By C. Oliveira
On Tuesday morning, the 12th of April, a man wearing a gas mask and a green construction vest left at least 16 people injured, ten of whom were from gunshot wounds in a New York subway. Frank R. James, a 62-year-old man with a criminal history, was suspected by the police of committing said felony.
Prior to the shooting, James talked about his struggles with mental health in videos he published on YouTube. During these videos, he claims to “have a bad, severe case of post-traumatic stress”, and he blames Mayor Eric Adams, who has since vowed to expand mental health outreach programs to help combat violence, for worsening his conditions. The mass shooting was far more severe than any other felony James had committed before, indicating how his psycological issues have deteriorated over time.
The tragic shooting has refocused America’s attention on the number of untreated people in need of psychological assistance in the country who may revert to violence.
Protecting U.S. citizens from the mentally ill is needed to prevent situations like this. To do this means having enough hospital beds and staff in psychiatric facilities available for those living in the community. However, issues in the United States concerning mental health and its treatment have been an ongoing problem that needs to be fixed. In Massachusetts, for example, hundreds of patients have been wait-listed for treatment, as a cause of insufficient resources. Over a thousand individuals deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial have been placed in county jails, waiting for placement in psychiatric facilities in California. By 2010, 10 times more people with serious mental health issues were in prisons and jails than in psychiatric hospitals widely due to the bed shortages in such facilities. Furthermore, studies show that nearly half of the individuals who live with mental health issues go without any treatment, having an even higher amount among people of colour.
Fortunately, Kendra’s law, which provides for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment, will be made more effective, and some funding will bring more psychiatric hospital beds and expand outreach services provided, but that is still not enough. There is incremental change urging to be made regarding mental health care, and if there is no progress, a violent future awaits the districts of the U.S.