Mental health is an issue seldom talked about in our country in the wake of violence.
However, we had a mental health situation close to home make national headlines last week when Scott Stockert, a Dickinson man with a history of mental health issues, drove his pickup to Washington, D.C. with the alleged intention of kidnapping President Barack Obama’s dog, Bo.
He claimed to arresting officers that he was Jesus Christ and was planning to run for president.
The story went viral not only on The Press website, but on countless others throughout the world.
Millions got a good laugh out of it.
The comments section on our Facebook page were mostly humorous in nature. Yet only a handful of people brought up possible mental health concerns.
The situation wasn’t really something to laugh about.
Stockert was found in Washington with a shotgun, a rifle, a machete and a billy club in his possession, as well as plenty of ammunition for both guns.
We don’t know what Stockert’s actual intentions were, but anecdotal evidence from the Stark County Sheriff’s Office tells us he was not taking his medications, and that he was planning to commit a crime.
We shouldn’t be making light of this issue.
We should be talking about how a man like Stockert, with mental health issues documented over the past 20 years — including an incident where he pointed a gun at Dickinson police officers — was able to get into a pickup with guns and other weapons, and drive across the country to our nation’s capital virtually undetected outside of text messages sent to his family.
When it comes to the great gun debate of the past few years, so many are quick to rush to take away gun rights and guns themselves.
Mental health related to crime and violence needs to become a much bigger part of the national conversation — and fast.
Very few talk about how people with mental issues get guns and other weapons, or how we can keep them from doing so and committing crimes.
In President Barack Obama’s proposed executive action on guns, there is the possibility of a $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care in the U.S., which I agree is needed. But while it seems like a lot of money, it’s chump change for the federal government and likely won’t do much to largely improve mental health care in America.
Our country needs to make a substantial investment in mental health issues, because they’re not going away.
While we’re at it, let’s stop worrying about guns so much and let’s start worrying more about people like Stockert who had access to guns and weapons but shouldn’t based on their recorded mental health history.
I commend law enforcement from bottom up, from the Stark County Sheriff’s Office to the U.S. Secret Service agents in Washington, who worked together to find and eventually arrest Stockert, and I pray for him and his family that he gets the help he needs.