Louis Wynne, who has a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from The Ohio State University, began his professional career at the US Air Force’s primate colony in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Subsequent positions have included Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Clinical Director of the New Mexico State Hospital, and consultant surveyor for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. He has been in independent consulting and clinical practice for about 25 years. His latest book, Healing the Hurting Soul: A Survival Manual for the Black Sheep in Every Family, puts forward the view that so-called mental illness is an outgrowth of disordered family processes. He was co-editor of and contributor to Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry and the 2010 recipient of the Thomas S. Szasz Award given by the Center for Independent Thought, Philadelphia, PA
We are told that James Holmes, the Aurora, CO, mass murderer, was already seeing a psychiatrist. So what? Being seen by a psychiatrist these days means very little more than just that—being seen. It means that a person, frequently involuntarily, is being medicated by that psychiatrist. Any verbal interchange between the two involves only a brief talk about how the patient is tolerating his/her medications. There is liable to be no discussion in depth of long-standing issues with which the patient has been grappling unsuccessfully for a long time. Any discussion of current issues is similarly liable to be superficial, e.g., “How are you getting along with your mother, father, friend, boss, et al.,” and ending with, “OK, I’ll see you again in 6 months for a med check.”
It is true that many psychiatrists employ master’s-level therapists or nurse practitioners to do “supplementary” counseling. However, my experience with their work (through an examination of literally thousands of their progress notes) is that most of them do not know what they are doing. For example, they have no diagnostic skills and they frequently confuse the effects of being an unwanted child, of maternal drinking or drug abuse during pregnancy, of head injuries (due to domestic violence, car accidents, or falls), of bereavement, of a history of sexual abuse (usually within the family), of exposure to organic solvents or other environmental toxins, or even of mild mental retardation. All of these present with what we used to call psychomotor slowing and I have seen them all treated as if they were depression—whatever that may be taken to mean.
We can expect many more mass murders until America takes a good look in the mirror and realizes that in our society today there is little compassion for the rejected, the chronically unemployed, or the disabled. That is where our remedial efforts must be focused. Passing more restrictive gun laws is liable to encourage the profoundly disturbed among us to employ even more drastic measures to display their alienation, as Timothy McVeigh did in Oklahoma City. This would be rather like what happened after the US government began its war on drugs in the 1970s with marijuana as the prime target. This policy actually breathed new life into the drug cartels south of the border. They just went into the cocaine distribution business instead.
A modest first step might be getting the states to require medical insurance companies to reimburse non-medicating psychiatrists and PhD psychologists at a higher level than those who simply prescribe. Medications not only have serious side effects but their very use conveys the condescending message, “Take two of these and call me in the morning.” In other words, Whatever you think is wrong with you can be cured with pills.
I beg to differ, and I’m reminded of a philosophy professor at a California university who has said in print that there are very few human problems that can’t be solved with a finite amount of money. If only that pompous prig could spend a week as a fly on the wall in my office! People who are alienated and profoundly disturbed need nurturing, support, and caring. (Note: I did not call these people “mentally ill.” Words like that get us nowhere.) When nurturing takes its proper place in a more civilized America, then it won’t matter whether people own guns.