Serious mental illness can be incredibly hard to live with and to deal with. But these shootings keep telling us that we sweep it under the rug at our own peril. After a massacre like Aurora, it’s very hard to see the killer as worthy of any sort of sympathy. “They keep talking about fairness for him,” a man whose sister died in the Aurora shootings told the Associated Press at Holmes’ court appearance this week. “It’s like they’re babying this dude.” It’s an understandable reaction, but if Holmes’ lawyers are right and he is seriously ill, he won’t be coddled by the legal system. He’ll get the treatment he needed, but far too late.
After Loughner’s guilty plea, one of the survivors of his shooting spree had the compassion to point out the lack of mental health services for people like him. “We really have to be our brother’s keeper here and reach out and get them help,” victim Randy Gardner said. Real reform of mental health care, so that dropping out of school doesn’t mean being dropped by your therapist, would be arduous. It would offer no throb of vengeance. But it would make us safer.