Guest Commentary: Tucson shooting opens discourse about mental health care system
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Questions about Jared Loughner’s mental health are arising, which is fueling a national conversation about mental illness, funding and accessibility. Mr. Loughner is the 22-year-old man who allegedly killed six and injured 14 in a Tucson, Ariz., Safeway on Saturday. While there is much speculation as to the young man’s motives, slowly in the public discourse an important conversation is taking shape around the country’s mental health care system.
There are three important points for the public to remember when framing mental illness in the context of a violent crime:
1. People with mental illness rarely commit violent crimes although this is when they receive the most attention.
2. In our state, mental health is not supported adequately through funding, insurance reimbursement and private donations .
3. In order to move the conversation forward about mental illness, stigma must be eliminated.
People with mental health conditions are no more likely to be violent than the rest of the population. A very small group of individuals with a specific type of mental health symptoms are at greater risk for violence if their symptoms are untreated. There are highly effective science-based methods to successfully treat persons with even the most severe mental illnesses. Treatment works.
It is important that, as a community, we assist persons with signs and symptoms of mental illnesses to seek treatment. We must open the dialogue and speak as freely about depression as we do about heart disease or breast cancer. Know the warning signs, know who to call and know where to get help.
Mental Health First Aid improves the mental health literacy of our community. This 12-hour course is designed to teach the public skills to help someone developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis situation. The philosophy behind the course is that mental health crises, such as suicidal and self-harming actions, may be avoided through early intervention with people developing mental disorders. If crises do arise, then members of the public can take action to reduce the harm that could result. Colorado West Regional Mental Health Inc. is proud to offer Mental Health First Aid training in your community. To inquire about offering your company or school group Mental Health First Aid please contact Jenni Fulton at Colorado West at (970) 683-7075 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharon Raggio is president and chief executive officer of Colorado West Regional Mental Health Inc. and Colorado West Psychiatric Hospital Inc.
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