Broken mental health system and guns a recipe for tragedy

Sunday, October 6, 2013
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Broken mental health system and guns a recipe for tragedy

As somebody with both a criminal justice background and a mental health advocacy background, there are particular features of the Washington Navy Yard tragedy that demand further discussion and congressional action [Sept. 26 Gazette].

First, it seems well established that [shooter] Aaron Alexis suffered from a serious mental illness and was profoundly delusional at the time of the shootings. There is also ample evidence that this incident has many of the hallmarks of a classic systemic “screw-up.” There were records of Mr. Alexis’ violent past, there was evidence of his seriously disordered thinking over the last several months, and, indeed Mr. Alexis took himself to a mental health treatment center in search of help.

To think that the mental health care system — broken and inadequate as it is — had an opportunity to intercede and treat this man’s delusional thinking and possibly avert this terrible tragedy is more than shameful.

Unless we make mental health care the a public health priority and give our system of care the resources to treat such conditions as the medical crises they are, we are going to face the prospect of similar tragedies as well as the whole panoply of disordered behavior that afflicts so many of our loved ones and is occurring in our homes and on the streets of our nation on a daily basis.

Second, this country’s love affair with guns — be they 9 mm handguns, automatic weapons, assault rifles and all kinds of military-style weaponry continues to feed the impulses of those bent on wreaking havoc — whether out of criminal intent, out of irrational hatred of the government, or one’s psychotic thinking. Not to mention the accidental shootings that occur with some regularity among young children.

If we are to cut into the violence in this country—whether on the streets of our cities or in the Newtowns, and Washington Navy Yards — we must have the political fortitude to “de-glamorize” the use of guns and pass meaningful national gun legislation.

Robert K. Corliss

Schenectady

The writer is co-chair of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Schenectady.

No way for Union College to treat loyal football fans

I had to wait until the Sunday [Sept. 29] morning paper to get the result of the Union vs. St. Lawrence football game. You see, after the events of the Sept. 21 contest against Ithaca, I’ve given up on Union athletics.

Since moving to Schenectady in the early 1980s, it was hard not to be a Dutchman fan. It was an easy walk to the campus, and the excitement of college athletics is hard to beat. There was also no better way to meet the “locals” and forge a common bond.

Over a period of time, a core group of football fans came together forming a very “ad hoc” tailgating committee. We staged out of the same section of the upper parking lot early on game day, mingling with other dedicated fans. The grill was always working, the coolers full and tables stacked with assorted snacks. Anyone who wandered by was invited to “eat, drink and cheer for the Dutchmen.”

With the mix of adults and children, there was never an incident — outside of the kids sometimes getting a bit crazy with the ever-ongoing touch football games on the hill.

This all came to an end at the conclusion of the first quarter of the game against the Bombers from Ithaca. With no incident to incite it, a skirmish line of Union security people swept from the hockey arena up to our position in the parking lot telling everyone to disperse. “Loitering” was not going to be tolerated any longer.

Frankly, we started to laugh until more and more security people showed up, and with emotions starting to rise, we did as instructed. We broke down the picnic, realizing that Union had decided to break our relationship.

It’s unfortunate that the walls that surround Union College are more than a physical sign of self-imposed isolation.

Somehow the idea of the Dutchman’s shoes staying on the east side of the Hudson isn’t so unsettling anymore.

Peter Struzzi

Niskayuna

Science and math wrong focus for public schools

It appears that there is a growing number of educators and parents who feel that the state’s program to improve education is shortsighted and in some respects self-destructive.

The emphasis on teacher evaluation has degraded and demoralized many in the profession. One teacher who had taught for 20 years and was considered one of the best was evaluated as “developing” — a label more suited to the state’s evaluation program.

The big focus on science and math is more of a goal for higher education than it is for public school education.

The state focus on education should be on student needs and achievement. The goal of the public school is to prepare students to become successful citizens in our unique economic democracy. A limited number of students need or will be able to achieve the skills to become world leaders in math and science.

Many of our students do not go on to college and many others do not even finish high school. Preparation in higher math and science (that is repeated again in college) will be of little comfort or help to those facing mortgage foreclosure and other personal financial problems. Many financial management and consumer economic problems are caused by poor consumer decisions, rather than by the lack of a job.

Since 1980, when the math and science frenzied approach got its major start, nearly all of the consumer education courses have been dropped from the public school curriculums. Courses like business law and consumer economics provide basic skills needed by all citizens to function on a fair basis in our economically dominated society.

Perhaps the state should concentrate on the needs of our students and support the public schools with needed funds and meaningful courses, rather than harass teachers and shortchange students to give tax breaks to the ruling 1 percent.

Gene Whitney

Niskayuna

The writer is a former college professor, high school teacher and state supervisor of business education for the state Department of Education.

Stop signs needed to slow Grand Blvd. racers

I’ve heard people comment about how many times they’ve heard tires screech to a halt on Grand Boulevard when they see a driver try to jut out at weird visibility angles to cross or make the turn onto Grand around chunky Old Niskayuna trees. Some don’t talk, rather they count their blessings it was only a fender bender.

Recently, a woman and children were lucky to be alive as seat belts did the job and saved them from harm or death when they crashed at the corner where Dean Street meets the beautifully tree-lined, autumn leafy, gawk-worthy straightaway [Aug. 30 Gazette].

Grand Boulevard drivers don’t want to slow down. They have avoided Union Street lights and Nott Street traffic. They are moving school kids up and down the road, going to their city jobs with the stop for coffee already made and slicing minutes off of their ETA [estimate time of arrival].

All the city needs is a couple of stop signs along the way, just like there are on Plum and The Plaza (that is a street name for those not familiar), and a safer, more pleasant boulevard it would be.

Lisa Lambert

Niskayuna

Obama needs to be more positive with opponents

It has become apparent lately that President Obama’s remarks relating to the opposition party have been negative in nature and not the type to win friends and influence people.

Apparently, he is unaware that it takes “two to tango.” Mr. President, perhaps you should learn to dance.

Edward Panfil

Glenville

GOP would take nation in the wrong direction

Barack Obama is our president — not Congress. We the people have voted for our president of the United States by a majority of the country. I am thoroughly disgusted with the way that the Republicans think they can change the initiatives our president has taken on to right the country and put us back on better footing than we were six years ago with President Bush.

I am a registered Republican and I am ashamed at the direction they are heading. The Republicans have brought our country nothing but putting the little man in his place — that would be near the poverty level. I believe they do not have America as their priority, just their agenda. I plan on changing my party affiliation because I believe I finally see what direction I want this country to head.

Wake up, America, and see what is really happening. It’s just a bunch of spoiled brats crying because they didn’t win the presidential election.

Teresa Seeger

Scotia

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