Mental Health Care Funding May Finally Get its Due, Probably Not

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That Cho Seung-Hui was on medication and was entered for a time in two mental facilities is telling, as it reveals what most people thought of the unknown gunman, that he was mentally unstable. That there were several authority figures who were alerted to this fact before the shootings, the school counselor, the campus police, the Blacksburg police, is of interest but what should they have done exactly? The school could have expelled him, I guess, but for writing a play with violent content? For being anti-social? The stalking thing? Probation maybe, but there was no way to lock the guy up, the woman called him “annoying,” not a sociopath.

One problem this exposes is that we aren’t a prevention-oriented society. We put people on meds rather than into counseling. And we address problems after they manifest, not before. Which is why we’ll soon see Bush changing his commitment to school violence prevention funding, which he recently proposed cutting by $17.3 million.

Mental health always gets short shrift in funding circles because it is seen as relatively invisible in terms of illness. The mental health of young people, and I’ll say this again, of the troops returning from Iraq, is something we can ignore for only so long. Incidents like this jolt us into reality. What happened in that classroom building is every day in Baghdad for thousands of young men and women, some of whom came from unstable backgrounds to begin with.

And at some point we are going to have to get back to the everyday reality of mental illness and finding ways to address what we all realize now is deadly serious. And we’re also going to have to realize that we’re still at war, a war that this month alone has meant the deaths of 63 U.S. soldiers, and that we just can’t afford to stray and linger on any one rampage for too long.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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