The two-sided coin: Mental illness and those who push them to the brink

Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.


Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune.

You can’t really judge a situation without judging the reason behind it. No matter what it looks like, there might be a story behind it that puts it in a whole new light. That’s why I always enjoyed hearing Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story.”
The deed generally gets more coverage than the reason behind the deed. And that is why we have courts, juries, and judges and no longer accept the Old Wild West kind of justice. While most people still put more stock in the deed, we need our chance to tell the rest of the story.
Telling the other side of the story, which probably includes the reason for the deed, may well allow for the deed to be seen through the eyes of mercy. However, mercy notwithstanding, justice must always prevail in the end.
Once more, we, as a nation, have been faced with what looks like another senseless massacre of innocent people. It was ten people this time, random people, because they were only those who were in that grocery store in Boulder at that time. It was not planned for very particular people, but it was obviously planned, since the perpetrator wore a protective vest and came equipped with the weapons of his choice, having just bought one of them about a week before the rampage.
As we are learning, the person in custody had at least one other violent episode that brought him in contact with the police. There was an attack on a classmate when in high school, punching the student in the head and leaving him injured. But others can testify to his short fuse and maybe even his oddness in some ways. But his own family members believed he had some kind of mental illness, and we don’t really know, today, if they tried to do anything about it, or if they could. I won’t comment on what I don’t know, but often, when a family member has mental issues, it may not be covered by their insurance and that may well be the sole reason why they don’t get help.
Mental illness does not show up like a broken leg or even a feverish flu-like condition that has been going around of late (COVID-19) so it
isn’t right up front and center for anyone to take notice and take the person to a doctor for evaluation. And some people don’t want mental
illness written into their health records for any number of reasons, yet the biggest problem with mental illness is not having it, but refusing to get it “fixed.”
It is true that some people might live their whole life with mental problems and never even consider, let alone plan and act out, the killing of others. But then there are others who appear quite mentally okay and do harbor such thoughts. So what can we do when we don’t know
what is going on inside the mind of another?
Every now and then, the subject of bullying raises its ugly head. I personally feel that bullying is a very big contributing factor to the suicide of the young. And when you factor mental illness into the picture, bullying may well push the one suffering from the mental
illness right to the brink of doing the unthinkable, as we’ve unfortunately seen more than we ever should have.
While we cannot let mental illness become a catch-all for those who don’t want to take responsibility for their actions, it is so important to diagnose it and treat it in the young and not presume they are just “acting out,” as many adults might tend to say. I believe every mother or person who will be caring for a child should go home with a guide book on things to be on the lookout for as their little bundle of joy grows. It’s easy enough to read a book on how to bathe, feed, and toilet train a child, or get that kind of guidance from another experienced mother, but how many doctors ever bring up the subject of mental health, just in case.
It’s high time for that to be included in our regular health care packages, as liberally as our physical health needs are included, and it’s especially needful to have that for our dependent children. The cost of preventive mental health care is far, far cheaper, in terms of cost alone, than the cost of lives lost to the actions of someone who has lost control of their ability to make wise and sensible choices. A sick mind or an injured brain cannot always make those sensible choices and might not even be aware of his own faulty choice-making ability.
Why wait till the mentally-ill person has gone too far to diagnose the problem? We go through this all the time when there’s another episode similar to Phoenix or Boulder. The solution may not work every time, but what has been done so far?
We need to devise the kind of tests that would best discover any possible mental illness in our children, then do something about it, without cost to the family. (If we can pay for all kinds of assistance to those who come here without going through proper channels, we can
surely pay for assistance to keep, and help our nation’s own children get, mentally okay.) Don’t we owe them that much? And while we’re at it, schools need to develop and carry out strict ways of dealing with bullying, because often children who are bullies get away with it
because of lax parenting. We may one day get to where no bullying is common, resulting in fewer mentally unbalanced children being pushed into doing the unthinkable.
Regardless of the reasons — and there may be many different ones — we have to start somewhere. We can’t keep ignoring signs of mental
illness and the depression that is caused by bullies to make children go so far as to kill others or themselves.
Words do not stop killings. Promises do not stop killings. Taking away weapons will not stop killings. We need action to help children and
even adults get their thinking straight and learn the golden rule — the best possible rule for anyone’s behavior and a nonpartisan rule that would help us all if politicians also followed it as an example to show us it’s never too late and it really is for everyone.
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And pray for those who don’t.
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Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at

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