There is a wonderful prayer in the Hebrew prayer book called, “L’dor v’ dor….” from generation to generation. It speaks to the passage of the Jewish people and what they believe down through the ages. The recent death of Robert F. and Joan Kennedy’s granddaughter has set off a light bulb. Her death raises a mental health question.
We pass many things down from generation to generation, all of us not just Jews. There are many post-Holocaust studies about that horrible period. One that I find very interesting was done by Yad V’Shem (The Hand of G-d) Museum, better known as the Holocaust Museum, in Jerusalem. The study was about the generational impact of having lost someone, or many ones, in the Shoa (The Fire–another name for the Holocaust). The study shows that not only do the children of survivors have mental health issues from their family trauma but in many cases so do their children and grandchildren.
Clearly, the survivors, in large number have dysfunction. Some won’t talk about it–at all. Some seem bursting at the seams to talk about it but can only get out a thought, a phrase. Some are depressed, sad, morose. And some are so dedicated to wiping away the sadness they live a life vaudeville dysfunction that could kill them anyway. And who’s to say that’s not the guilt of having survived being worked out in a way to actually die for surviving?
I loved John F. Kennedy. He was my first political presidential hero. He was walking electricity. Being near him gave me palpable palpitations. Being in a hall or ballroom with him was like being in a room that had, instead of zyclon-B being pumped into it, oxygen being pumped into it. He was handsome, articulate, funny. Definitely a “wow.” And it wasn’t until after Watergate that president’s personal behavior was something they became accountable for. So the peccadillos-Kennedy were rumors, not campaign issues. Men and a lot of women gave JFK a pass for let’s say sleeping with Marilyn Monroe tossing it off with a “Well who wouldn’t?” shrug of the shoulders.
History will probably give Kennedy a B- or C+ for his job. After all, on civil rights, he went from center-right to center-left. He changed and put that change into legislation. On the other hand, he almost got up all blown up over Cuba forsaking Abe Lincoln’s advice to neer swap horses in mid-stream when he pulled back American air support in mid-invasion. Then again we might have been left in the exhaust fumes of the Russians in the race for the moon were it not for his leadership and determination. He was a well educated, well-dressed president who in many ways carried with his the Boston machine politics his state was so well known for.
So he gets assassinated, his brother does too. His other brother drinks so much that lighting a match near him could cause a conflagration. A date dies in his car. He straightens up, flies right, and dies of an ugly brain tumor. John Jr. flies himself into a pea-soup fog trying to reach Nantauket Island by plane in weather he was not rated to fly in killing himself and his love. Mixed in we find a few flaming alcoholics, maybe a murderer or two, and a couple of plain, ole daffy ducks. And now this.
A young woman, a Roman Catholic from a famous and famously traumatized family seems to prove the Holocaust theories related to mental health dysfunctions. So what we have here is not just a tragedy but another failing of America’s mental health system. She killed herself with drugs though we yet don’t know if it was intentional or not. A likely scenario is that she was drinking too much an didn’t count corrected. Another is that she flat out committed suicide. Either way, someone prescribed her enough stuff to kill herself with. Someone in doing so misdiagnosed or ignored the symptoms or what was to come.
So we have a two-pronged lesson here. One is that millions of people can’t get or can’t afford health insurance. The other is some doctors are making hay while the sun shines off of those who can afford it.
There is only one answer to the mental health crisis of America. Fix it!–at least from my perspective.
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