Why not try an ounce of prevention?

Why are so many of our mentally ill in jail instead of treatment? According to statistics, almost half of the jailed population in our country are suffering from some sort of mental illness. And Pickens County is not an exception.

6-25 Page 4A.inddThese are the people who are locked up instead of treated. They also make up about half the homeless population. Many of our veterans are also among these populations.

Recently there was an opportunity for county council to secure funding through a grant to screen inmates for mental and substance abuse conditions before throwing them into the general population. Unfortunately for all of us, they chose not to do this.

We seem to be moving backward instead of forward. Just as alarming is the fact that there are the violent mentally ill living among us. At any given moment, they may act. Their anger is turned against others, and they are capable of taking lives with depraved indifference.

The young man who gunned down those attending a prayer meeting in Charleston is just such another. Why would a human being do such a thing? Is he crazy, evil or both? Surely someone noticed somewhere along the line that all was not as it should be with this person. Was there any type of intervention available that could have been used to prevent him from becoming a murderer?

The college student who carried out the slaughter at Virginia Tech was clearly disturbed. There were many red flags, but no follow-up. The students at Columbine who slaughtered their classmates were like bombs awaiting detonation.

The man at the movie theater who gunned down the innocent, the young man who slaughtered all those innocent little children and their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, the killer who murdered and maimed those at a political rally that ended the career of a congresswomen, the man who attempted to assassinate President Reagan, the Unabomber — they were all clearly threats to society even before they put their distorted views of the world into action.

They weren’t stopped. The boy in Charleston wasn’t stopped.

Yes, it would take money to fund programs to screen and identify those who are a threat to the rest of us. And action would be required. Of course there is a possibility that lives could be spared and families would not have to be shattered by having loved ones randomly torn from them.

There are predators among us who feed on hatred and choose violence over peace. History is littered with their names. And if nothing is done to stop these people at a time in their development that they are stoppable, we know where their journeys will end.

What can be done to protect us in church, in school, at the movies, in public meetings? There has to be a way to fight this growing problem. Let’s find some solutions.