Monday, December 17, 2012

Magnification of Mental Health (is a Must), Not Just Gun Control

My thoughts and prayers go out to you...
My thoughts and prayers go out to you...
I know the main debate is going to be focused on gun control.  It is understandable considering that assault rifles were used in this terrible tragedy.  I don’t want this to turn into a big writing about gun control, although something does need to be done regarding the accessibility of these types of weapons.
mental illness
I want to focus more on the topic that won’t get nearly as much spotlight; the role that mental illness has in this whole tragedy. I feel like there is going to be an overemphasis in the issue of gun control and not enough emphasis on the mental illness aspect.
guncontrolThe guns—the weapons themselves-- cannot cause harm unless there’s a person pulling the trigger.
There needs to be a focus on the mental state of the types of people who have possession of guns.
My grandfather was an owner of guns. True, they weren't assault rifles. But he did have hunting guns and a few guns for his protection. I just don’t want this to turn into "if a person owns a gun then there’s a problem." One of my uncles has a gun. Even my grandmother had a gun given to her, although she has never used it. I, myself, have thought about owning a gun, although 99 times out of a 100, I would probably pull out my blade first rather than think about reaching for a gun.
It’s the people who cause the damage.
In this tragedy, it was reported that the murderer had a mental illness. This, by no means, gives any justification as to what he did, but it does pose the question as to the efforts in respect to how mental illness is treated.
The thing about mental illness is that it’s not always in plain sight. There’s this misconception that a person has to “act or behave strangely growing up”; otherwise, a person is "fine and functional."
It reminds me of one of the guys I knew back when I was growing up. He’s currently struggling to live somewhat of a normal life, going in and out of psych hospitals. He was just initially seen as quiet, not really wanting to interact with people. Heck, the only thing I found annoying about him was that he would pick on me.
Yet, as soon as word got out that he had been diagnosed as being “manic depressive”, then folks starting going back and thinking. Perhaps there was “something wrong with that boy.”
So mental illness can go undetected when people aren't fully aware of the signs.
However, it is more dangerous when people are aware some things aren't quite right, but don’t step in or just aren't sure what to do, but they just don’t do anything. It’s too easy for one to turn a blind eye if it’s not happening in his neighborhood or in his family…but the impact of doing nothing has the potential to destroy an entire community if not caught in time.
Then, on top of the diagnosis, the whole aspect of being diagnosed properly. All types of depression and disorders aren't the same, although they can mirror similar symptoms.
Like, my ex, M, for example. Most of her life, she had been diagnosed as being clinically depressed, but within the past few years, it was discovered she had been misdiagnosed and that she actually has bipolar disorder. Therefore, she wasn't on the right medication and/or enough medication, which played a significant part in some of her relapses in destructive behavior. She usually turned the destructive behavior in on herself, but not every person diagnosed with a mental illness does this.
There’s not enough investment in diagnosis and treatment for mental illness.  In more instances than not, mental illness funds are the ones which get the ax.  (Mental Health Funding Decreases in Many States)
Now there are growing stories.
Stories where a person is put on a waiting list now for treatment (therapy, medication) instead of getting seen right away. There are so many reasons being spit out as to why this is taking place:
1. Not enough doctors available.
2. Insurance not willing to cover it.
3. Benefits associated with covering mental illness exhausted.
4. Too expensive to fund care out of pocket.
5. Cut funding/no funding for those who want help but are unable to pay or don’t make enough money to pay.
6. Not enough therapists available.
7. Overcrowding in the psychiatric facilities so have to put a time limit on how long you can be there
8. Not enough outpatient resources available
Sadly enough, I’ve read a few stories where people calling for help (because they were contemplating suicide) got put on hold. Out of all the times to be put on hold, that moment was definitely NOT the time. Yet there are reasons people are saying this is happening:
1. Not enough staffing at the hotlines
2. Phone personnel not fully trained on the protocol when these things happen
3. Resources (website, phone numbers) not quickly at another’s disposal
4. Funding cut for hotlines
I’m not saying these aren’t reasons; I’m just saying these types of things shouldn’t be happening. When a person seeks help, the help should be available. One shouldn’t have to go through a lot of haggling and red tape just to get himself mentally well.
Do I think gun control laws should be stricter in respect to assault rifles guns and carsaccessibility? Most definitely.
However, if that issue is going to be tackled, we have to be prepared to tackle the trenches that exist as it regards to mental health.  Something has to be done about that, too.
These things can no longer wait until another day or continue to be used as political bargaining chips. The time has to be NOW.
How many more tragedies have to occur before action takes place?
I pray the answer to this question is, "None."

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