COLE: Focus now on mental illness and care

Anyone brave enough to say mental illness doesn’t effect everyone now?

There’s no question that the alleged gunman who killed 12 and injured 58 more was severely, very mentally ill. Stockpiling weapons, ammunition and the creation of a circus-like madhouse of booby traps and incendiary devices isn’t “crazy,” it’s mentally ill. The question now is what are we going to do to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

One of the less-reported provisions in the often-hammered Affordable Care Act is that in addition to access to health insurance, everyone needs to have access to affordable mental health care. If anyone disagrees now with the importance of mental health care, and that it should be accessible to everyone all the time, you’re one of the few now.

That’s because we all can see now the hurt, shock and horror that one very sick individual can impose on a town of more than 300,000 people. Denying the right to affordable mental health care doesn’t cut it anymore, and ensuring that people vaccinate themselves against deadly infectious diseases  should be mentioned in the same breath as ensuring that people have a professional to talk to when they’re feeling depressed. Both diseases have very severe consequences for the rest of us now.

Similarly, dismissing the shyness and social discomfort of a few people we talk to everyday won’t do. We all know why it’s important to speak up now. Hundreds of people have had their lives changed forever because too many people perhaps dismissed the actions of a single person as just being “weird.”

We owe it now to each other to talk about mental illness and depression. Depression happens to everyone. Some illnesses, such as schizophrenia, don’t manifest themselves until our early 20s. Others strike much later in life. We need to make sure that anyone who needs help can walk into any hospital in the U.S. and ask for mental care as if their arm was broken.

It’s sad to think that so many Aurora families now are missing pieces because of one very mentally ill man. Demystifying mental illness and removing the social taboo from talking about it may go a long way in helping families in the future.

Its tough enough showing how accessible health care to all people is important for society as a whole, but we should all clearly see now how mental health care is just as important.

And everyone should have it.

Reach Managing Editor Aaron Cole at or at 303-750-7555.

  • Sjbravopc

    Thank you, Aaron.  People must be able to get health care of all types.  Just as important – your point about demystifying mental illness and the importance of speaking up. 

  • Kspag

    you hit the nail on the head but missed a very imortant detail- most menatlly ill people do not want help as they think they are fine. I am a nurse and have seen parents with very mentally ill family mebers and they cannot commit them unless they harm themselves or someone else- why must we wait till they hurt someone instead of making them get treatment the same way we require kids to be vaccinated for the good of the general public. Sever mental health issues should not be otpionally treated because the ill person is in no way capable of making good decisions when they are whacked out. We need to change our mental health laws pure and simple.

  • Or, he could have just wanted to kill people. That’s not covered in the DSM-IV.

  • Ggcutright

    How do we help the mentally ill identify that they need help? They have the belief that they are “normal”. Mr. Holmes did not reach out for help as his perception was skewed. How can you anticipate that perception?

  • Aaron Cole

    Talking about mental illness to the point that it’s no different than saying “I think I have a cold today,” will go a long way in preventing people from reaching the point of being so ill that they believe they’re “normal” in my opinion.

  • Heathbar

    Some of the best and most useful thoughts written about the tragedy yet.  I hope this lesson can be learned or at least heard. The commentator on issues of stigma and resistance to seeking help is right on too.
    Now if the nation were just ready from some rational thought on gun control too.

    • Libercontrarian

      You mean, like make it illegal to murder somebody with a gun?

      Great suggestion. THAT will prevent people from killing each other with firearms.

  • Cadenbriggs

    I full heartedly agree that Mental Illness needs to be treated more seriously and carefully! I live in Albuquerque now, But Ilived in Aurora, Colorado, went to Hinkley, went tothe mall and theater with my family and best friends! I just want more people to see the signs of mental illness and reach out either for someone else or for themselves! it may help, we can all at least try some hope!
    Caden Briggs

  • Thoughtful informed post – thank you.

    It also is important to remind people that very very few people who suffer from or live with mental illness are not any more violent than anyone else..

    We used to be afraid of those with cancer and then AIDS and that prevented them from getting the support and care they needed. Mental illness is in most cases a brain disease (as are parkinsons or dementa) but it is the last remaining illness that carries such a strong stigma that we fail to care for those suffering from it. 

  • NO I repeat NO severely mentally ill person could build such a sophisticated frigging control panel for dozens of explosive devices. The methodical planning involved in this massacre proves his mental capacity and comprehensive skills were not only above normal but extraordinary. His behavior in court seems to be mixture of theater and sleep deprivation. Plus if he has been slamming Vicodin every day he is also experiencing hydrocodone withdraw. Remember; he studied temporal illusion or time distortion, he was probably slamming shooms and or some other type of entheogen.

  • Libercontrarian

    Oh, stop now. This human flotsam had no lack of mental health care (college students have excellent mental health care – it gives the Psychology department something to practice on); if you suggest by writing op-ed piece this that “lack of access to mental health care” was at the root of this lunatic’s drive to murder helpless people then you are using the tragedy to push yet another self-flagellating ideation: “America doesn’t take care of its citizens!!”

    This is, of course, a load of malarkey. The overwhelming majority of individuals who act out violently like this are young white males under the age of 30; they’ve almost all been products of suburban middle-class to upper-middle-class upbringings, and they almost all are consumers of violent video games, movies, and TV. They almost always have some kind of mind-altering prescription drug in their bloodstream.

    We didn’t see problems like this 30 years ago. There were darned few workplace shootings; random mass-murders, etc. What was different than today?

  • Mark German

    The NRA’s Blood Money

    Where is our “tipping point” for change? When do we say “enough?” The NRA says “more guns” is the answer. If more guns made us saver, we would be the safest nation in the world. Instead our homicide rates for persons age 15 to 24 is 14 times that of other industrial nations. Blumberg News predicts that in 2 years, more
    people will die from guns than motor vehicle accidents. 85 Americans are shot to death every day. 53 of them are suicides, more and more by “suicide by cop,” or by murder-suicide to send a message of rage. 31,328 Americans died from guns in 2010 alone. It is like having 10 “9-11s” every year. Am I hysterical to ask, why our
    response to gun violence isn’t 10 times that of the response to 9-11?

    The NRA is a master of sales and lobbying for gun makers. The NRA spreads a virus of paranoia and delusional, self-defensive violence, of its own making, for huge profits. Each gun tragedy results in selling more tools used only for more murders, suicides, and accidental deaths. 20 children and 6 staff are gunned down in Connecticut, and 2 million more guns are sold. Now four more citizens in Aurora have been killed by another “mad” person with guns, and gun sales will rise even more. If spirituality is the “presumption of goodness in the world,” then the NRA is its opposite. We, as a community, want our fellow citizens to L-I-V-E. The NRA wants E-V-I-L.

    Now is the time for action, not despair. Now is the time to hold gun-makers liable for the damages done by their products. The tobacco industry paid billions in medical costs. BP paid billions for the Gulf Disaster. Toyota paid over a billion for
    accelerator problems. Let’s be like “The Runaway Jury” and hold the NRA and gun-makers, liable for their damages. Possession of assault weapons and high capacity gun clips, like rocket launchers, pipe bombs, anthrax, and nuclear devices, should
    be illegal. These are tools of war and mass killings, not toys for anyone’s
    pleasure or rages.

    People can do stupid things when they are angry, depressed, or just immature. It is important to set the conditions for responsible behavior. Guns can take a momentary impulse of despair, rage or carelessness, and make it into a permanent horrible tragedy. For this madness to stop, we must try everything to limit access to guns. We also need to increase access to mental health services, which should cost as much as getting a background check for a gun buyer – nothing.

    Mark German

    Brighton, CO