We were all greatly saddened by the terrible events in Newtown, CT. The headline above does not actually exist, even in the National Enquirer, but was the result of me reading two separate articles one right after the other.
The first was an article about the National Rifle Association’s chief Wayne LaPierre who stated on national TV, “We have no national database of these lunatics… We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that’s got these monsters walking the streets.”
The second was an article about the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration’s recent release of the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH): Mental Health Findings report that found that 1/5 Americans has experienced some form of mental illness in the past year. As a person in long term recovery, it is always interesting to hear people spew uninformed comments about things near and dear to you. Since the horribly sad events in Newtown, CT, I have read hundreds of articles and comments to articles, not with interest, but with fear.
Why are we allowed to be monsters without the general public standing up outraged like they would if people used words like the N-word to describe black people or other unflattering words to describe homosexuals, women, or any group for that matter?
The reality is, research shows that people with the most severe mental illnesses can recover in our towns and cities if they have the right services and supports that are directed by them. As well, people with psychiatric disabilities are 11 times more likely to be victims rather than the perpetrators of violence. Further, we are not more likely to be violent than people without mental health issues.
With all of the negative and stigmatizing talk in print, online, and on the airwaves, it was refreshing to see Ron Mandersheid’s A Time To Cry for the Innocents, Then Act which called for efforts to ban assault weapons and pistols, set new standards for our entertainment industry, rebuild our communities, enhance services, and help people identify the signs of mental illness more easily.
Over the coming months and years there will be many policy debates about how to “solve the problem” presented by situations such as the Newtown tragedy. The time is now to do the right thing and create a recovery-based, person-centered service system to help all Americans recover and reach their full potential.