Mental Health remains a priority - The Explorer: Northwest Chatter

Mental Health remains a priority

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Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 3:44 pm, Tue Jan 17, 2012.

Over the weekend the Tucson community, and Southern Arizona turned out to remember and pay tribute to the victims of the January 8 shooting that left six people dead, and 13 injured in a Safeway parking lot during a Congress on Your Corner event one year ago.

One year after being shot in the head, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stood before thousands, showing her strength, courage and determination to make a comeback.

No one can question how far Gabby has come in one year. The fact that we got to see for ourselves the journey she has traveled through the Diane Sawyer interview, and of course, the public appearances we have been glued to our televisions to see throughout the year.

She is a hero, and someone I will always respect.

However, besides learning how strong our District 8 Congresswoman is, the last year has also revealed a lot. It’s revealed that Tucson can be united, especially in the wake of tragedy.

However, the evidence of the problems this country still faces is even more evident than ever.

Over the last year, there has been a lot of talk about what happened that day. There has been plenty of talk about how it could have been prevented. Victims have even testified before Congress for stricter gun laws.

However, what is being done about the mental health situation in this country?

Stricter gun laws would not have prevented Jared Loughner from killing all these people. No, what would have prevented it is someone stepping in and getting him help.

Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband, said it best Sunday night when he said had Loughner got the help, “we wouldn’t be standing here today.”

From the mug shots after he was first arrested, to the strange videos on YouTube, to the emails, letters and correspondence raising multiple red flags at Pima Community College, the warning signs were present.

All of these pictures, videos and emails showed a troubled young man who was not at war with the world, but instead fighting a battle within himself.

In the interview with Diane Sawyer, Kelly said he and Giffords are not angry with Loughner. Instead, he agreed Loughner needed help.

So, in 12 months, have lawmakers stepped up to the plate to address the mental-health crisis in America? The answer would be no.

It took him killing six people, and wounding 13 others for someone to take notice.

Now, Loughner is being forcefully medicated, and it sounds as though the drugs are working. It sounds as though Loughner is beginning to understand the seriousness of what he did.

Being forcefully medicated is all in preparation of a trial where he can be held accountable for his actions. Once he understands the charges against him, Loughner will be tried in a court of his peers on 49 federal counts.

However, does that mean he is being forcefully medicated to be tried, convicted and receive the death penalty?

Many say he deserves to die for what he did. I can’t say I agree. I think he deserved help before the senseless tragedy took place.

Does that mean I condone what he did? Absolutely not, I was just as upset over the tragedy as anyone. But, I cannot see a fair way to punish this individual. I do not agree with forcefully medicating him just to put him through trial. I think he should have been forcefully medicated before he pulled the trigger.

Recently, President Barack Obama and Congress passed an order that anyone, even an American, suspected of terrorism can be held without a trial, or due process. However, lawmakers seem to be unwilling to address the mental-health crisis where schizophrenics like Loughner open fire on innocent human beings in a public shopping center. He didn’t do it for political reasons; he did it because of the voices in his head.

While many are angry with Loughner, for that matter I can’t say I’m not, I do not believe justice will ever be brought to the six people whose memories we just honored this weekend. I do not believe the 13 people who are still healing from the physical and emotional stress of being shot will ever see justice served.

—Thelma Grimes

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