Me? Sit down

I am a Gamileraay woman who wants to leave this world better than it was when I arrived but we are going backwards which makes me angry and the result is I have a lot to say and sometime, the truth makes me unpopular.

I am also a suffering optimist, I try to see positivity in things but find that is generally only my family that provides the positivity in an otherwise politically depressing world.

Stick around and nod your head, join the discussion and give me a piece of your mind.

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Monday, 26 May 2014

Why on earth do we keep asking why when we already know the answer?

We as an international community are looking to the United States once again with sorrow as yet another mass shooting has occurred. Out comes the pouring of sorrow and rhetorical questioning of why and how and who is responsible, but ultimately, we already know the answers don't we?

We already know that mental illness is a major issue EVERYWHERE and it does not discriminate. Are we educated and equipped to deal with it? No!

We already know that people kill people and that guns are not sentient beings capable of killing, but that rhetoric is both redundant and a pathetic attempt at reassuring the families of the victims. Guns do not kill people but there is no rational reason to make it so damn easy for the perpetrators of gun violence to get their hands on guns simply to preserve some out-dated notion of bearing arms! It has nothing to do with rights and everything to do with profit and who contributes to and lobbies the republican party!

We already know that in this age of technology and expression, there are numerous mediums in which you can keep track of your children and ensure their well-being. Is it difficult? Yes! Is it an essential part of your decision to bring a child into this world to be committed to learning everything about their world, the person they are and reading their behavioural cues to always be one step ahead in their times of need or trouble? [insert expletive] YES!!

This awful tragedy that has lead to the loss of life of beautiful youth in the prime of their lives is another devastating statistic if everyone, EVERYWHERE, does not sit up and pay attention. With all of the death and morbidity gracing our news broadcasts on a daily basis it is far too easy to become desensitised to the reality of violence.

Violence is grotesque, real and very very frightening. It is a physical act of absolute loss of control and inability to respond to a set of circumstances like a rational and law abiding person. No matter how small or large the degree of violence is, the simple fact is that the perpetrator has lost control and is not of sound mind. Yet, every time there is a tragic news story involving violence you can bet there is someone saying that they did not think [insert name here] was capable of violence (or violence to that degree, ie. "I knew he was violent but I didn't think he was a killer"). The simple fact is, every single human being is capable of violence if placed in a situation where reason and comprehension leaves our minds. For each person, the triggers and severity of the circumstances are different. The strength of a persons mind is also a very important factor, for example, there are people that are able to endure hardship and adversity with determination and resolve and then there are others that will sink into themselves and become depressed at the hopelessness of it and then there are others that will become angry at the injustice of them dealing with such adversity and it is the individuals that become angry and vengeful that create a risk to the community. Excuse the simplicity of this analysis, I don't have time to summarise the degrees of the psychological condition here and now.

Now whilst I am completely sympathetic to those who have and suffer from mental illnesses, in the same way I am sympathetic to those with a physical illness because I have family members who have had different types of mental illness, but I am also a pragmatist. I believe in civil and human rights and I do not believe that the rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few. I believe that every single human life has value.

Mental illness is a major issue internationally and our methods at addressing mental illness are haphazard at best. As a community, the general response to someone with a mental illness is not to assess and respond appropriately with support, care and empathy with the appropriate inpatient or outpatient treatment and support groups. It is usually rejection (family, friends or anyone without an understanding of the condition), and isolation (it is awkward to speak to someone that is depressed or manic so therefore, lets avoid the situation completely) which simply compounds the problem with the sufferer feeling more alone and sinking deeper with no life preserver.

Now I am not saying that individuals with violent views, tendencies or compulsions ought to be allowed to stay out in the community to be in a position to commit these atrocities. I am saying that we need to have a greater understanding of mental health and realise that it is not simply a bunch of whackadoos out there running around sprouting insane and inane babble. There are a large proportion of highly functioning people with mental illness and we need to eliminate the stereotypes associated with mental illness so that we are properly assessing risks to the community. The police officers that have been lumped with the duty of responding to risk tip offs are not trained in this area adequately and it is unfair to place this further responsibility upon the police. The police signed up to protect the community and maintain order, they did not sign up as psychiatrists. The police responding to these tips offs are understandably looking for physical risks to person and property and in the absence of that, are determining that there is no risk, whereas, a suitably astute and trained psychiatrist would be able to determine from assessing the individual and any material that lead to the tip off that there was a real risk of the individual spiralling and requiring treatment and, potentially, a program of inpatient treatment where they will be provided with a secure environment to recover (or at the very least be further assessed whilst not posing a risk to the community).

The Elliot Rodgers example perfectly paints my point. He was a relatively intelligent young man of affluent upbringing who was reported as a risk given his vitriolic views plastered over social media and discussion boards. The police assessed him and using his intelligence he managed to convince the officers that it was all a misunderstanding and he was determined by the officers not to be a risk. Whilst the assessing officers feel remorse over this decision, they are not at fault, the entire system is at fault. All too often we are hearing about violent perpetrators falling through the gaps of the system but there are never the questions asked about why there are so many damn GAPS.

The system is inadequate, the system is fundamentally flawed and the health system needs to be less physical focussed and have the same amount of resources for mental illness. Health and well-being needs to be viewed holistically not separately. The system needs to CHANGE.

Change, however, does not happen overnight. While the powers that be are drafting and enacting change in health (yes I am the eternal optimist that naively believes there will be people in positions of power working towards meaningful change), we need to 'risk manage' the community. Guns are a problem in the United States, this is not a topic of debate, it is a fact. Therefore, the common sense response would be to eliminate guns from the community. It is simple. Forget a ridiculous notion of bearing arms in a society so far removed from the times in which the out-dated document was drafted.

And yes, I am aware that if a person is determined to commit violence there will use knives or other weapons. I know this. But we have a duty to mitigate the risk by taking guns out of the equation. Without guns, the degree of violence will be reduced because someone physically wielding a knife, while deadly, is certainly not able to kill the sheer number of people as someone carrying a gun. And there is a big difference between someone killing nameless and faceless people by pulling and trigger and using a knife to penetrate the flesh of another - this alone, may be a deterrent for many number of killers.

So let's please make a decision that benefits the community and not political lobbyists, gun manufacturers and suppliers for a change. Let's decide that the deaths that have occurred are not meaningless, they may have died but they have provided the community bravery to stand up to stupidity and profit. We need to be brave for those that have lost their lives to violence! We, the community are members of the chain of responsibility to stop further loss of life.

Now the most controversial view of mine would be that parents are responsible for their children. Yes, there are exceptions, I know that not everything is "one size fits all" however, as a general rule, parents are responsible for shaping their children, teaching them methods of coping in situations and monitoring their responses so they know when to step in, when to seek help and when to step back.

I am not aware of the Elliot Rogers circumstances in detail but the media has served up details that he was a rather spoiled young man who had not been quiet about his views all throughout the world wide web. His parents? No idea what their response was and whilst I realise hindsight is always twenty twenty, there needs to be more responsibility on parents to value their responsibility. Funding our children is not enough! We need to be engaged, we need to know who our children are down to the very cores of our being and guess what? If we don't like what we see, we need to respond appropriately!

We as a society need to stop asking questions that we already know the answer to. We need to change the health system so that mental health is viewed in the same terms as physical illness because, not only is it just as deadly, it poses a risk to the community. We need to mitigate the risk to the community by removing devices of violence. And finally, we as parents, need to understand the gravity of our role in shaping human beings. We as parents need to realise it is not about us and how this affects us, it is about the child and the person we are unleashing onto the community. We are responsible for that!!!

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