and they have had to deal with complete crap from the insurance industry and the medical profession in dealing with Jani. It definitely sheds some light on what families of schizophrenics have to deal with.

    I don’t know if the guy in Tucson could have ever been helped… but somehow I wonder if anyone ever tried… There has to be a change in how mental health is viewed.

  • laurajeanne

    If you are like me, you want to do something for the families of the victims. I agree with dooce and I think its importent to not see Arizona as an isolated incident but rather in the context of a long string of gun violence. Whether it is Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, Binghamton, Columbine or Arizona there is some common themes. I voted today for this Memorial Park for the victims of the Binghamton Massacre. Its my way of responding to this whole mess from my neck of the woods. Maybe everyone on this list can go to the link above and vote too? If you vote and it wins the victim’s families will be able to build their memorial park.

  • vorvmatryoshka

    My younger sibling is mentally ill. My parents were in a position to access a very wide range of health care resources to care for him. And after decades of cognitive therapy, neurologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, all everyone has to show for it is:

    1. The crumbling of my parent’s marriage completely aided by the stress of living with an unstable and sometimes violent mentally ill child.

    2. A revolving door range of diagnoses with corresponding medications, the majority of which have never really resolved one symptom without creating another.

    3. A now adult younger sibling who is unmedicated, savvy in the art of manipulation thanks to the coddling of way too many health care professionals, a mostly intolerable human being, and who cannot and will not likely ever take a stitch of responsibility for his own situation.

    I’ll be honest that much of the shooter’s behavior describes my sibling though I think the difference is that should he ever become violent, I think the violence will not target the general public.

    Access to health care means very little sadly, sometimes. My parents are socially adept people who responded appropriately to my brother’s needs and for all their efforts, they really only got a marginally functional adult child who is self-aware of his own limitations enough that he’s able to manipulate and counteract the efforts of people attempting to rescue, save, or heal him- especially now that he’s an adult.

    There are some people that you cannot just reach and whatever personal limitations they possess, are self-aware enough to deflect any attempt to do so or twist it to their strict advantage. I don’t know if the shooter was ever so adept but the fact that he was told, encouraged, and leveraged to seek help and did not speaks to the fact that he was savvy enough to avoid it. I think the spirit of the question is good but having lived through a personality like Loughner’s, one must part with Pollyannism and pragmatism and focus on the victims because they are more than our shooter quite beyond any measure of saving now.

  • DeAn

    So true, @vorvmatryoshka, bitter, cynical, and very, very true.

    I think it must be hard to comprehend if you haven’t experienced someone with serious mental illness up close. My brother outwitted every lawyer and judge he was brought before when we were trying to get him into treatment.

    He’s on medication now and has since earned his PhD, so he’s highly functioning at the moment but still takes no responsibility for himself. I guess he thinks since he was dealt this rotten hand, the world (and my parents specifically) owe him anything he wants. Gah!

  • Jen in AZ

    As a resident of Arizona and a LOVER of Tucson I’m just glad that this whole mess is getting a shit-load of coverage and attention. Hopefully some good will come from this mess. I hope-I hope-I hope. I’m also very curious where his parents are in all this? No comments? No nothing? Probably the way they operate in general. Hands off and clueless.

  • Talon

    As someone who couldn’t get mental health help unless I actually tried to kill myself while I had no insurance and no money, thank you for this post.

    I never got that far, but I did self-harm.

    I’ll be honest and say I never thought about it from this angle, and I thank you for it.

    P.S. Your captcha is TOO HARD!! *whine*

  • reikigirl73

    It’s very disappointing and frustrating to have to be turned away when you have state insurance yet you desperately need professional help (therapy). I feel fortunate that my primary physician is resourceful and knowledgeable on depression. He has literally saved my life.

    I’m thankful for my family and boyfriend. He alone pulls me out of the darkness when I can’t. Heather, you have been and always will be an inspiration for me. I pass on your website to anyone and everyone who needs to know there is light and the end of the otherwise dark tunnel.

    As always, thank you.

  • Ommax3

    Living in Omaha NE this week, where a student took the life of the asst principal and critically wounded the principal just 2 days before the AZ shooting brought this message home…as I sat, waiting to be able to hug my kids who were in lock down at their school(as the whole district was) thinking “what could have been done to help that boy…what drove him to such lengths…” We will never know, because he killed himself that same afternoon…Our community was rocked to the core…and we will all miss Dr Kaspar, a great educator, but there is a family missing their son as well…

    I hope this young man in AZ finds help…help he needs…just as I hope there are consequences to him for his actions…

    hard topic…makes you hug those around you more…

  • mandypants

    Yup, trying to find help for mental illness is almost impossible. I knew I needed help and even with my very capable husband and us both dealing with our insurance, it was seriously like pulling teeth to get names of therapists and psychiatrists. I started a different blog just for myself that I share with others that can deal with my foul mouth and my discussing my journey in my depression that my husband doesn’t even know about. (he’s waiting for my regular job to get him fired. hahaha) But even with our stupid list of people, it was one out of 4 that were even taking new patients or were still on our insurance. My husband was adamant that we would go into debt if we had to just to insure my health, but seriously, a depression mom doesn’t need that much more guilt added on to that. So, beginning of the year, we pay all of each therapy visit until we hit our deductible and it’s $100+ a month for meds. What a disaster. This is the blog entry I wrote about depression and motherhood if anyone cares. I really wish that there were better resources out there that weren’t so expensive and hard to find.

  • BBonerigo

    While I completely agree with your entire post I’d also like to cite this article;

    Just another thought to kick around in the aftermath of this tragic event.

  • britney

    I wasn’t able to read through the others comments, and I’m usually a lurker on this site, but I just had to comment. Thank you Heather, for pointing this out. I am currently employed by a mental health authority in Northern Utah, at our most recent staff meeting the CEO notified us that a lot of our funding has been cut beginning our fiscal year. We were not given a lot of details, but it seems that it was the State’s decision to cut the funding for mental health services in general. I’m employed by a non-profit mental health organization, whose goal is to provide help for those with low income. We cannot do this if we can’t get some sort of financial help. Maybe, just maybe something good can be brought out of this tragedy. Perhaps people will take a second look at helping those who truly need help.

  • mimi_thi

    I absolutely agree. I’ve been thinking about this as I hear more & more reports include mental illness as if to point out THE cause. Situations like these are so much more complex than we are willing to think or admit & this kind of simplification just furthers misinformation & the stigma attached to not just mental illness but mental health issues, which affects us all. Thank you for bringing this up.

  • Kpenna25

    Long time reader, second time writer. I was an incredibly picky child my parents tried to force pedisure on me which was just like drinking gross mixed with boogers. But I loved the age old mac and cheese. I also ate a lot of plain white rice. Then I found spray butter and I drenched my rice in butter, it sounds disgusting to me now, but then it was amazing. I would say to keep it simple. I hated when there was a lot of ingredients in the food I ‘knew’ i wouldn’t like. Too many ingredients overwhlemed me as well. Another option might be finding a sauce she likes, like ranch or honey mustard or blue cheese, whatever she likes and making food where she can dip it in said sauce and mask any flavors she may not like yet. I wish you the best of luck and I hope my daughter does not get my picky eating habits as well.

  • Jen in AZ

    Ya know, as I read all these VERY important and valid comments, it’s actually quite overwhelming. It seems fucked all around. Basic healthcare (well check ups, shots, etc) SUCKS- Special healthcare (depression, anxiety, addictions) SUPER SUCK- Sometimes when I turn off the t.v., shut down the computer, turn off the radio and just sit with my thoughts? I really question the experience of life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advocate giving up and pulling any plugs, but just all the bullshit we are fed to believe is “THE BEST OF THE BEST.” America-Best There Is!!! Well sure, when you’re compare it to the tragedies du jour (Ivory Coast, Congo, Haiti) but in a real “how human beings should live regardless” sense? It’s all fucked up. Same planet- same resources give or take (if allowed) it should all be equal living for the good of life on Earth. Not better or worse by location, station in life or circumstance. How will it ever change? I have no idea. I just stay strong- do whatever I can to keep it together, give when I can and try and enjoy what I’ve been thrown. Good and bad.

  • JHileman22

    I am a frequent reader and admirer of your work, Heather, but have not commented until today.

    Right now I am sitting at my mom’s bedside in Tucson. She is one of the people who was wounded in this terrible tragedy. I cannot even begin to express the range of emotions myself and my family have been going through, but I saw your post and wanted to thank you for bringing to light the importance of recognizing mental illness. Were someone to have stepped up, and encouraged counseling for Jared Loughner, rather than merely suspending him from school, my mom mighht not be lying in a hospital bed right now recovering from three gunshot wounds. People have a responsibility to recognize when someone in their sphere needs help, and act upon it.

    My family has been all over the news in the past few days. And after all of the interviews we have done, I realize that not once have we been asked about our stance on mental illness. I want to thank Heather for bringing this important aspect of the event to light.

    Should you want to know more information about my mom and her progress, please visit her blog at My mom has a beautiful and loyal following, and the incredible outpouring of support she has received in the past few days has truly brightened her spirit.

    Hug your loved ones extra tight tonight.


  • kimb

    @Shan Last Shred – really? His mother works for the Arizona Health System? I just read this in the NYTimes:

    Jared Loughner’s mother, Amy, is considered pleasant but reserved by those who know her.

    She commuted about an hour each day to her job managing Agua Caliente Park, an area of spring-fed ponds surrounded by giant palm trees in the desert on the outskirts of Tucson.

  • vorvmatryoshka

    @@DeAn – Your last line is exactly my brother’s attitude. There is a long list of people, events, and things who hold a measure of responsibility for why he is the way he is and why he cannot now- today- seek anything else for himself because it’s not his fault and he’s been done to by the world, my parents, a simple twist of genetic combination fate….

    This is very, very common.

    I realize that my view is unpopular, hard bitten, and cynical but it’s also the ugly reality for many people with adequate access to health care and a family brought to it’s knees with a want to help and heal their loved one.

    You have to lead the horse to water, you have to make sure its the right stream, and then you have to persuade it to keep drinking from it on it’s own.

    No simple task.

  • Marcie Seery

    Your reaction was my reaction…this is about mental illness and how we treat people with mental illness. I live in Tucson, grew up here, and have worked in social work and juvenile justice for the past twenty years. Had Jared sought help, he would have found it. Had is parents (and don’t get me wrong, they’re just one piece of the puzzle) not buried their heads in the sand (his dad reportedly took down a really weird shrine built by his son in their backyard only after he realized the media found it), his illness would have had a greater chance of being treated. He was kicked out of community college with a recommendation that he seek mental health treatment. From what I’ve gathered, that recommendation was not followed.

    There are agencies in Tucson specifically designed to meet the needs of low-income individuals with mental illness. I mention low-income because he is 22 and, I’m pretty sure, unemployed and probably uninsured. I wish I knew why he was allowed to deteriorate to the point that he’d buy a gun, shoot our Congresswoman in the head and then continue shooting into a crowd of people.

    It’s just all very complicated and admittedly tempting to spin around, pointed finger extended and try to find someone or something to blame. I think it makes us all feel better to wrap it up in a package and put a big bow on it. But it’s messy and it’s tragic. It happened up the street from my house and we as a community are collectively devastated.

    May we learn from this to be kinder, wiser, more willing to get involved with our neighbors and friends. What a difference that would make.

  • Scott-5×5

    After reading some of these comments, I have a question I’m hoping can be answered. Many people said the issue that Heather raised, about the man’s mental health (and having access to help), had never occurred to them until reading this post. With complete sincerity, my question is “What other thoughts or explanations were people having about this man?” A number of people commented that they hadn’t thought about this, but not what they were thinking instead. I’d really like someone to elaborate on that if they can. I’m very curious to know how people were otherwise looking at it.

  • Eveie

    I just don’t think that people realize how broken the mental health care system in our country is. I have so-called “excellent insurance” and I still have a TWO THOUSAND DOLLAR DEDUCTIBLE for mental health coverage. I was really really in pain for depression but my university mental health counseling center could only see me once EVERY THREE MONTHS because there are so few therapists and so many students experiencing mental distress. I had to see a private therapist for $85 a session which as a student I could not afford to do for more than a month before I had to quit. It was terrifying to go through the whole process alone and have to demand treatment when I barely even wanted to get out of bed. The university clinic told me that they couldn’t get me into see a psychiatrist for a month unless I was suicidal. I wasn’t suicidal, but I had suicidal thoughts, and when I told that to the triage nurse, she couldn’t distinguish the two and instead of having me see a psychiatrist ASAP, she told me to go to the emergency clinic. I waited there all day and FINALLY got the care I needed. If this would have been a broken leg would I have to demand prompt, affordable treatment? I have an almost optimal access to health care and it was still an experience that makes me angry.

  • covey7

    Okay so I am late commenting but I feel the need. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I, PTSD, GAD about 15 years ago. My problems started in childhood but weren’t formally diagnosed until my early 30’s In the beginning I had access to “really” good health insurance that had a separate deductible $2000 ded. for mental health related procedures. That really good insurance paid my clms. at 50%, limited op visit to therapist to eight visits a year. I endured 7 hospitalizations over 12 years. On average it cost $1000 to $1500 a day, length of stay 10 to 14 days. If I had been diagnosed with cancer, heart disease or diabetes I had a $100 deductible and clms were paid at 80 % to $5,000 and then 100%. I worked very hard, was committed to recovery, yes we do recover. Over the years my husband and I and my supportive parent’s have paid over $150,000 out of pocket and that is conservative.

    Why don’t people seek treatment. Yes there is a problem w/ access, until recently there was no parity law. Mental illnesses are disease of the mind (brain) the least researched organ in our bodies.

    STIGMA remains the biggest problem to treatment. If you go in the hospital for cancer surgery there is usually an outpouring of support. Trust me you take a huge RISK to reveal you have a mental illness. I have “outed” myself in multiply situations with mixed result, but they tend to lead toward the negative.

    During my last hospitalization they changed my diagnosis to Schizoaffective Disorder, not that it really matters much. Insurance companies will pay for medications, but are not as supportive of talk therapy. I have had the same therapist for twelve yrs. Her assistance has saved my life more than once. I set a cash price w/ her paid on the day of the appt. Same w/ my prescribing doctor. Managing your illness to the point of recovery takes hard work, commitment, and more hard work. I now work for a local SLC mental health provider at a drop in center as a peer specialist. I assist peer in recovery and I am part of their treatment team. I am committed to staying well, it take a collection of resources and you have to be resourceful.

    The sad truth in the Arizona situation is this man just didn’t arrive at being delusional and psychotic over night or even or months. There had to be many warning flags. Unfortunately, what once might have been managed spiraled out of control and innocent people lost their lives. It is worth noting that Arizona has cut massive amounts of funding for mental health services. People that utilize the public mental health system in Arizona die on average 34 years earlier than your average American, 29 years earlier in Utah.

    Oh and by the way, in the United States of America, the country with the “best healthcare system,” in the world the biggest provider of mental health services is our criminal justice system. LA County Jail to be specific. County lockups, State & Federal Prisons and Courts are providing services at the end of the line. The best healthcare system in the world is broken, especially when it comes to mental health services. Oh and one more fact, religious zealotry is a symptom of severe and persistent mental illness, usually bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. I respect all of your opinions, but what is lacking in some of your comments is education and falling prey to STIGMA.

  • Maura Riordan

    I just read all of your posts regarding PPD and I really need to thank you. I love you and appreciate what you’re doing. Keep it up.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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