The 'Dark Knight' Shooting in Colorado and the Danger of Assumptions

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Last night, a gunman killed 12 people at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, just outside of Denver. When a tragedy like this happens, it’s human nature to try to make sense of it and place blame.

The immediate assumption I've seen is that the alleged shooter, James Holmes), is mentally ill -- which may or may not be true, as people commit heinous crimes for any number of reasons, but for the sake of this argument we’ll go along with that assumption. The next is that no one along the way did anything to help him. This really gets my blood boiling. I love how so many people who have never heard of this man before today suddenly know exactly what he was thinking and exactly what his parents did or did not do for him.

Dark Knight Rises shooting
July 20, 2012 - Paris, France - The Paris premiere of 'The Dark Knight Rises' was canceled after a mass shooting at a showing of the movie in Aurora, Colorado, left at least 12 dead overnight. (Credit Image: © Steph/Visual/ZUMAPRESS.com)


Most parents want their kids to succeed. Yes, some parents ignore all the warning signs, but lets assume this wasn’t the case, because again, most parents want their kids to succeed. But just because a parent notices a problem doesn’t mean they have the knowledge or ability to seek treatment.

Mental health treatments are not widely accessible. Health insurance plans have caps on how many visits in a year a person can have, and those caps can be woefully insufficient. 49.9 million Americans were uninsured in 2010, according to the Census Bureau report. Therapy treatments are not cheap and neither are medications, if they are warranted. I live in Ohio and sliding scale treatment centers are available, but this is not the case in all states. Also, I learned when doing research at such a center in college that many people don’t know how to even go about finding affordable treatment.

Schools have some responsibility, but budget cuts have led them to cut down on psychologists and nurses. As parents of a child with a disability (I myself have two) will attest, getting schools to provide the services your child needs can be a battle, one where you often feel like you need a degree in special ed law yourself to win.

Police are limited in the help they can provide. They can respond to an immediate threat, but most states only allow 72 hour psychiatric holds. 

Oh and let’s not forget that it’s very difficult to force an adult to go to treatment or take medications, and some illnesses have an adult onset.

But beyond all of those very real hurdles, maybe the parent(s) DID get James help. Maybe he was in treatment every day for years. Maybe they did everything a parent can do and more.

But people: WE DON’T KNOW. And therefore, let’s not speculate. There are a whole lot of people pain today after last night’s tragedy and making assumptions isn’t going to help them any.

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