Skip to main content

The Blood in the Mind

The news is harder than ever to hear today.
32 dead, gunned down inside a classroom inside a building whose doors the gunman had chained shut. But these were not the first to die this morning on the Virginia Tech campus. The first were a man and a woman inside a dorm. At this moment, the (understandably) cryptic remarks from the Virginia Tech Campus Police Chief lead us to believe that the evidence indicates that there were two, not one, gunmen; and, that the two shootings were unrelated. Although we have yet to know the verified particulars on the classroom gunman, first impressions by witnesses indicate someone under age 21.

Already the media is tackling the gun control issue, as well they should. But there is another issue, one that does not get discussed nearly enough.

The issue is this: We do not pay enough attention to mental illness. We act as though it is abstract and fuzzy--until someone who is mentally ill harms or kills someone else. We write off abusive behavior, excuse verbal attacks, roll our eyes at people who appear unable to control their actions, when what we need to do is take notice. If your friend or loved one has a tumor, you'll see to it that they get to the doctor, no? It should be no different in the case of mental illness. We must make mental health treatment acceptable and accessible, and see it as a constant in the range of options we have for overall health care. We've made progress in this area, but not nearly enough.

When did this young gunman's mind make the decision to carry out a massacre? And why? What was his childhood like? What would a blood analysis on his glandular system show? Would a PET scan show a brain abnormality? Had he ever been examined for a personality disorder? Did he show the "seven symptoms of schizophrenia?" He had to have displayed one or more signs of mental illness at some time, and well before the murdering madness of today. Who saw the signs? Did they know they were signs? Or did they just write him off as "troubled", not realizing how easily and silently trouble can become danger?

We need as much funding in mental health research and treatment as we do in cancer and heart disease research and treatment. So, yes, keep talking about gun control. (Please keep talking about gun control.) But open a second discussion, the necessary one of asking when, in this oh-so-modern age, are we going to treat mental illness as a serious disease? How many more people will die before we do?

For information on the state of mental health treatment, see

Text and image copyright 2007, Ysabel de la Rosa


Popular posts from this blog

Life without Television, Part 2

I began life without television with relief, which was consistent Monday through Friday. The first few weekends, though, felt awkward, anxious, lonely. When PBS has good programming on Saturday nights, it is extraordinarily good. Father Brown, Phryne Fisher, New Tricks... Extraordinary acting, high production values, and I fantasize about the pudgy, brilliant priest just perhaps having an innocent crush on one of his special parishioners, which would be moi. 

I called a friend one Sunday. "Maybe television helped with my anxiety more than I realized," I said. She told me about her aunt who, after her husband's death, kept the television on in his "man cave" 24/7. He has been gone years now. The television goes on, everlasting, in his absence. I don't blame her. Much of my frequent and prolonged television viewing began with grief.

After my sister died, I would watch almost anything, especially late at night when sleep eluded me. I even watched Convoy with …

Whose day?

Years ago, I made some collages using pages from a desk calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The image that leads this post is one. Inside the hearts and flowers is a picture from the MMA collection of  a Japanese screen made in the 16th century. It is titled Tagasode, which means Whose sleeves?  The title comes from a 10th-century poem:

The fragrance seems even more alluring than the hue, Whose sleeves have brushed past? Or would it be this plum tree blossoming here at home?
Iro yori mo ka koso awaredo omohoyure tagasode fureshi ado no ume zo mo
The word haunts: tagasode. Whose sleeves? The question floats in my mind like a cloud on a still day. The sleeves materialize in my mind's eye. I hear them move through hushed air. I can imagine, though not name, the scent of the person to whom those sleeves belong. It's not unlike smelling the scent of your infant's clothes, or holding the perfume bottle that belonged to your don't need to open it... you know tha…

Glad to Hear It

This past week, Larry Wilmore and company mentioned Rachel Dolezol again on The Nightly Show. I don't remember who made the comment, but either Wilmore or one of the panelists said, "Did Rachel Dolezol do anything bad? No, she really didn't. Why did we get so uptight about that?" I was glad to hear it. Three cheers for being human.

I looked briefly at what's on Google currently about her and the now much-discussed Shaun White. I intend not to enter any of that fray mentally or verbally. I still maintain that humanity trumps color. We have a long way to go until we can leave our "paint by numbers" mentality behind, but we've made progress. Good changes can come, even in the midst of chaos and controversy. Maybe White and Dolezal will help us see that eventually.

As long as I'm here and continuing on the subject of color, I think I'm not alone in the fact that I don't like being called "white." As for my background, it includes …