A week after the horrific gun rampage at
Yes, as graves were still being dug for tiny coffins in
That's how these shootings always play out. One side says, At long last, it's time to control guns. The other side says, Oh, dear, I better stock my arsenal while I still can.
Easy access to extremely lethal firepower is an issue we have to resolve, but it's not the only problem made plain by these mass murder attacks. Another one is the state of mental health care.
Countless people have to deal with problems such as raising a bipolar child, or managing episodic depression and their job, or affording longterm cognitive therapy that can help them develop coping skills and thus keep them from reaching for alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. Coping with mental illness is a struggle and a burden that very few have the resources to deal with on their own. They need help.
One in four people will suffer from a mental health issue within their lifetime. At least 38,364 people committed suicide in 2010. Rates have been increasing since 2000.
A brave blog post made the rounds with the provocative headline "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother."
It stirred a lot of attention and even much compassion, but relatively few concrete suggestions of what we can do to help parents and children caught in this situation.
The anguish mental illness visits upon people's lives is more preventable today than it has ever been, thanks to prescription medications, research on the brain and its chemistry, and better diagnosis and treatment programs. Yet mental health is simply not the type of problem that people like to rally around.
That's too bad, because public funding of mental healthcare has been hard hit by the recession and rounds of fiscal austerity. In the past three years, at least
Here is how the budget cuts are playing out across America: States are cutting staff, closing state hospitals, restricting the numbers served, shifting to for-profit managed care systems and reducing crisis treatment. Particularly hard hit is programming meant to be easily accessible within communities.
Here is how we "care" for people struggling with mental health in America: They are our homeless. They are emergency room patients. Prisons are stuffed with them. More than half of the nation's prisoners have or have had a mental disorder.
Fold in societal stigmas and harmful mischaracterizations that link mental illness with evil, and it shouldn't shock that so many people don't benefit from appropriate care.
Mental illness is complicated, and our hesitations to deal with it are multiple. Legal quandaries exist when the patient is an adult unwilling to seek care. Still-developing children are difficult to diagnose, as are people with co-occurring issues like alcoholism paired with a mental disorder.
What if he'd had a caseworker? A mental health assessment of the 20-year-old would probably have revealed that he was suicidal, and that would have raised the question of whether there are guns in the home. Timely intervention might have kept this tragedy from happening.
The well-armed of America have the coffers of the NRA working for them, and far too many weak-willed members of
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