Another day goes by with another incident of violence and another nod to mental illness. As I continue to read the almost daily accounts of shootings, and now stabbings, in a variety of settings, from college campuses to our high schools and lower schools, to our workplaces and our religious institutions, I wonder what will it take to get the attention of those in power to really and truly work on stopping the violence. Can we ever stop it completely? Of course not. That would be folly to imagine and hope for. But, can we reduce the violence? Absolutely. All it takes is priority, commitment and finally saying enough. Right now, we continue to have media blitz after each and every tragedy. We see grieving families, both the victims' and the perpetrators', we see talking heads, me included, discussing the whys and wherefores of the current incident.
There are few who are discussing the solutions, those of us who do, speaking for myself, feel like the proverbial broken record. We talk about red flags, threat assessment teams, education and training, know it when you see it, early intervention, proactive rather than reactive, revise the laws to accommodate loved ones who can and want to help, they are truly the ones on the so-called firing line, day in and day out. Let's break it down to its core, it is not solely about gun control it is about funding and priority for those in our society who have an illness and who need compassion, treatment, support, a chance at recovery and a better life. It is those in our society who have mental health issues.
Notice I am talking about mental health issues, purposely staying away from using the label "mentally ill". The phrase "mentally ill" sadly carries a heavy stigma, disdain and assumptions that can prohibit and discourage someone from seeking treatment. There is much misconception and misinformation. People in our communities are suffering silently with these problems and don't know where to turn.
As I've said over and over, those with serious mental illness are more often the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators. The stigma abounds and of course this too is a diversion away from the real issues - funding and priority. We must also look into treatment, education and training, in and outpatient programs, wrap around services such as case management, revision of outdated commitment, confidentiality and law enforcement laws as well as the need for more mental health trained professionals, with the concomitant financial support and remuneration. The solutions are right in front of us, but we continue to step over them rather than step up to them. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle and if we were to carefully create a plan that includes all of that, then maybe headlines such as "Tragic School Shooting" will be a thing of the past. So, what will it take?
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