Wednesday, March 11, 2009

TRAGEDY IN GERMANY: How can we be about Prevention?

Pupils leaving a school on the same complex as neighbouring Albertville high school - in Winnenden, near Stuttgart, Germany, Wednesday, March 11, 2009


################################# A 17-year-old gunman dressed in black opened fire at his former high school - in southwestern Germany on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people and injuring others before fleeing the scene, police said. (AP Photo/Daniel Maurer) Wednesday, March 11, 2009 a (AP Photo/Daniel Maurer) The young gunman was slain by the police.

UPDATE: My comments below were written quickly after the Germany tragedy and before I read about the horrific killings in the US - so that's why it was barely mentioned. So, I definitely want to say that this post is simply taking the German one as a starting place only. I really appreciate the dialogue that we've got started here, what with the Comments below and one I received by email. I hope that we will be able to keep this going awhile...

And perhaps come to some new insights - each and all...

SO HOW DO WE PREVENT VIOLENCE?

Regarding Gun Control: I'm speaking in general - not specifically about Germany. Susanne, my co-blogger, informed me that they DO have gun control in Germany and that it is very difficult to get a gun. There's some items evidently coming out now that the young man may have stolen the gun from his father who evidently had it legally for sports reasons. Evidently, the father had to prove that he was using the gun for sports to be able to have it & had to keep bringing a police record (without having any entries at all, evidently!) to the authorities every few years.

However, evidently the father may have failed to follow the requirements for keeping sports guns: keeping them - unloaded - in a locked steel locker and the other parts in a different locked locker. The father may also have failed by leaving the key somewhere where his son could get to them?

So, there are these items of concern about guns - their availability and the societal and household preventatives of their misuse. Of course there are various positions on gun laws - both politically and personally - which vary from country to country and even within various regions in the US. And of course, there's a lot more than the guns themselves involved. There are a number of positions - even within the abolition and moratorium of the death penalty movements.

Also, control of guns may have more to do with America...maybe little if anything to do with Germany. And there is room for dialogue and differences here.

Continuing...I bring up mental illness - here again, there's much to know and to discuss - as the dialogue below in the comments will show.

Refusing to let our states, cities, nation dump mentally ill - helping folk get the help they need for mental illness, homelessness, addictions, anger managements, true rehab in prisons, affordable counseling? Are we staying aware of what's happening to make violence and murders more rampant?

Are we encouraging our youth to stay away from places where they are more likely to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? How else, what else are we forgetting or failing to do?

I am particularly concerned about this major need since not only is it hard within families especially after a certain age - I live right across from an at-risk group of kids in a subdivision who don't feel accepted nor fit in well to most available programs for kids (many have learning disabilities, most live in "mixed" families - racially. I grew up in the town where the Columbine school murders took place. My husband and I have also adopted at-risk youth and have a bi-racial family.

I have been involved most my life in seeking to help someway with alternative programs that have a chance of working for those who simply don't fit in. I've helped get groups started in my town for such efforts and have conducted support groups and provided transportation to many folk who are willing to go to 12-step meetings, conferences and related. And yet, I feel that I know almost nothing about prevention.

Here again, this is only the tip of the iceberg on what resources and studies we may be lacking.

With the very recent horrific tragedies in Germany and the US affecting so many people - not unlike you and me - we really need to be about healing and prevention along with forgiveness, reconciliation and abolishing the death penalty, no? We know that our "justice" and execution systems are not proven to prevent these terrible killings. In fact, the costs of executing in the US is often taking away money that could be applied to prevention.

Here's a little on the recent news of the (perhaps preventable) German multiple murders - JUST IN -includes VIDEOS - The closeup photo here of the officers young faces is particularly haunting! here

Also go: here

And news about the Tuesday US shooting sprees:
here

When I was a very young adult working in a hospital for mentally ill and handicapped and toward a license to work professionally in such, I organized a program of staff, doctors, neighborhood leaders concerning the "letting out" of challenged folk with little to no support in neighborhoods where they were not wanted. So what's new? Except perhaps a higher number of such folk with fewer support systems then ever due to the economy and lack of planning and awareness among most of us?

Just two days ago, the following just happened to be on this rare yet MUCH needed blog, Prevention Not Punishment, about the stupid dumping in San Antonio of mentally ill folk: here

Here are some classic & some current items - Op Ed by one of abolitionists' favorite writers Bob Herbert, Op Ed writer for the New York Times with some readers' comments. NOTE: in an attempt to be timely & fair, I may leave or eventually add some links to positions we don't necessarily endorse. (Again, these only barely touch upon one perspective and part of prevention -- related to the US)

Here are the classic items by Bob Herbert: here and Go: here as well as: here

Debates at large (which of course relate to America): here and Go
here

I hope to keep adding a few URLS/links to this post so keep coming back! I am also eager to see what my co-blogger Susanne who lives in Germany may have to say or add - if and when she is able and willing - although I'm sure she's stunned and saddened by this news!

We will try to add a few more URLS that are about other preventatives later.

PLEASE contribute your own responses, concerns, thoughts on prevention in the COMMENTS section. Thanx as always for tuning in! Keep watching Comments more....

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am concerned that without information on motive with the shooter dead, and with the issue that he shot girls more than boys on the table, that you are although well-intentioned causing harm to people with mental illness who live in this country. I saw what happened in my state after Virginia Tech. and it was horrible, the fearmongering and the scapegoating of every person with a psychiatric history in this state has had a lasting negative impact.

Institutions can create people who are violent on release due to very real human rights abuses, indignities, being treated as less than etc. State hospitals are NOT a good place for anyone and only slightly better than our prisons, in some cases worse. Contrary to popular belief, people with psychiatric diagnoses are not more violent than the general population, and are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the general population.

We do not know if one or more of the victims of this young man was a person with a psychiatric disability so are you willing to dishoner their memory so soon by jumping to conclusions?

This kind of speculation causes more harm and does nothing to prevent violence. Violence is not easy to predict as studies have shown and the best predictors are age, male gender and history of past violence, mental illness without substance abuse doesn't even make the cut on the best predictors.

Connie L. Nash said...

Thank you so much for your comment which is so well-thought out and knowledgeable. Please do send the urls to your studies if they are available!

There are no conclusions I was proposing -So I'm glad you raised that question.

Of course there is a lot of mental illness without substance abuse. Then, again, I know of quite a few cases where there is a lot of substance abuse and various other kinds of addictions involved - where there has been violence and where there's been none.

How do you best see the use of our resources used for prevention?

In my awareness of some folk in prison - there is sometimes correlation - ie that various kinds of addictions may at least pre-dispose folk to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes a temporary lack of judgement will lead to being arrested whether guilty or not.

There are some mental illnesses which would appear to be mistreated by some medicines which in some people can lead to various kinds of violence - even to oneself. And sometimes the lack of the right kind of treatment may be a problem. And of course there are many other factors and combinations.

Sometimes folk forget to separate mental illness from deep and long-term depression although they may mask one another. And sometimes folk confuse the various types of mental illness of which there is such an array.

Perhaps there appears sometimes to be a fine-line between apparent mental illness and creativity or art which is so often dishonored in our various societies. Maybe we should also study this: the lack of outlet for the arts for so many who go nuts when they don't have the possibility of developing or expressing this?

Surely we all have traits of mental illness from time to time and may actually be somewhat mentally ill for awhile - surely we can recognize ourselves in each other.

My whole point is: let's as societies put our money and resources - into prevention and into looking into the various causes of violence rather then spend these on executions and other non-rehabilitative programs.

Perhaps we will find as you suggest that much of mental illness has nothing to do with addiction or crime. Let's at least be seriously looking into these questions.

By the way, have your read -The Soloist- ? It's a book I thoroughly loved and it really honors the homeless and menatlly ill. I am so looking forward to the movie which is due out very soon!

Alison Hymes said...

I'll find my URL's later but wanted first to thank you for such a kind and thoughtful reply to my comment.

My prevention approach would start with children, with trying to intervene when families are over their heads and children suffer as a result, with offering children mentors and community supports as needed and definitely with enriching opportunities for expression for all children rather than just learning for tests which not all children will be good at nor enjoy.

I would also in my dream world make it that no one could ever be turned away for voluntary mental health treatment for any reason when they ask for it, child, family or adult. There would be a respite/crisis center in every region where people could go when they knew they needed help and a break from stress. And also there would be choices in mental health care not determined by corportate or other interests so that some folks could get therapy, some folks would get help with social skills and integrating into their community, some folks could have art therapy or music and everyone who wanted help getting a job could get that help including job coaches if needed on the job.

We are so far from that dream now. We used to be closer to it actually in the '80's. Now people are put on waiting lists and have to meet strict criteria to get help they want.

Thank you again for your openness.

Connie L. Nash said...

Your second comment is much deserving of a thoughtful answer in like kind...so I will do my best later to respond. And by the way, we have SO much in common here!

Connie

Connie L. Nash said...

Alison & Others,
Although this isn't a direct answer to your last response which focuses on children, I think it's related. I still hope to speak personally to that last of yours pretty soon. I work with neighborhood children from our "rough" part of town...from where there is the densest group of children who end up selling, using drugs and/or going to jail/prison -making babies too young & generally having a pretty rotten life...

Here's the headline just found today on positiveuniverse dot com

USA/TEXAS: PRIORITIES ARE ALL MESSED UP !!!

LOOK AT THIS HEADLINE: Texas Governor Refuses $556 Million Federal Aid For Unemployed

(DESPITE resounding disapproval from Republicans and Democrats - including Senators)

GO: http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7014397570

LET'S SEND A STREAM AND MASS OF LETTERS TO THIS GOVERNOR FROM AROUND THE WORLD!!!!

SEND LETTERS FAXES AND CALLS to Perry & to legislators/leaders/pastors/priests etc. (I will try to post some links & addresses in another Comment soon - but don't let that stop you from acting now please!)

First, my intro:
Then, one of the last things this state does is execute the poor - who whether not guilty yet perhaps in the wrong place as a young person trying to find themselves, under the influence OR perhaps guilty or simply because of their poverty & how easy it is to frame those without means and advocacy -

Often those who end up in prison or on death row are from very poor families or sections of the community - where there are few if any decent resources for help...they go to prison & to the executioner's axe often with the feeling American people don't care!

(Interestingly & sadly for Americans, sometimes these bereft of friendship, advocacy and other support are supported by Europeans who are seeing what we are doing to our poor and reporting the same!)

The headline:

March 13, 2009 1:02 a.m. Houston, TX (AHN) - Texas Governor Rick Perry on Thursday announced he will not accept the $556 million in federal stimulus money to aid unemployed Texans because it runs counter to state rules and will burden employers.Speaking at the Bering's Hardware in Houston,

Perry said the aid money comes with strings attached from Washington such as requiring the state to assist qualified out-of-work residents seeking part-time jobs.

He said the state has been against this benefit because of the potential to discourage them from seeking full-time employment.Perry also said the fund extends benefits to more low-paid workers, including women, elderly and students resulting in higher unemployment insurance payments by employers."Employers who have to pay more taxes have less money to make their payroll" and would have to raise prices on their products, the governor said, according to the Houston Chronicle.

When the federal money runs out, business will still have to pay the added cost, Perry said.

Though applauded by business groups, the governor's decision was criticized by Democratic and Republican senators for forsaking tens of thousands of Texans, who need financial help.

A legislative solution is being mulled by some Democrats in the House of Representatives and Senate to bypass Perry's decision or amend Texas' unemployment eligibility laws and overrule a likely veto by the governor.

PLEASE SEND YOUR CALLS, FAXES AND LETTERS from around the world now. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR OWN STATE LEGISLATORS & LEADERS IN THIS EFFORT!

Thanx for tuning in...look for more Comments here, including one with some info on contacting legislators, leaders and Perry's Texas office.

Connie L. Nash said...

This is about Prevention rather than Executions...Also, keep watching the blogsite on lower right column: Prevention Not Punishment by the stellar Leader among Texas Abolitionists

Please consider urgently getting this out to all appropriate folk!

Edit, add, delete according to your own purposes & needs - just please get the word out before all these unemployed and their families suffer without need and so do we at large because of this!

Texas Governor Refuses $556 Million Federal Aid For Unemployed:
http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7014397570

US/Texas Priorities are all messed up!

Texas Governor's Office Contact Info: http://www.governor.state.tx.us/contact/

Various URLS for contacting US Legislators

http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.shtml

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Congress

http://www.house.gov/

http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/calendar.html

http://judiciary.house.gov/

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=NC

http://www.judiciary.house.gov/hearings/calendar.html

Those of you who may complain that the above comments are not related to the death penalty: In loving understanding - I am being given quite a bit of freedom by Bill Pelke & will ALWAYS defer to his judgement whenever I see/hear from him--as far as narrowing my focus.

Still, I can't help but see in the Subdivision (mini-South Central) aross the street from my home- for years & what I know from Texas & groups who care for the poor online, etc. that there is a DIRECT correlation between how we care for the poor, unemployed & disenfranchised and what we end up having years later in prison, costs and also finally executions.

There are huge moral, strategic and Rights concerns which only the least aware could see as disconnected -- especially in times such as these...

However, there are often other days & times when here we must stay completely focused on CURRENT EXECUTIONS and Journey of Hope events.

If you would differ, feel free to respond & if polite, we will do our best to publish your comments.

Stay tuned on this particular post only for now - in COMMENTS section only - more on Prevention...more in response to Alison's very helpful Comments and more on Action possibilities for your state and town.

Also, more as it comes in on the Whys & How Nots in the future of the terrible recent killings/tragedies in Germany and Alabama, USA.

As always, Thanx for tuning in!

Alison, sorry to put you off on response to your last perfectly poignant post...wanted to get this news item out today...

Please look back tomorrow.

Connie L. Nash said...

Right now, I want to respond to Alison's last comment. Her's are in quotes, mine not.

"My prevention approach would start with children, with trying to intervene when families are over their heads and children suffer as a result..."

How completely I agree with you! I see this need often across the street from me in the subdivision.

I see some of this happening in our town - however - so much more is needed. And do you notice how it's often the kids/families in most need who aren't fitting into the most "successful" programs with the most volunteers? Some possible reasons are the lack of consistent transportation they are given, the fact that often they don't "look good" on paper as far as quick and obvious success.

Also, as you say, Alison "...enriching opportunities for expression for all children rather than just learning for tests which not all children will be good at nor enjoy."

Yes, Yes, Yes - so many of the going programs are understandably geared toward homework, testing...yet there are so many children who are so creative, artistic, great with their hands, etc. etc. or could be - if only there were other choices available - other venues.

Here is more from Alison's clear Wish List:

"I would also in my dream world make it that no one could ever be turned away for voluntary mental health treatment for any reason when they ask for it, child, family or adult. There would be a respite/crisis center in every region where people could go when they knew they needed help and a break from stress."

I left that comment in full because it's so so crucial. How might we go about writing a bill/petition to that effect nationally? Wow, this one provision could prevent so many problems including crime out of frustration. I'm hearing all the time that there are so few affordable options for mental health!

And more which is the world surely many of us could be working toward:

"And also there would be choices in mental health care not determined by corportate or other interests so that some folks could get therapy, some folks would get help with social skills and integrating into their community, some folks could have art therapy or music and everyone who wanted help getting a job could get that help including job coaches if needed on the job.

'We are so far from that dream now. We used to be closer to it actually in the '80's. Now people are put on waiting lists and have to meet strict criteria to get help they want.

'Thank you again for your openness."

I hope you don't mind me quoting you here again hoping MANY readers see this. Keep in touch. And let me know if you run across some good actions, ideas. I hope to keep reflecting on these truly insightful, reasonable expressions of great need for children, families and prevention.

And thank YOU Alison as well for sharing and your openness!