Today’s late bloomer is not a person. Today’s late bloomer is a science. Neuroscience. The study of zombie food – brains.
The horrific shooting at Newtown Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School yesterday, highlights a widespread need for our society to address the realities and needs of those who suffer mental illness.
Until recently, mental health care and treatment has been a series of guessing games as to the cause and needed treatment. In the past, patients have had to endure ice baths, lobotomies, electroshock therapy and in current times, drug experimentation. Patients used to be sent to asylums, the most dangerous committed there against their will, by order of the state. Rampant abuse proliferated in many of these institutions where patients were often treated abusively with beatings and rape and neglect.
For a while more compassionate programs were funded by the federal government until 1981, when Ronald Reagan repealed the Mental Health Systems Act. The responsibility for treating patients with such maladies then began its decline into a societal push toward making any mention of mental illness politically incorrect in the various arenas of communal life. The glaring oversight of this process is in the very nature of extreme disorders, where the patient believes there is nothing wrong with him or her and does not seek needed treatment or take medication. And then they snap.
It’s curious that the legal system still recognizes mental illness for what it is and excuses perpetrators, to a degree, for being ill. Society seems no longer willing to do this. And, I fear, we are probably moving back to the age of whispers, where someone will not be hired because they have a “crazy” relative, or not be hired themselves when they are responsible and taking care of their own issues.
To the rescue, then!! Neuroscience. Here is an enlightening talk by Carl Schoonover from TED:
Carl shows us that the Golgi stain has revealed new information on the structure and workings of our brain that were previously, apparently invisible. This new information, along with MRI and human genome studies, has propelled knowledge of the workings of our grey blob skull filler. The Science Folks are learning more accurately what drives our behaviors opening new avenues for stronger help and understanding. This is hopefully a “better late than never” thing that will start to turn us all around to a more compassionate and positive approach to helping those who would hurt us because of faulty brain wiring, and stopping any more of the kind of tragedies as we witnessed yesterday.
Neuroscience and Psychiatry are moving together to find new ways to help. Nancy Andreasen has written “Brave New Brain” for the likes of you and I to understand, that speaks of this new partnership and where it can take us in understanding.
Studies are revealing more about the teenage brain than we ever knew. Why they sleep so much, and how they need more exercise, not more homework, is coming to light.
The downside of all this good new information is our society, government and medical insurance organizations and companies are woefully behind, and stubbornly sluggish in not stepping up to the plate. It seems as if the hue and cry is to angrily point fingers at everything else except the elephant sitting in the middle of the living room – which is the illness driving the perpetrators of such heinous acts.
Well, hons, I would say that our anger should much more appropriately be placed at the scientists and psychiatrists who have been just so darned slow in figuring out how our noodle actually works!! That’s the ticket!! Let’s yell at them. Darn you, Science-y folks!!!! How dare you take so long to figure out how we really work and then speak in those sanctimonious huge words to make us all feel stupid and such like!!
There is still time, this holiday season, for us to go out and gift each other with books and DVD’s on these new studies. Leaving people with such afflictions to their own devices is not compassionate. It is shortsighted and dangerous. Locking them up in institutions is cruel and, now, unnecessary. Let’s not blame their families. Let’s not blame and be angry. It’s a waste of our energy. Let’s put on our Sunday go to meeting clothes and sit down with our scientists and doctors and figure out a better, more truly compassionate way.
Just a thought, hons.