So, is there any connection between the "fiscal cliff" and the shootings in Connecticut? Yes, and a very important one. In the past we have decided, as a country, to provide mental health care to those who are mentally ill, through mental health hospitals, community mental health care and emergency psychiatric services. Whether we provided the care out of an intention of altruism or as a way to protect and care for our society or some of both, we did it. Over the last 25 years, we have systematically closed state psychiatric hospitals, shortened stays at psychiatric hospitals (creating the well-known revolving-door phenomenon) and severely limited community mental health services.
Increasingly, the mentally ill are showing up as homeless, in our emergency rooms, and without much-needed support, therapy or medication. This time, one showed up as a shooter.
We, the people, allowed our legislators to make decisions that have limited the resources for early identification of mental illness and cut the funding for treatment in our communities. The current budget talks are again focusing on which social programs are kept and which social programs are cut. The shootings in Connecticut, Arizona and Colorado, to name a few, are not random incidents. They are a symptom of the dismantling of our mental health system and how we care for the disabled, mentally ill individuals in our society.
The writer is a psychologist.