Our View: Mental illness needs examining

Last week, two young women lost their lives and all they were doing was watching a movie. By now, you’ve read or heard about the shooting in the theater in Lafayette, where the shooter apparently just stood up and started shooting, for no apparent reason. News reports say the man had “decades of mental health issues,” and people are asking how was he able to buy the gun. And why did he choose Lafayette, La., once named the “happiest city in America,” to do this deed? Apparently, the shooter was a known drifter who had visited other cities since he left his native Alabama.

A few weeks ago, in Chattanooga, four Marines were killed by a lone gunman, who to date, has not been connected to any known terrorist group. At last report, the FBI and other agencies are still looking for a motive. Another senseless act of violence.

In our own community, in the past few days, a drive-by shooting has taken place. One, in Thibodaux, claimed the life of a 34 year-old-man. The past week has also seen a shooting in Golden Meadow, a hit and run accident that saw a pedestrian killed, and also a breaking news story right before press-time that a suspect was killed by officers in Houma.

We could go on, listing senseless acts of violence, as law enforcement authorities usually call these incidents. We could write about Columbine, or more recently in Colorado, another theater shooting in which twelve people died. We could mention Sandy Hook Elementary where 26 victims died, 20 of them children.

Then, the Boston Marathon, which attracts runners from around the world, was tragically marred by a bomb, which killed five people. Later, police killed one of the suspected bombers in a chase. No doubt, all senseless acts of violence.

Unfortunately, there is no answer to the why question. But one thing seems apparent. Senseless acts of violence can never be rationalized, never be explained as anything rational. We can’t make sense of them; I guess that’s why we hear the phrase “senseless acts of violence” over and over.

So, what’s the solution? We have seen mental health services lose government support. For some reason, maybe because we can’t see the effects of mental illness like we can see the symptoms of cancer or a cold, even, we think it doesn’t exist.

But it does. And it causes innocent people to lose their lives while enjoying what they believe to be innocent nights out with friends or family members.

In most tragedies that have occurred in recent history, storylines like racism, gun control and other political talking points have clouded the judgment of citizens. Politicians have used the tragedy to fuel fires that aren’t necessarily the real root of the problems at hand. Instead of working to remedy the cause, far too often we see our leaders attempt to use evil to score points and win voters – talking too often about things that they can later use in campaigns in discussions about the “hotbed issues” that inevitably come up in every election season.

But maybe these things are not the questions that we should be asking.

Instead, we should ask why, if this man had decades of mental problems – if seven years ago, a judge in Georgia committed him because he was a danger to himself and others – why was he still traveling freely around the country?

Instead, we should be asking that if one man was able to do something this heinous, why couldn’t another? While we’re at it, we should also be focused on finding ways to fund research for mental illnesses, and trying to discover ways to find ways to curb and cure the problems that these people have.

Because at the end of the day, the color of one’s skin, the gun in one’s hand and the religion of a person are not what causes a tragic accident to occur.

It’s the evil in one’s mind that does, and sometimes that evil is rooted in a disease that in many cases can be avoided.

Our prayers go out to those suffering in Lafayette for this tragic event that occurred far too close to home.

Now is the time that we commit to studying the diseases that cause these things to happen.

Finding those results would have far greater impact on society than any talking point or political statement could ever make.