We are deeply saddened by the mass shooting at the Connecticut elementary school in which twenty children and six adults lost their lives. We mourn after such a tragedy and maybe even shed a few tears as did President Obama. Then we go on with our lives, feeling there is nothing we can do. But there are steps we can take to decrease the likelihood of such events happening. Proper identification and treatment of mental illness before these catastrophes occur would go far in making our world a safer place. Most of those affected by mental illness can be successfully treated, so why aren’t they?
We routinely screen for physical ailments such as breast and colon cancer, but not for mental illness. When abnormal behaviors occur, we as friends, family and neighbors don’t want to get involved.
There is a lack of adequate and competent mental health practitioners. I was without a psychiatrist for five months last summer as our county mental health center closed.
Cost of treatment prevents many from staying on medication. My drugs cost over one thousand dollars a month. Those without insurance can’t afford this. Even with insurance, co-pays add up quickly as several medications are often needed.
Many quit taking medications due to side-effects or lack of patience with trying one medication after another until the proper regimen is found. In my case, it took four years to find effective meds that don’t cause undue side-effects.
There is a huge stigma to admitting to having a mental illness. Too often sufferers are ridiculed and ostracized, preferring to hide rather than admit to needing help.
For the past few days, gun control has been discussed ad nauseum, and though this dialogue is worthwhile, little is being said about the need to improve our mental healthcare system. If the mentally ill were properly identified and treated, the likelihood of tragedies such as this would surely be reduced.