Editorial: Help Them Before They Kill, Again

Help Violent Mentally Ill People Before They Kill, Again 

Before the terrifying on-air murders of TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward by their former WDBJ-TV colleague Vester Flanagan aka Bryce Williams, I wrote an op-ed column (“Help them before they kill“) three years ago last month about the problem of violent mentally ill people.

In “Help them before they kill,” I wrote:

“There are families right now, living with ticking time bombs who cannot get adequate treatment for their sons. We can improve public safety by giving those families more resources so we may better identify and help the seriously mentally ill. (The “ObamaCare” law will require insurers to cover pre-existing conditions, easing access to timely treatment.)

More broadly, we need a national discussion about identifying and treating mental illness in adolescent boys and men before more lives are lost and ruined.

Schizophrenia affects about 2 million Americans, and often strikes males between the ages of 15 and 25. About three in 1,000 adolescents suffer from schizophrenia.

And paranoid schizophrenics often resort to violence.”

I urge readers to see “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” a film adaptation of a novel about a mother dealing with an increasingly malevolent son. It’s a glimpse into the lives of once hope-filled parents blind to the devastating threat growing up around them. Certainly, Vester Flanagan’s family and friends saw his decompensating behavior and descent into madness yet felt powerless to do anything.

But in hindsight, a mental health intervention would have disqualified him from being able to purchase the Glock handgun he used to shoot three innocent people.

Shouldn’t early detection and treatment of mental illness be a national priority? Enacting uniform gun laws across all fifty States and territories and lifting the prohibition on ATFE pursuing criminal gun store owners should be national priorities as well.

M_Benjamin-headshot2015Michael Benjamin is managing editor of The Bronx Chronicle and a former state legislator.

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