The Conversation needs to Start Here:
Written by
Doreen McGettigan
January 2011
Written by
Doreen McGettigan
January 2011

As a young girl and a member of the girl scouts we went on a field trip to sing Christmas Carols at a place called “Byberry”.   Byberry was the Philadelphia State Hospital for the mentally insane. It was the darkest, most frightening place and left an impression on my young mind that I still cannot shake.

Not that long ago, as a society we locked our crazy people away, far away from all.  We put them in asylums to never be heard from again.  This practice in most cases subjected our crazy folks to horrific experiments and very inhumane treatment.  Just think “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” or “Girl Interrupted”.  Both very eye opening cinematic accounts on practices that in {real} life were probably much, much worse. 

As a country we came together and corrected these atrocities.  Most State mental hospitals are nothing more now than Halloween attractions.  Our crazy citizens have rights!  One of these rights is to decide for themselves whether or not they are crazy.

I think of that amusement ride, the ship, that swings dramatically to one side and stays there for a minute and then fast, very fast swings completely to the other side.  This is how drastically the treatment of our mentally ill has changed.  We now do {NOTHING}.

If you threaten to do harm to yourself or another it is possible you could be taken to the hospital where they may or may not keep you for 24-72 hours (usually decided by insurance) and the crazy person.

Now, within 5 minutes of the Tuscon, Arizona tragedy people were being accused of causing the shootings.  The injured had yet to arrive at the hospital and the dead victim’s,  families had not been notified.

Political discord and rhetoric are nothing new in this country so lets stop pretending that it is something so hateful and so different from anything in the past. Just think Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy or Nixon.  Think about the civil rights era.  I remember, do you?

I worked for a democratic congressional candidate in Bucks County, Pa. a few years back and he used a map with targets drawn on.  I understand this is common practice for most democrats {bullseyes}.   Sarah Palin used cross-hairs.  The contention over this process I find, rather silly because I really do not believe ANY of these folks have the hate in their hearts, or the intention to hurt anyone.  They just want to win.

Now just because vitriol has been spewed from both sides forever does not make it right.  It is wrong on both sides.  As Americans {The regular people you know, like you and I) we are desperately in need of political hero’s or at least a few good examples of good manners, common sense and civil debate.  There is a lot at stake right now for us as a country and while it is okay to be passionate and agree or disagree with someone for their political views it is not okay to attack them as people or their families.  We need leaders in this area not followers.  Our children are watching.

Now back to the tragedy in Tuscon.  I am devastated, utterly devastated for all of those victims and their families.  I will forever keep them in my prayers.  I pray for the doctors caring for Congresswoman Giffords and hope her recovery will be remarkable perhaps even a miracle.

Neither political party caused this shooting.  No talking head or media spokesperson caused this tragedy; period.

A very, very crazy person bought a gun and killed a congresswoman he has apparently been stalking since 2007.  He also killed and injured others.  He was going to do this whether he had a gun or not.  If he could not get a gun he would have used a bomb, a car or a knife.  The point being if you are crazy and intent on killing, you will.

This is where the conversation should be.  We should be shining a big fat flash light on the way we deal with our crazy people and the way we allow insurance companies to dictate.  The new Health Care bill, you say?  No, not much change in there for mental health either.  I do not nor do I pretend to know the answer.  What I do know is one needs to be found and soon.  The discussion needs to start here.

Doreen McGettigan is an author from Delaware County, Pa.  Her book “Bristol boyz Stomp”, the true story of the brutal random murder of her younger brother, is forthcoming.  Doreen is an outspoken victim advocate and spent six years on the board of “The Network of Victim Assistance”.  She lives with her husband John and a mentally ill, homeless woman John brought home 2 years and 3 month’s ago.  Both John and Doreen’s lives have also been forever saddened and changed by the suicide of a loved one.

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