The quest for answers hides major mental health problem in America

By Mary Kay Satterlee
Staff Writer/Spectator

July 20, 2012. A gunman murdered 12 people and injured 70 others in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater.

Dec. 14, 2012. 20 children and 6 school teachers are gunned down in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

May 23, 2014. A college student in Isla Vista, California stabbed his three roommates, killing all of them, and proceeded to shoot four people, killing two females.

We know these tragedies. We watched in horror as the media brought them to our attention. We took in the morbid details and spat out the question we most wanted answered: why? While it’s unrealistic to ever expect a concrete answer as to why any human being would commit these heinous and gruesome acts, the question still burns and we still insist upon answering it. We blame it on gun control. We blame it on mental illnesses. We blame the parents.

Our desperate search for answers is not only just so we can understand the why to tragedies like these, but we want to be able to prevent them from happening again. As human beings, it is in our nature to search for solutions, leading us to assume that if we can find the key purpose to something, we can also alter it. The problem with this, as it pertains to these mass murders, is that there isn’t just one factor leading to these tragedies.

Think of a substance that is illegal. Is there a way for you to get your hands on it if you really wanted to? This goes for guns as well. Sure, we could ban guns, but is that going to make them absolutely unobtainable? No, it’s not. Instead of purchasing a gun from a legitimate store that keeps records of purchases, someone who was invested in having a gun would instead purchase from a dealer and there would then be no record of who that gun had been sold to.

Go to your regular doctor and tell her you’re feeling depressed or anxious a lot lately. There’s a very good chance that your doctor will give you an anti-depressant and let you walk away without even having you see a mental health professional to verify your symptoms or monitor you for any side effects. A lot of these mass murderers that we see have been diagnosed with a mental illness. The problem is, were they even being monitored? Were they given the correct medication for their diagnosis? Were they self-medicating with street drugs? Were they even taking their prescribed medication? We can’t simply place the blame on the fact that mental illness exists. The problem lies within whether these people sought the help they needed and were then given the appropriate care.

While there isn’t one solution to this terrible problem in America, I do not think we should cease trying to solve it. I do, however, think that we need to stop trying to place the blame on one particular factor and remember that there are many different issues and one band-aid will not heal an entire wound.

Mary Kay Satterlee is staff writer for The Spectator. She can be reached by