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Louisiana Congressman Bill Cassidy Talks Mental Health & Mass Shootings [INTERVIEW]

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Sandy Hook, the Colorado movie theater shooting and Virginia Tech all have something in common, according to Louisiana Congressman Bill Cassidy.

“There is a young man, with a recognized mental illness, which had clearly been not treated at all,” Cassidy told KEEL.

Cassidy is a practicing physician. Mental illnesses have existed for centuries. Different societies had different ways of managing those who suffer from these diseases. The British Empire sent their insane and unlawful to colonial Australia. Here in the United States, we placed many of these people in large institutions designed solely for the mentally ill and insane — removing them entirely from society. These institutions were largely unethical and brought the federal government into the mental health process.

“The federalization of the mental health service, that’s when the federal government began to take primary responsibility way back in the 1960s,” says Cassidy. “And it’s been a trend that has continued ever since. The tail end of this trend, it’s coming up to today, is when we’ve seen these horrific crimes beginning to occur.”

These crimes have left dozens of innocent people killed across the country. But after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the attention turned to gun control.

Cassidy offers an example of a family he knew and tells KEEL News that the current federal mental health system makes it difficult for families to help those suffering with these diseases.

“A women I went to high school with, a lovely person, whose adult son has a major mental illness.  And so he has a psychotic break, she brings him to the emergency room at which point she would no longer have any role until a judge ruled that she may,” Cassidy explains. “She’s the one he lives with. Loves him the most. Does the most for him. Is going to bring him to the emergency room and once they step through the door, the woman who cares the most no longer has a role.”

And in one case, it led to tragedy.

“An advocate coached him on what to tell doctors, the psychiatrists, to get released,” says Cassidy. “He’s released. He comes out and he beats his mother to death. The doctors were not allowed to tell the family how dangerous he was and he came out and killed his mother. Now, he’s institutionalized for life, on medication, with deep regrets for what he did when he was not taking his medicine.”

Cassidy says there are more plans across the country that would allow those with these diseases to be an active part of everyday life.

“So, in New York, there is a movement to not have big warehouses where people live, but rather have more in depth assisted outpatient therapies where there is more monitoring so you actually go to the clinic where the person takes their medicine in an observed fashion and then is able to function in an outside world,” says Cassidy.

Cassidy believes there needs to be a balance between institutionalization and letting the mentally ill loose on the streets. Some say, ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’ Maybe it is time to focus on helping people and not guns.

Listen to the interview with Congressman Bill Cassidy:

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