OK, Let’s Talk About Mental Health

It’s so predictable. And maddening. After each horrific mass shooting, Republicans pandering to the NRA insist that the problem isn’t guns–it’s mental health.

The most obvious response is equally predictable (albeit far more intellectually honest):  these attacks are vanishingly rare in countries where there are similar proportions of  mentally ill citizens but far fewer guns.

Mental health professionals will also point out that the great majority of people diagnosed with a mental health problem are not violent, so pointing to an undifferentiated “mental health” crisis is simply an effort to distract from the role played by virtually unrestricted gun ownership.

I personally agree with a New Republic headline:“The Main Mental Health Issue in This Country Is in the Republican Party.”

That said, I also agree that, overall, America does a very poor job of diagnosing and treating mental illness. So if we were to ignore the immense hypocrisy of the Republicans who only respond to these massacres by advocating an increase in resources devoted to mental health, we might welcome their sudden attention to that scarcity and their apparently heartfelt efforts to address it. (Snark alert: If you believe those efforts are really heartfelt, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you…)

The linked article from the New Republic looked at the existing patchwork of state funding for mental health diagnosis and treatment.

Before you click, just hazard a guess: Of the top 10 states, how many are red? Likewise, how many of the bottom 10 are red? And where do you imagine Texas ranks?

If you don’t feel like floating down that rabbit hole, I’ll save you the trouble. The top 10 states are: Maine, Pennsylvania, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Montana, Vermont, California, Maryland. One red state in the bunch (yes, Arizona is borderline, but it went Democratic in 2020). The bottom 10, from forty-first to fiftieth, are: Florida, Wyoming, North Dakota, Delaware, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Idaho, West Virginia, Arkansas. One blue state.

And Texas—where that lying death cultist of a governor vows to attack the scourge of mental illness with a zeal unmatched since Wayne LaPierre took his last trip to Zegna—just misses the bottom 10, in fortieth place. I doubt I even need to point out (although for the record I will) that Greg Abbott and the state’s Republicans have been cutting mental health funding, by more than $200 million over the last two years.

The article noted that there has been one –and only one–major expansion of mental health spending and insurance coverage in recent American history–and it was part of the Affordable Care Act., aka Obamacare. According to a Commonwealth Fund report, the ACA’s impact on the country’s mental health has been salutary, particularly in states that accepted Medicaid funding.

And we all know how the GOP has reacted to that particular expansion of access to healthcare, including mental healthcare.

The GOP then spent years trying to repeal and “replace” it. Trump also wanted it repealed. So the sole major expansion of mental health coverage in this century was contained in a bill whose passage every Republican in Washington opposed and on which most Republican governors have refused to participate in the state-level implementation. Come to think of it, probably the sole reason the red state of Montana ranks in the top 10 on mental health spending is that the state took the Medicaid expansion money under former Democratic Governor Steve Bullock.

Republicans are not going to expand mental health funding. Mental health care is for sissies and liberals. The only thing they’re going to expand is access to guns. We know this because recent history tells us so. Last week in Vox, Zack Beauchamp posted a shocking but not surprising report on academic studies of legislative responses at the state level to mass shootings. The finding? The norm in this country has been that mass shootings have been used by state legislatures and governors as an excuse to loosen gun laws, not tighten them. This is our country.

We have a mental health problem, all right– but it’s primarily among Republican legislators.


  1. The largest mental health facilities in the United States are the prisons and jails.

    What happens when you constantly stash mentally ill individuals in prisons with hardened criminals with an array of criminal skills? That petri dish is a bad one!

    Nixon nibbled at the mental health system, but Reagan ravaged it! Shuttered almost all of the facilities. But you can’t blame it all on Reagan! There’s plenty of culpability on this issue to go around.

    After all, isn’t it easier to balance the budget with thoughts and prayers rather than helping those in society who need it most? Because that actually costs money!

    Talking and talk in general is cheap. If you talk to talk, you better be able to walk that walk! And, I haven’t seen anyone able to walk and chew gum, let alone accomplish Any of that in a position of authority!

    So, I guess we’ll just stick with the old thoughts and prayers, SMH!

    The gun lobby, the old balance sheet, and America’s funeral industry thanks you!

  2. I remember researching mental health and substance abuse care in Indiana a few years back. Apparently, we route most patients through the prison system, where we spend $1 billion per year to treat them. And then we put them right back on the same streets and the same culture of crazy that created them.
    Also, a note: Mental health is less than 10% a medical issue, but the proposed fix a few years ago was to build a billion-dollar medical hospital complex to focus on mental health.
    Oh, and BTW, the vast majority of mental health issues are triggers and grow in traumatic and neglectful family environments. Yes, we have a national mental health issue: We ignore and dismiss the root cause of mental health problems because it’s politically uncomfortable.

  3. Prevention is not America’s forte because we focus on profits. Republicans figured out a way to make healthcare and mental health services profitable. Charge for services not rendered. Yes, it’s fraudulent but it’s profitable.

    I have personally witnessed this in my own county in Indiana. When the Republicans closed down state hospitals, their speeches included talks about integration in the community. Why hospitalize the mentally ill when you can let them roam the streets or charge them to live in group homes and prisons?

    Don’t you know the government pays Sheriffs per bed for prisoners like they pay hospitals?

    It’s profit over prevention.

    Why would they want these people to get better when they make a fortune off them?

    It’s a vicious cycle of incompetence where profits are placed over people and prevention.

    It’s called insanity – the outcomes are predictable.

  4. Yes; “It’s the government, stupid!” The minority GOP still in control from their minority position after the 2020 election. Have you watched the hearings, the speeches at rallies, the responses from Republicans and Democrats after each mass shooting? Who appears to be mentally unstable and out of control with their rants and who are the mass shooters following? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize where the problems lie and who is blocking the way to any sane solution to this growing problem as the death toll climbs daily.

    How and why is the GOP allowed to remain in control and how and who can wrest the control from their hands; starting with the Senate?

    Yes; “It IS the government, stupid!” The inmates are still running this asylum.

  5. Todd is fundamentally correct with regard to profit before people. Marx predicted the fall of capitalism by its own greedy hand 170 years ago.

    I’ll take the swampland in Florida over anything touched by Republicans.

    Greg Abbott, as with virtually EVERY Texas Republican, is a flaming liar, hypocrite and fascist lusting for more power while cutting needed services to Texans. Of course, this trend began with egregious election of George W. Bush followed by the even worse creature, Rick Perry as governors. Texas is the perfect example of how badly Republicans govern. Or as one of my old factory machinist pals used to say, “They can’t do shit right!”

    And yes, Republicans have been fighting against serving the people since the day Lincoln was shot. OF COURSE they want to end the ACA. That brown guy was responsible for actually governing for those not millionaires – and them too.

    The insanity is the pathological corruption of Republicans – and to a MUCH lesser degree – weak Democrats and the democracy destroying SCOTUS (Citizens United v. FEC) decisions.

    I’ll say it yet again, if real people don’t get off their asses and either run for office themselves, support rational candidates and work hard to get people to vote out the insane Republicans, our national mental health will finish its slide into what we saw in Germany, circa 1933 – 1945. Republicans HAVE NOT learned from the mistakes of mankind, because their bribers tell them not to. It’s that simple.

  6. As a former mental health career person, I can only echo the idea that the officially mentally ill are no threat to much of anyone.
    Guess who destroyed one of the country’s best MH systems: Why none other than St.Reagan!
    No, the MH issue is a red herring put out by the NRA decades ago, case closed.
    Yes, We have a mental health problem, all right– but it’s primarily among Republican legislators.

  7. “I personally agree with a New Republic headline:“The Main Mental Health Issue in This Country Is in the Republican Party.””

    I don’t think so. They aren’t mentally ill, the followers are groomies and the leaders are mere prostitutes living off of wealthy donors by reciting scripts that come along with the money.

    We don’t have a mental health problem, we have a campaign financing problem creating by the entertainment industry because it redistributes wealth away from workers to the lavishly wealthy few.

  8. We have witnessed in our lifetime the proliferation of the most equipped unregulated militia in the world right here in our own country.

    Today we have fully equipped and ready regulated militias in the form of state national guards. No need for interpretation of the 2nd Amendment or the NRA.

    Requirements, before acceptance into basic training includes Males: 1.5-mile run in less than 13:45 minutes, more than 25 push-ups in a minute, more than 35 sit-ups in a minute. Females: 1.5-mile run in less than 16:00 minutes, more than 15 push-ups in a minute, more than 30 sit-ups in a minute. Apititude tests are administered before acceptance among other assessments administered by thoroughly trained personnel.

    Wondering. How many of the millions of Americans who own military/police grade weapon stock with ample personal store of ammunition would qualify? Something for our policy makers and profiteers to think about.

  9. Part of the issue is defining “mentally healthy”. If you are are smoking pot and taking pills and have guns and march on the Capital you are. If you are smoking pot and taking pills and sleeping on the streets of LA and not bothering anyone you are not (and don’t deserve any treatment).

  10. Lester, if you’re smoking pot you’re not marching anywhere. You’re sitting on your couch deciding between the cookies or the ice cream. You aren’t mentally ill, but you might be in danger of obesity or diabetes.

  11. Peggy…I did say AND taking pills and I meant addictive, powerful ones…

  12. Pete; if you have a copy of the first book to appear regarding Donald Trump’s SYMPTOMS of mental instability; “The Dangerous Case Of Donald Trump”, containing the assessment of TWENTY-SEVEN Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts; perhaps we should all reread the beginning of our current insanity he left behind to control the government. Published in 2017, it also contains a warning for us; “His madness is catching, too. From the trauma people have experienced under the Trump administration to the cult-like characteristics of his followers, he has created unprecedented mental health consequences across our nation and beyond.” Compare the GOP’s total disregard for the results of their words or action or how many are destroyed in their wake; that is “Sociopathy” in its most dangerous form.

    Those sitting in our government are sitting in judgement of who who shall rule, who shall live and whose lives can be taken from them, not only from mass shootings but in the loss of civil and human rights such as health care; they are addicted to the power of their inherited madness. They have no intention of letting go of that power; they claim it as their right, their due as Trump unleashed them to carry on his mad lust for control.

Comments are closed.