The Mentally Ill

'I don’t wish to be misunderstood. I have no sympathy for what Loughner did. Even those suffering under severe mental illness can usually distinguish right from wrong. I could, even when it was at its most severe. I imagine Loughner could as well. Unless he turns out to have been completely delusional, he is morally responsible for what he did...

The truth is that mentally ill people are often regarded as, for want of a better word, disposable. One would not ignore someone who was suffering from cancer, or blindness, or pneumonia; but people do ignore, and worse, people who are suffering from mental diseases just as severe. If a man collapses in the street from a heart attack, people call 911. But if he laughs inappropriately or posts nonsense on the internet, he is considered a scary weirdo and ostracized. The result is that worst of all things: unnecessary suffering. All the more so because, properly treated, this suffering can be enormously reduced. I will not repeat the well-meaning lie that people with mental illness can lead a completely normal life. But they can lead a good life, and even a happy one.

Jared Loughner will never have this opportunity. He is now a murderer many times over. One of his victims was a nine-year-old child. There can be no forgiveness or redemption for such an act. Whatever the reasons, he has closed the book on a wasted life. His victims are now the rightful objects of our compassion. But we should not forget that this atrocity was preventable. If the proper action is taken, it is eminently possible to not only prevent future atrocities of this kind, but to help ameliorate the suffering of many who would never contemplate such a crime. This would, I think, be the most fitting response to the suffering Mr. Loughner has caused.'

- Benjamin Kerstein, 'Loughner and How America Treats Its Mentally Ill.'


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