Talk is cheap and life is precious so put your smartphone away.
James Holmes, the now infamous Batman Shooter will be under speculation for months; whether it be as an example of poor gun control laws in the US or the negative connotations of any “Hollywood Influence”. What the majority of the discussion, outside of his trial, will not be about is Mental Health and this is symptomatic of a society in denial. Mental Health has come to be understood as one of the world’s largest health problems in the last two decades, with increases in recognisable depression and other illnesses becoming more widespread. In the US alone, mental illness is the leading cause of disability, it is also affects upwards of 57 million US citizens in any given year.
Research conducted by Ronald Kessler in 2005 showed that 60% of Americans with a diagnosable mental disorder received no treatment. This informs a discussion of mental health in relation to James Holmes.
While flawed gun regulation is a particularly important issue in this case, it is not the only issue. A systematic failure by society to give mental health the attention it needs is also at fault.
If James Holmes had lived in a society that was fully informed about mental illness and held a true regard for the mentally ill than there would have been several obvious critical points at which his symptoms would have been recognised and the massacre possibly avoided.
One of these points was his departure from his doctorate in neuroscience at the University of Colorado which can be termed as nothing but abrupt. Another was his increasing social isolation as noted by his family and the third was his application to join his local gun club. It was not that he applied to join, as gun clubs are an acceptable hobby and if anything, strive to teach their members about the importance of gun safety. It was that his application was rejected on the grounds that the recipient of his voicemail inquiry thought he sounded too odd. All these are critical points at which the individual’s mental state should have been identified with what is clearly a serious mental illness (SMI) which over 6% of Americans suffer.
As the US moves into a new era of Federal budget allocation where Healthcare will outweigh Defense spending, it is no longer an easy argument to say that American society hasn’t given itself the resources to educate upon, identify and treat mental illness. It is more a debate of attitudes.
The world is less friendly now than it was 20 years ago and a result we don’t talk to our neighbours like we used to and we sure as hell don’t try and help with their problems. As the world becomes more polarised by fear of violence and terrorism; as people grow more isolated through social media and technology, it is of great concern that perhaps more Aurora shootings will occur.
Yes, regulate guns better if you want. Yes, tone down gratuitous violence in cinema if you want. But please, learn to talk to each other again. Go back to giving a damn about your neighbours again.