Mental health should be a top priority

The VC Reporter editorial after the Sandy Hook shooting (12/20) discussed various issues to help reduce the risk of such events in the future, but dismissed mental health care with “yet there is no realistic expectation that those who need it the most will seek the help they need.” We can do better!

Up until the 1920s, mental illness was treated with really nonsensical therapies based on such things as the musings of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Then a new, “scientific” movement emerged that developed such truly barbaric procedures as forced sterilization, electro-convulsive shock treatment and lobotomies. By the late 1960s, a new understanding and treatment approach emerged. It joined conservatives who wanted to shut down government facilities with liberals who wanted much more humane treatment. As a result, a voluntary treatment model was written into law. Forced treatment could only be initiated when individuals exhibited immediate threats to the health and safety of themselves or others.

THAT WAS 40 YEARS AGO! Science and society have both moved in those 40 years. Health insurance now provides full equivalence between mental health and physical health. We now know reasonably normal people can suffer severe breaks due to some form of traumatic stress such as the loss of  a loved one or suffering through a harrowing war experience. Such things as depression and PTSD fall into this category. We also know there are a significant number of people who suffer from physiological conditions that manifest themselves as mental aberrations. These include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and autism. The present voluntary model may be appropriate for the first class, but a more proactive model should be used for the latter. For these, a criteria like “severely disturbed,” which is much looser than threat to health or safety, should be considered. This would allow treatment to be given during crises that do not rise to the level of immediate threat, but are so severe the individual is unable to function in society. In nearly all of the physiological conditions, detection and identification occur long before adulthood. Even schizophrenia usually manifests itself as a 24- to 72-hour dissociative event in the mid-teens. We should look to a more proactive public health model in the treatment of the mentally ill.

Norm Rodewald


Common sense about gun control

First of all, I know that in writing this letter, my detractors — I know who they are, and I wear their opprobrium as a badge of honor — will accuse me of politicizing a tragedy. Which I find ultimately ironic, since most of my detractors are among the gang who have thoroughly and completely politicized the terrorist attacks of 9/11. So, in truth, I care not a bit what any of them think or say in response to me on this issue.

The recent mass shooting at Sandy Hook School shows a number of things about America that need to be changed.

While there is no single thing that can be said to have been the cause of this tragedy, it can safely be said that more firearms in the hands of private citizens would NOT have prevented the incident, but might in fact have made it even worse.

At this point, those who claim that any legislation to regulate firearms or ammunition is a “gun grab” are merely gun fetishists. (It really wouldn’t even be possible to take every privately owned firearm out of circulation, not even in several generations.) I own several firearms myself, and I would willingly undergo inconvenience or delays in the purchase of further guns or ammunition if it meant that even one life could be spared. So, yes, some common sense gun-control legislation that would limit access of weapons for those who are underage, have a criminal background, or are mentally unstable could only be a good thing. And really, who absolutely MUST be able to purchase a gun today and take it home with himself immediately? No one ….

Secondly, this incident shows that a comprehensive mental health care system is badly needed in our nation. Of course, such a thing is “socialism” (yet, apparently, we are the only western industrialized democracy that is not “socialist” in this fashion), so the typical Teapublican wouldn’t approve. Yet, if the Sandy Hook shooter had received timely and comprehensive treatment for his issues, perhaps this incident could have been prevented. So much for the conservative “Culture of Life.” Apparently, they only care about children until they are born, then they’re on their own.

Now, I don’t know if “violent video games” are truly a contributing factor. After all, I’m old enough to remember when Dungeons and Dragons was supposed to send kids off the deep end and make them violent.  It didn’t do so to me, nor did I know any other kids who were affected that way. Nonetheless, there IS something in American culture that is producing violent psychopaths. Perhaps part of it is the unnecessary wars of choice that we have recently fought in the Middle East, in which we’ve reduced brown people of a different dominant religion than our own to subhuman status. Yes, I’m pretty sure that has contributed ….

In any case, we have a big national discussion ahead of us, and we all need to be willing to be intellectually honest enough to admit mistakes in our judgment and be willing to compromise on some strongly held principles. If we do not, we simply have more incidents like Sandy Hook in our future. And the blood of those future victims will surely be on the hands of those who stonewall, or who claim that more guns, or cops on campus are the complete solution.

Tom Becham


The future of Ventura

In his masterfully relevant new book Who Stole the American Dream, author Hedrick Smith penned one or two extremely relevant paragraphs about the challenge of resetting our economy and the American middle class on a return to the days when we were all in this country together.

I will use Mr. Smith’s words, changing the thoughts from our country to our own local city.

It will take a political metamorphosis, a populist renaissance, in Ventura to reverse the political and economic tides of the past three decades and to make our city strong and whole again. The challenge we face requires a response from all of us, a rebirth of civic activism from average people at the grass roots as well as from Ventura’s political and economic leaders. Thousands of Venturans will have to come off the sidelines and re-engage in direct citizen action in order to re-establish “government of the people, by the people, for the people” and to achieve a genuine people’s agenda in the “Ivory Tower” (Ventura City Hall).

It is not hard to conceive of the measures needed to restore a fairer, more level economic playing field — action on jobs, homes, taxes, and fairness, plus a reset in long-term economic thinking. It took decades for us to get into our current local predicament; it will take time — and tenacity — to build our way back to a more just, secure and vibrant society.

In way of a New Year’s promise to oneself, I would suggest that each and every person in the city of Ventura read Mr. Hedrick Smith’s masterful book. It will certainly open your eyes and give you insight into what has happened to the “American Dream.”

Rellis Smith


Much thanks for the help with the Ventura River clean-up

It was great to see the Ventura River clean-up as one of the highlights of 2012 Year in Review in the VCReporter (Dec. 27, 2012)! The project featured an unprecedented effort on behalf of many people and organizations — we wish to thank all of the following who helped clean up the Ventura River: The Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, The County of Ventura Watershed Protection District, Ventura County Supervisor Bennett’s Office, Ventura County Police, California State Parks, Harrison Industries, City of Ventura Police, City of Ventura, Patagonia, Fletcher Chouinard Designs, Friends of the Ventura River, Surfrider Foundation, Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation, Cause, Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper, The CREW, California Conservation Corps, Union Pacific, National Park Service, Coastal Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, Ventura River Watershed Council, Project Understanding, Salvation Army, Downtown Ventura Organization, Environmental Defense Center and the hundreds of community volunteers willing to keep the crap out of the lineup! Collectively more than 400 tons of trash have been removed from the river and kept out of the ocean. Again, thank you everyone!

Derek Poultney
The Ventura Hillsides Conservancy

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