FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Jared Lee Loughner and Single-Payer

The fallout from the shooting in Arizona has launched a thousand theories about the motives of the 22 year old shooter Jared Lee Loughner ranging from the interesting to the absurd. Some decry his easy access to a weapon. Others raise suspicions about a reading list that included the ideological odd couple of the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. Yet, most miss a central point – Jared Lee Loughner, a deeply mentally disturbed young man, may not have been able to help himself even if he wanted to. You see, Loughner lives in the United States, a country where access to mental health services is blocked by a for-profit healthcare system.

Outside the System

For most people in the US, gaining access to quality mental health services depends on their ability to secure healthcare coverage through a private insurance company or public programs linked to deep poverty or old age. The absence of a free public national healthcare plan has left more than 50 million Americans outside of the healthcare system, unable to access care for physical or mental ailments.

The need for such care is certainly evident. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than 26% of the population over 18 suffers from a diagnosable mental illness. This amounts to more than 57 million people with one disorder and nearly half of these people suffer from two identifiable disorders. The numbers with major mental health conditions such as bi-polarity, manic-depression and manic and panic disorders each total into the millions.

While the numbers of afflicted grow, the self awareness about their conditions increases as popular presentations of potential therapeutic solutions proliferate. A combination of counseling and medication are held up as desirable approaches to mental illness. However, the ever rising costs of accessing such services is often absent from these presentations. In fact, the only services that seem to be freely accessible are the myriad of suicide hotlines and anti-suicide counseling. Few similar structures exist to care for those suffering from mental illnesses that are not suicidal.

While some, such as Loughner, will externalize this suffering, millions of others live in silent torment while a parade of TV shows model the benefits of mental health counseling and seemingly endless commercials advertise the latest mental health drug. All out of reach for the uninsured.

Arizona Suffers

Not surprisingly, given its generally reactionary approach to other social issues, Arizona’s healthcare system is a privatized mess. An estimated one million residents go without health insurance, including more than 200,000 children. Worse yet, local officials in Pima County, the area Gabrielle Giffords represents in the House, recently carried out a purge of residents on publicly provided health insurance. Nearly 45% of the County’s mental health service recipients were forced off of public programs last year. The purge was the result of budget cuts that have led to sharp reductions in public services throughout the state.

In response to being shut out the system many young people such as Jared Loughner turn to the free mental health services offered at college. And, in fact, the 22 year old’s mentally unstable condition manifested itself while he was enrolled at Pima Community College. However, instead of attempting to introduce counseling or maintain him inside the institution for the purposes of monitoring him, Loughner was suspended by the school and eventually allowed to drop out of the college after a series of confrontations with the police.

Mental health advocates suggest that family or friends, perhaps encouraged by school officials, might have petitioned the court system for a mental evaluation that could have led to state mandated treatment. However, this is a truly horrific process to go through just to access free treatment. Friends and family would have had to indict a person they care about before the court in order to mandate treatment. Few people would go through, much less know, about such a process. Did Pima Community College even consider an intervention strategy for Loughner? How does cost shape the plans they devise for other students? These are the wrong questions to be asking about our healthcare system.

Another Healthcare System is Possible

Far better than this would be a system that provides mental health services without charge. That healthcare system is called a single-payer system or, more commonly, a “Medicare for All” health system. By cutting out the private interests, this public system would make mental health services available to anyone who needs them. Only such a public system, organized outside of the profit motive of private care, can deliver on the promises made by advances in counseling and psychotherapy.

Perhaps if we lived in a society with a real public health system, where everyone knows where to go to access free services, Jared Loughner would have sought some relief for his mental illness. Perhaps school officials would be more apt to develop plans to address mental health issues among students if the system were free. And, perhaps our society would be a better, healthier and more nurturing place if our fellow human beings could access the medical care they need.

Numerous Factors Behind the Shooting

This argument is not meant to undercut claims for gun control ? the weapon Loughner used should not have been so readily available. It is not meant to absolve the right-wing who clearly contributed to the shooting through their use of, frankly, homicidal language and symbols. And it is certainly not meant to distract from the fact that Arizona has become ground zero for hate in the form of the targeting and criminalization of immigrants.

I mean to make a positive case about the desperate need for a single-payer healthcare system in the United States. And, in doing so, I seek to illustrate that the absence of freely accessible care has serious, and often unexpected, consequences for our society. Some may suffer in silence, but others, like Jared Loughner, will multiply their sufferings by including the innocent among their victims.

A great act of solidarity with the mentally ill would be to finally establish healthcare as a human right in this country. It has been a long time coming and there have already been too many victims.

BILLY WHARTON is a writer, activist and the editor of the Socialist WebZine. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, the NYC Indypendent, Spectrezine and the Monthly Review Zine. He can be reached at whartonbilly@gmail.com.

 

More articles by:
September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will There Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail