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home : opinions : opinions July 27, 2015

1/19/2013 10:00:00 PM
Editorial: Mentally ill need help, not disdain
The Daily Courier

Until society quits stigmatizing mental illness, we won't conquer a problem that affects millions of families across America.

The subject is prominent once again because of the mass shootings at a Connecticut elementary school in December.

But, truth be known, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of crimes because of their vulnerabilities rather than perpetrators of criminal acts.

Memories of recent tragedies in Connecticut, Aurora, Colo., and Tucson weave through every discussion we have today about how to prevent violence in our country.

Debate about guns and violence aside, this country must put as much power behind finding answers to mental illness as it has in its attention to gun rights.

This past week, President Barack Obama set out his agenda for stemming gun violence in a speech to the American public, and after he left the podium, he signed executive orders giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence. "We will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence," he said, adding, "I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best way to reduce" gun violence.

In response to Obama's pledge, he got applause from Michael Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), who was part of Vice President Joe Biden's task force that submitted recommendations for ending gun violence to the president. "Out of tragedy, Americans today have an opportunity that probably comes only once in a generation. The mental healthcare system has long been broken. The challenge is not to fix it, but to build it anew," he said.

In the flurry of rhetoric between gun advocates and those who want restraints on guns, the sides come together on one point: Mental health care in America gets the short end of the stick when it comes to resources and money.

Let's not let this chance for reforms get away, and let's not limit the discussion to gun violence.

First, we must realize that no family is immune to mental illness. It is a disease that is not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing, as NAMI states on its website. It is just as insidious as cancer or any crippling physical disease.

Yet, there is hope for people who suffer mental illness if they get the appropriate treatment.

These people need our support. Stigmatizing their disease only stands in our way.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Article comment by: Another Tragedy In New Mexico

Once again, a male youth finds his parents guns and murders his entire family. Gun laws not working here. Maybe we need to find the real problem in this country. In the past our schools, families, airports were all safe. What happened?

Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Article comment by: Massacre at NRA

@American Spirit,
The mind is the construct of the brain. One can have a problem with rationality, perception or overwhelmed by events that affect behavior and sense of well being, and have a healthy brain organ.

PTSD is and example of being overwhelmed by traumatic events that produce adrenalin. That event or series of events in memory continue to produce a stimulus that continues adrenalin. This production is continual to the point of exhaustion by the continual stress produced by continual recall of the real events. A rather nasty feed-back loop of stimulus, exhaustion and depression affecting decisions and behaviors.

One needs to make a diagnosis if the problem is with the organ like a tumor or stroke, or the rational thinking and control of the mind.

Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Article comment by: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

The problem of mental illness in this country wil only get worse. (Have you noticed the kind of people we're raising these days?) We will never have enough resources to sufficiently control the problem. Still we should make every reasonable effort to address the issue.

It's also very easy and convenient to contend that horrific violence can only be commited by a mentally ustable person. That is untrue. Some people are simply evil, commit unspeakable acts, and yet would never be considered clinically mentally ill.

Addressing the issue of violence in our country is not a one-step solution. Yes, improving care of mental illness is one step, but a necessary component is taking reasonable efforts to minimize their convenient access to weapons of destruction such as firearms.

Posted: Monday, January 21, 2013
Article comment by: E B

You can be sure that the ACLU will be there every step of the way working to prevent anyone from forcing the mentally ill to receive treatment. Thanks to liberal lawyers, the mentally ill have the right to be crazy

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: Truth Please


Section 7a... I know that people who are found to be mentally ill lose the right to a firearm because I had a friend who had his guns taken from him by the ATF no less!! This guy was the gentlest soul but was Bipolar. NOT a threat to anyone.

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: Mr Maverick

The Arizona State Hospital is underfunded every year. People do not care about the mentally ill until they break the law.

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: To American Spirit

Well said. I agree 100000%. There is a very limited system in most states and I have seen the system fail. over and over. And all the facts you state are true...and that is the real problem.

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: To Truth Please

Wow. Really? Then how did VA Tech get his stuff? Or how about at gun shows? It may be required, but it is not enforced. It is soooo easy to get stuff without a background check. Perhaps that is part of what needs fixing.

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: American Spirit

Medical science proved decades ago that the Mind – and all of its Moods - are simply a result of our brain’s chemical/electrical processing.

Treatment is available now. Unfortunately, medical insurance companies deny, or limit, treatment of "The Mind".

You may be surprised to learn that for patients aged 18-64, there is NO public assistance system to provide medications or therapy.

The public mistakenly assumes treatment is accessible for mental illness. Not, so

Programs (such as, AHCCCS or Medi-Cal in southern California) will only treat patients under age 18 and over age 65. For those who are treated – state-of-the-art medicines are denied, due to cost (as much as $7 per pill – or $1500 per month). Older, less effective medicines are offered but don’t work, leaving the patient with severe symptoms.

Until the public understands mental illness and realizes that it IS a physical illness caused by malfunction of the brain (not "the Mind") - our social challenge will linger.

When the public agrees that it's in society's best interest to view the brain (and its malfunction) in the same way it views a malfunctioning kidney, liver or pancreas, ...we will become safer.

Mental illness can no more be cured through strict limit setting, punishment or incentive than paraplegia can be cured through an incentive to stand and walk. It is a physical disorder. It requires careful diagnosis and medical treatment.

Until we can grasp that concept, and offer fair/equal medical treatment for psychiatric patients, we'll risk being victims to the very illness we wish to ignore.

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: Attentive Listener

Truth Please- I do not think you are correct. You lose no civil rights when given a psychiatric diagnosis. Do you mean when someone is declared incompetent?

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: What Has Happened To America

true story-my father was a policeman for 20 years in a major big city on the east coast in the 1950's and 1960's, and only had to use his gun once. People respected the police and they were there to protect the public and be your friend at the same time. My school friends liked my dad for being a "fair cop" but strict, My siblings (4 kids) and I knew he had 2 guns but never knew where they were kept. We had total "respect" for his job and not to even look or touch these weapons, if found. What has gone so wrong since then? It's not the guns, it's our society and the disrespect for everyone today? Glad I grew up in another time.

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: Are Parents In Denial?

These many tragedies could have been prevented if the parents and family members weren't in "denial" of their son's mental state of mind. The recent tragedy was the mother's lack of providing her son with the correct facility to receive the correct help he needed, NOT the shooting range or living alone most of the time. She unfortunately received the outcome of her denial, as did many others.

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: Prescott Valley Resident

When I was a Police officer we had criminals and crazies , Criminals robbed, stole, and murdered for profit or revenge. Crazies went into McDonald's and shot 13 people for no reason. Criminals tried to get away , crazies killed themselves of had us do it. Criminals went to jail to learn how to be better criminals and not get caught the next time, crazies were usually dead. I would rather deal with criminals, there is a reasoning to their actions. Crazies hear dogs talking to them(son of Sam) or just want to kill for some reason only known to them. Both of these groups should not have firearms, but they do. So let's do the next best thing and restrict firearms for the honest people, tell me how that one makes sense.

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: Truth Please

The point that is being missed is that Guns don't kill and people with mental illness don't kill, CRIMINALS KILL!! It is against the law for someone who has been deemed mentally ill to own a gun, so if they do in fact own one they are breaking the law.

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: Steven Ayres

I absolutely agree that mental health is a sorely neglected factor in our public discourse and policy, and needs much more attention. I hope that attention will help to broaden our general understanding of what mental ill health looks like. As I see it, mental health is exactly like physical health in that no one is perfectly healthy, good health requires regular attention and maintenance, and minor symptoms often indicate underlying larger pathology. We need a fresh look at the idea that any violent crime is "rational," and much the same goes for fear of crime.

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: Alan Whitney

Yes. They do need help. And they should not be held in disdain. But many need to be locked up, instead of committing murder.

Posted: Sunday, January 20, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Steele

The issue of gun violence and mental health is a mine field for lawyers and our constitutional protections. Clearly, the mentally unstable and those on strong medications for mental issues should have a block on purchasing and carrying weapons. Also, all guns within homes where they reside should be locked security. However to impede healthy Americans from the rights of protection is a clear violation of the second amendment.

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