Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reducing suicide or reducing murder. Six of one...

There's been a lot of weird, ablist stuff in the media about how more access to mental health care may have helped prevent Gabrielle Giffords' shooting.  It's ablist because it concentrates on how to empower the already in-control "us" versus the mentally-ill and disempowered "them." Vaughan Bell addressed the assumptions about mental-illness-influenced-violence in Slate pretty well, but some are reacting extremely poorly, calling for it to be easier to involuntarily commit individuals, and not worry too much about individual rights.

A lot of this is couched in terms of how the availability of mental health care could reduce murder rates (It probably wouldn't by any significant measure).  I think we could safely predict that a reduction in death by suicide would occur with widespread access to mental health care.  And honestly, I think that's just as good. Interpersonal violence is terrifying, but so is mental illness.  It's not something you can avoid by keeping your nose clean and keeping to your gated communities, so I think it's really strange that people are drawing clear lines between the nutters and the regular people.  The wealthy white people who control the media narrative have a lot more to personally gain by destigmatizing and treating mental illness than they do by writing it off as a problem for the little people.  But then again, one of their own was suddenly horribly affected by a crazy plebe, so that's where the fear is currently focused.  

The other disability-related issue that I think will be interesting is how the brain-injured Giffords will be received by the general public and her colleagues once she recovers.  I predict that she won't be able to serve out the rest of her term, since there will be a lot of recovery to do.  But that doesn't mean she's out of the game forever.  Some are already preparing to write her off, but from my layperson's knowledge of brain injury (and optimistic medical predictions in the media), I doubt that's necessary.  She will have some effects to deal with, but who knows how severe they will be.
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