Newtown: Illness for One, Heartache for Millions

Last week’s tragic shooting was a horrible demonstration of how one person’s mental illness can affect millions of people.  Not just the families of the children who died, but families everywhere.

The shooter was, apparently, not diagnosed with mental illness but clearly had some traits of psychopathology: the lack of feeling for others, and the remorseless violating of social expectations and norms.  If this had been addressed, is it possible that this tragedy could have been prevented?  We will never know.

The event highlights how our well-being is connected to one another’s.  Recognizing this could lead to changes that would make us a healthier country.  We would cast mental health treatment as an investment in our entire community, not just the patients.  (See D.J. Jaffes’s National Review Online column for an excellent summary of this issue.)    We would view gun control less as a civil rights issue, and more as a health issue, as Nicholas Kristof argues in his New York Times blog.

It’s hard to invest money in hopes of avoiding a tragedy, until it happens.  Newtown may inspire us to see the interconnectedness of our health in a new way.  At such a heavy price, I hope we treasure that gift.

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