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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Aurora reflections: Mental illness on the rise in America

    After the mass murder that occurred in Aurora, Colo. on July 20, there is no avoiding the concerns regarding mental health in our society. Behind most seemingly unwarranted killings lies a premeditated agenda likely intensified by mental illness.

    One in 17 Americans are diagnosed with a serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. According to the Washington Post, suspected 24-year old Aurora shooter James Holmes was seeing a university psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia in the weeks before the attack. However, university officials decline to answer questions if these allegations are true.

    If Holmes does suffer from schizophrenia, it would make sense, the mental disorder tends to develop in men during their teens and early 20’s, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

    At the time of his arrest, Holmes allegedly told arresting officers that he was the Joker from Batman according to the Huffington Post. Police officers also stated that Holmes is claiming he does not know why he is in jail, according to the New York Daily News. Memory problems as well as acute amnesia have been known to be side effects of schizophrenia.

    Much focus has been diverted to the now-revitalized debate concerning gun control in our country due to the Aurora shooting. Although this is a pertinent topic, tragedies such as this go far beyond gun regulation. As the commonly stated saying goes, guns don’t kill people, people do. If someone is determined enough to inflict harm on others, they will find a way.

    Our country should start focusing on how to help these individuals before their delusions manifest and cause harm to innocent people or even themselves. It is difficult to say what was the exact reason for Holmes’s alleged actions, but it would be difficult to believe that someone could kill 12 people and injure 58 more without being mentally unstable.

    Serious mental illness has no socioeconomic or intellectual boundary. Thirty-nine percent of all homeless people in this country report some form of mental health problem — 20 to 25 percent of whom meet criteria for serious mental illness according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Holmes, on the other hand, came from an upper-middle class background and was a first-year doctoral student in a neuroscience program. It is vital to the safety of our nation’s citizens that steps are taken to evaluate the mental stability of everyone who resides within our system.

    One of the most obvious ways to spot the mental instability of an individual is through relationships. Family members, friends and neighbors need to be proactive in identifying and reporting abnormalities in behavior and encouraging them to seek help. It is not always so obvious when someone requires help, however. For those such as Holmes, who according to reports is very introverted, reclusive and independent, it is difficult to pick up identifiers that indicate a need for serious intervention.

    To deal with this dilemma, mandatory health screenings from elementary all the way up to college age should be implemented. This is especially significant in our age, where it would appear that the number, as well as ferocity, of mass killings has been growing exponentially over time. There have been at least 26 shooting rampages in the past decade, as opposed to only 11 in the 1990s according to the New York Times. Compulsory health screenings are exactly the sort of preemptive approach that should be taken to stop this disturbing progression.

    Implementing more mental health screenings might not cure the problem completely, but it could at least give those with mental illnesses a path to better health and hopefully limit these tragedies in the future.

    ­­— Max Efrien is a junior studying journalism and history. He can be reached at or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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