The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Post Office shooting:
A tragic indictment of our national health system

Feb 13, 2006

The woman who shot and killed seven people, including six employees at a postal distribution facility in Goleta, California before killing herself, was in dire need of help. But she didn’t get that help – not from her employer, the U.S. Postal Service, nor anywhere else in this society.

Jennifer Sanmarco clearly had a history of severe mental illness. In the early 2000s, she had grown increasingly confrontational and paranoid toward her co-workers, and she was seen talking to herself incoherently on numerous occasions. She was once removed from the facility by sheriff’s deputies and held in a mental health facility for 72 hours before being released. In 2003, she was put on medical leave for psychiatric reasons.

Instead of getting her treatment, the Post Office simply let her go, and let her disappear. She moved from California to a small New Mexico town, where residents saw her behavior become increasingly bizarre. She made plans to start a newsletter called “The Racist Press.” It’s unclear what this meant to her: the two issues that she published were filled with as many incoherent ramblings as her speech apparently was.

In any case, would anyone be surprised if someone in Sanmarco’s mental condition absorbed racist views, one of the most disgusting and most widespread pathologies in our society?

Once she left the Post Office, Sanmarco lost the structure to her life that a job imposes. Not only that, but she lost her access to any regular medical treatment, including mental health treatment. This is what it means in a society where medical treatment is tied to a person’s job: just when a person may need it the most, they lose it completely.

And, thanks to the dismantling of the institutional mental health care system in the 1980s, Sanmarco had nowhere to go, and no options for treatment.

Sanmarco was undoubtedly mentally ill and deteriorating for years. It’s absolutely criminal that she didn’t get the help she needed. This country’s disgustingly inadequate health care structure has eight more deaths on its hands.