This week there was another one of those things when someone goes into a school and shoots a load of kids. The thing I think is strange about this is that there is then a whole series of reports about how the person had mental health problems, as though this is a big surprise. Surely going into a school and shooting children is a pretty clear indicator of mental illness.
The slant never seems to be: how come this person didn’t get more help? Why isn’t there much support for people with those types of problems? This is particularly ridiculous when you consider that about 1 in 4 people suffer a period of depression in their lives. Obviously only a fraction of people with mental illness will go into a school and do some shooting, but I think this all points to the fact that there’s not enough focus on helping people be well mentally. I think this probably starts with parenting and education. After all, there is so much emphasis on academic achievement that actually being ok is forgotten. It also doesn’t help that any other label will do, just not mental health problems. I’m very often involved in the process of diagnosing autism and it seems to me that some kids get that diagnosis instead of a diagnosis of mental health problems, or they may have both difficulties but just get one label – autism.
One real problem with this is that it means that people don’t realise that more people need to be paid to work in mental health for adults and for children so no-one does anything about it, and that it should be a part of home and school life too. Also, people think they’ve got the answer and everything is down to autism, when maybe we’re missing something…
It’s the same with the original “I don’t like mondays” case. Turns out Brenda Ann Spencer used the gun her father gave her when she was less than 17 in the shootings and never had any coherent reason for what she did. Didn’t anyone wonder why her father had bought her a gun in the first place? And isn’t there something wrong when a person doesn’t seem to understand why it matters that she killed some people?
I think this will probably keep happening as long as society doesn’t try to care for children’s needs rather than just their education. And whilst anything is blamed instead of realising that one way or another those people just weren’t looked after well enough.