THE MISSING LINK: HOW DO GAPS IN MENTAL HEALTHCARE CONTRIBUTE TO THE ACTIVE SHOOTER EPIDEMIC?
Buffkin, Kimberly L.
Simeral, Robert L.
Brannan, David W.
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Active shooter incidents at schools have highlighted the prevalence of mental illness in our society. Although the United States has historically struggled with its mental health policy, continuous efforts have been made to improve the system. During the 1960s, asylums were overcrowded and public outcry for humane treatment of the mentally ill pressured the government for change. To give patients a more normal life, the idea of community mental health centers emerged. Deinstitutionalization happened quickly across the country. The intent of the plan was to provide a more community-based approach to mental health. Unfortunately, the implementation of the plan was fractured. Over the past 50 years, with each iteration to the mental health system, many of those patients have found themselves in jail, in prisons, and homeless. This thesis explores a counterfactual analysis through an in-depth case study of Adam Lanza’s life and navigation through the mental health system. Throughout his life, opportunities existed for intervention and treatment. Gaps in his mental health treatment allowed Adam to spiral into a deep state of mental illness in which he was debilitated by his obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. The analysis suggests that the community-based approach to mental health could have provided early intervention that might have changed the outcome for Adam Lanza and the 26 lives he took at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012.
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