Asked how America should address those suffering from mental illness in the Q&A after his speech Wednesday night at the University of Connecticut, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro made a point of once again acknowledging that his grandfather suffered from mental illness, while asserting that rather than automatically turn to the federal government for help, there should exist a hierarchy that could be accessed in which the federal government would be the last resort, after an appeal to family, the religious or social community, the local government, and finally the state government.
The questioner asked:
So you said that you consider transgenderism a mental disorder, which is something that I don’t know enough about to properly debate you on and criticize, so more broadly that then brings me to ask, do you think that the United States should do more to develop proper infrastructure to take care of people generally who suffer from various mental illnesses or are we doing a fine job of this?
The answer is “yes.” The typical route of taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves more broadly — and I don’t believe, by the way, that every mental illness requires an entire system of infrastructure — I don’t think a transgender person is suffering from the same type of mental disorder as somebody who has severe bipolar disorder, for example. My grandfather on my father’s side, my dad’s dad, suffered from either manic-depression or actual schizophrenia and had to be institutionalized for a while. That’s a different thing than transgenderism, for example, so the treatments are not the same for every mental disorder, of course.
But the idea that people who can’t take care of themselves need some sort of net is well established in American public life. But I would suggest that the place that you start is the place that everyone starts when they need help. You start with the family; if the family can’t help then you go to the community, and I mean generally the religious and social community; if that can’t help you go to local government; if that can’t help, state government; if that can’t help, federal government.
One of the great tragedies of our mental illness system is that it’s been federalized. So it used to be that the local and state communities were largely responsible for funding mental health facilities. In the 1960s, JFK, because he had a sister who was mentally ill, thought that the federal government could do a better job and he actually imposed from above a federal system in terms of mental illness and how to take care of people who were mentally ill. That actually removed responsibility from states. States just threw the burden onto the federal government.
It’s made facilities worse. In the 1970s there was a vast release of people who were mentally ill, and probably shouldn’t be on the streets, onto the streets. That led to a significant uptick, for example, in homelessness. A huge percentage of people who are homeless across the nation are people with severe mental illness who need to be on drugs and are not being given their drugs and are being told that it’s an aspect of freedom to live on the streets and live in misery. I don’t think that’s right at all. That’s my short answer as to what we need to do with people who can’t take care of themselves.