Lindy West writes for Jezebel about all the gruesome stories ricocheting around social media lately, and how they marginalize the real issue: lack resources for the mentally ill.
I don’t mean that the people who latched on to this particular meme are bad people (though I would say they’re a bit thoughtless), or that it’s never appropriate to respond to unthinkable tragedy with macabre humor. But I’m not feeling particularly charitable toward wacky zombie jokes today. There’s no such thing as undead people, only dead people. And sad people. No one deserves to be publicly ridiculed for their identity — gay people, fat people, black people, poor people — but when we ridicule and marginalize mentally ill people, actual innocent people get killed.
See also: It’s Bigger Than “Bath Salts” and “Zombie Apocalypses” by Subhash Kateel, who writes:
-Florida is the second to worst state in the country when it comes to funding mental health services. Of the 325,000 people with persistent and severe mental illness, only 42 percent receive treatment.
-In 2010, the State Legislature cut adult community mental health funding, children’s mental health funding and adult substance abuse services by more than $18 million. This year, the state legislature tried to make Florida the worst state in the nation at funding mental health, and almost succeeded.
-Prescription drug overdoses and the prescription drug death rate are up in Florida by 61 percent and 84 percent respectively. That didn’t stop state politicians from trying to cut funding for drug treatment by 20 percent, which would have kicked 37,000 people out of services while they were trying to kick a habit.
- First responders across the state say that they are seeing mental health cases that they have never seen before, such as a Palm Beach man that was held in custody 50 times in one year under the state’s Baker Act because he was a threat to himself and others.
It’s much easier to place the blame on some weird new designer drugs (that the perpetrators might not have even been using) than it is to talk seriously about complex issues like lack of funding and access to social programs and deep rooted problems with mental health institutions.
Update: Rob Arthur notes that both mental illness and drug abuse are lower predictors for violence many other factors.