Editor’s note: Cure our violent society

By Heather Scroering

Major incidents, such as 9/11 and the Virginia Tech and Columbine shootings, seemed to be isolated tragedies, but headlines in the last year have been getting increasingly more grim with this string of events: Chardon, Ohio high school shooting, Feb. 27, 2012; Aurora, Colo. shooting, July 20, 2012; Newtown, Conn. Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, Dec. 14, 2012; Houston, Texas college stabbing, April 9; Boston Marathon bombing, April 15.

All of these atrocities, coming on the heels of each other, involved very unstable individuals, and I can’t help but blame the lack of mental health services and the negativity our society breeds.

On April 10, President Barack Obama proposed putting $235 million toward mental health initiatives that would include training for teachers and others to recognize signs of mental illnesses and increase access to these services.

It’s a positive measure that will hopefully take effect, but an unfortunate one that comes after 164 people have been killed or injured at the hands of very sick individuals just within the incidents listed above. What’s of more concern is the mental health reformation at a local level.

Chicago had more than 500 homicides last year, as reported by The Chronicle March 11, and police data says there have been 78 this year, as of press time. Chicago also has the highest rate of attempted youth suicide in the nation, according to a 2012 report by the CDC.

However, while Chicagoans were being murdered in the streets last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was consolidating the city’s 12 mental health clinics into six, displacing thousands and leaving hundreds of patients unaccounted for.

This is not to say that anyone with a mental illness should be locked away in a psych ward, but we should be increasing access to mental health services, especially free forms of therapy and counseling, rather than making those options more difficult to attain.

The bigger issue, however, is not with the solution of the problem—it’s the root of it. Many times violent and unstable environments are incubators for mental and behavioral health issues, sometimes very serious ones that could persist throughout life.

In 2011, researchers at University College London found that violence at home affects the emotional systems in children’s brains the same way combat affects soldiers. In recent news, it’s been reported that the suspects in the Boston Marathon attacks are from Chechnya, Russia, where war-torn violence ravages the region on a daily basis.

While the United States may not be Chechnya, there are very prevalent wars, both physical and political, running rampant within our society. It’s gang wars, it’s war on gay marriage, it’s bullying in schools and on the Internet, it’s the ever-present battle of races. All of these situations ostracize individuals and perpetuate violence.

The conversation needs to shift to the bigger issue of curing our society of the violence and hate often caused by this non-acceptance. When people are killing others, it makes political debates prohibiting things like gay marriage seem rather trivial.