June 21, 2014

Mass Shootings, Mental Illness and the Problem of Human Suffering. ~ Neil Chhabra

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Despite our persistent effort to run away from the problem of mental health, it is coming back to bite us and it is biting us hard.

Mass-shootings now seem to happen on a weekly basis and all of them seem to be carried out by individuals with a mental illness.

We used to warehouse people with severe mental disabilities in asylums.

When the inhumane conditions of these asylums became public, outcry ensued, reforms were passed and the massive institutions were shuttered.

People who had a severe mental illness were released into the community with the idea they would live in semi-supervised housing with a case manager who would regularly check-in and administer medication.

But none of it was funded.

The government and the public at large does not make caring for its mentally ill a priority so hundreds of thousands of schizophrenics were just released back into society.

Most of them became homeless.

Many of them commit minor crimes of survival like petty theft or trespassing (to sleep) and overflow our jails and prisons.

Many of the anonymous and untreated mentally ill get their hands on automatic weapons and indiscriminately massacre everyone around them.

Instead of spending tax dollars proactively on therapists, medicine, social workers and housing, we are spending even more of it on a bloated prison industrial complex, i.e. private corporations whose only fundamental purpose is to generate profit.

We are spending it with human lives when the mentally ill so easily get their hands on weapons of mass destruction.

This cannot continue to happen. This needs to be addressed. We cannot sweep mental health under the rug anymore. This is not only true of severe mental disabilities but also depression and anxiety.

Research suggests one in every four Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.

Countless others remain invisible to research if depression or anxiety are hidden away out of shame.

We have to get rid of the stigma.

People will not seek help if they are ashamed or otherwise led to believe that they are inferior or weak for their mental illness.

We have to abandon the tendency to magnify the ego, to deny humility and hide away vulnerability. To deny the darkness is self-destructive and delusional.

Suffering exists.

We have to embrace compassion and take care of our fellow human beings. We are all connected to each other whether we like it or not.

We either pay for it in the spirit of compassion with a focus on therapy and rehabilitation or we pay for it like we’re doing now: in the spirit of avoidance while the problem festers and magnifies and the free market turns our suffering into profit.

Corporations have usurped our democracy.

The broken system persists because the market has found a way to make the problem of mental health profitable, whether through the prison industrial complex, big pharmacy or the gun industry, and the market controls the lawmakers.

90% of Americans want stronger gun laws, yet our so-called representatives have done nothing because they are beholden to a PR department that somehow has established itself as a political institution purporting to be the voice of freedom.

Any law that regulates gun sales in the name of public safety will also slow down gun sales and thus gets misrepresented and sold to the masses of gun-rights advocates and gun lovers as meddlesome government standing in the way of a Constitutional right.

This argument works because the masses don’t trust the government.


Because they know our government answers to corporations, not people.

We live in a country whose highest court says corporations are people and that money is speech and literally allows politicians who are supposed to be acting in the public interest to be purchased by massive corporations who are making a killing (no pun intended) on our dysfunction and demise.

We live in a me-first society that is not taking care of our weakest.

We live in a society that shuns mental weakness and elevates strength and smiles and little-blue-thumbs on screens.

This is a fundamental difference between Buddhist and Western ways of thinking.

The first noble truth of Buddhism is that suffering exists.

Suffering is the starting point of Buddhism. The dissolution of suffering is the Buddhists’ aim.

Suffering is not hidden away or silenced by some imagined utopia, some pie in the sky when we die. Suffering is featured. It is confronted by silencing the ego, becoming aware of the underlying unity behind every duality and then living with love and compassion toward all human beings, especially our weakest.

Now please go start a revolution.



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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Banksy

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