Mental Health Care in U.S. Questioned Amid Another Tragedy (With CBS News Video)
He added that the mental health care infrastructure just isn't there compared to care for other diseases. For example, a patient with cancer would be placed on a scientifically-backed comprehensive treatment plan with well-trained doctors for chemotherapy, radiation, etc., whereas people seeking mental health treatment need to do more work on their end not only find treatment but overcome these disincentives to get care.
While some individuals and their families may know there's a mental health problem, Lieberman said they may not take the recommended treatment because the U.S. does not require people to receive mental health treatment unless there's a risk of harm.
Even if it gets to that point, there are barriers.
Lieberman said there is a high threshold for evidence and risk for danger, in that someone has to have specific plans to cause harm, rather than just being someone with anger or self-control issues who may pose a threat. Even then, the doctor would need to call the appropriate law enforcement, fill out paperwork and go through a "cumbersome" process to get action, Lieberman said.
"In one way you got to protect the confidentiality and rights of patients, the other hand, we have the duty to protect society," he said. "Right now, the balance is tipped in favor of the individual against the interests of society."
Mental health care likely is not the only factor, he said, adding the American culture has more sensationalized violence on television, movies and video games than anyone growing up in the nineteenth century could have ever imagined.
However, when much of the focus has turned to gun control and what laws can be passed to prevent such an occurrence, those like Long want to shift the focus to other ways to provide more help for parents of a troubled child.
"Our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options," she wrote. "Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, 'Something must be done.' I agree that something must be done. It's time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health."