Economic recession and depression are part of the larger psychological ecosystem that interacts with individual human depression. If we were too busy to notice these relationships before the current economic ‘downturn’, we cannot fail to be aware of it now if we read the headlines.
We all live together in a largely unnoticed greater context of nested interacting ecosystems. This is a way of describing and interlinking environments of all sorts—physical, social, economic, educational, climatic, geophysical—I could go on naming them until the list and their interactions became too complex to imagine, let alone sort out. That is the work of science, and this is a brief article of opinion.
People are killing themselves and each other at an increasing rate. While what the media casually refers to as ‘gun violence’ has always varied quite a lot, in the United States statistics have been more or less consistently bloody with up’s and down’s but the yearly totals of deaths by violence of all kinds is usually written in red ink. Murder is probably easier with a gun, but without guns, psychotics would kill with knives or bats or automobiles. We cannot hope to limit the uses of sticks and stones, bats and bullets, but we can and must deliver mental health intervention to desperately needy families and individuals even in tough times. Most especially in tough times. Everyone knows of at least one such example. Every community institution is aware of several or many. We pile up the papers, overwork and underpay our health delivery workers and ignore the problems until the spike on the desk is suddenly bloodied.
Since the downturn, there has been an up-tick, a compulsive thumb cocking the hammer and releasing the safety; taking aim at the mirror or through the window. Desperate times trigger desperate acts and the times are becoming increasingly desperate.
The feeling of helplessness, or real hopelessness and helplessness for that matter, is at least in part a mental and emotional trap, a closed dark room. For some this room has only rage and a gun as an exit.
Will we change our attitudes about emotional stress, depression, and the potential for destructive acts like murder and suicide, or quite often murder/suicide and rid ourselves of the stigma of being human and terribly upset?
Probably we will not be effective in large-scale public education and healthcare delivery for some time to come, as financial resources for preventative care are being cut from budgets. Can you see the downward spiral?
We may complain and grow fearful for our lives and for our children’s safety, but it is our collective responsibility, not our guilt, that needs to be recognized. In these desperate times, we desperately need legislation to assist in the early identification of children and adults who are at high risk of committing mayhem, and get some kind of help delivered to their doors, whatever the cost.
There are far too many privately owned guns in the nation to effectively reduce their use in psychotic attacks. There are, as most of us have been figuring out, far more crazy people, seriously crazy people, in every group than we used to believe. Believe it now.
As a nation, we have jealously guarded both our first amendment right to peaceably assemble, and our second amendment right to keep and bear arms. These two positive aspects of our national heritage are coming into increasing conflict. How long will you or anyone feel safe in a crowd that (statistically) must contain a few depressed people with fear, helplessness, self-hate, rage, and homicide blocking their minds?
Gun control, or perhaps more realistically an acceptably intelligent negotiated legislative effort leading to ‘gun management’ will be of some limited help.
We must focus our attention on matters of mental health, childhood education and safety from abuse, and job creation.
Mayer Spivack, Wednesday, April 8, 2009