Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The US is listening now, only because of Tragedy in Arizona

BY: GG BURNS, Kentucky Mental Health Advocate

It has been an extremely heartbreaking few days for many across the US. The senseless tragedy in Arizona has been difficult to put out of my mind. I cannot help, but think of the parents of Jared Loughner, as well as the family and friends of those who perished, or were injured in that Tucson shopping center parking lot. There has been much speculation the shooter had serious, "untreated" mental illness, ... and with that knowledge we all begin to form our own opinions. All advocates know the slippery slope here ... but here goes.

For a long time, many national Mental Health experts have written books, blog postings and news/media articles about the need to reform mental health care in the US. Additionally, the need to revise mental health laws in all 50 states is a controversial subject, especially in Kentucky.
  1. Lack of funding.
  2. Lack of services,
  3. Civil liberties,
  4. A nation of apathetic citizens who do not want to talk about mental illness.
I was once told newspapers did not want to publish positive stories of recovery and celebration from Mental Health organizations. I was told the subject of mental illnesses (which are biological brain diseases), did NOT sell newspapers! Well, tragedies from untreated mental illness does.

To revise the broken health care system, (especially the part about lack of mental health services and supports), will demand many divisions of federal, state and local governments working together. Is this impossible ~ no. Is this task too great and therefore no one seems to know where to begin ~ yes.

My expression of the week is:
I am disgusted with leaders in Kentucky saying, "the mental health system is broken and there is nothing we can do." This attitude is why Kentucky continues to receive an "F" for mental health care. We can do something about it, but we all must work together.

In the past 48 hours, hundreds of articles have been released by leading mental health experts across the nation. Every agency and organization I follow have published their views on this horrible tragedy. Sadly, these events will continue over and over until we begin to think "preventative" ... instead of "re-active", blame, then forget ... until the next time.

Below are links to some of the best articles I have read. I hope you will take the time to read them and "think" about ways we can work together to make a difference. Click on the headlines to read each article.

Please leave a comment, as I am using this blog to show support to "change mental health care laws in Kentucky". You may leave your comments anonymously.


A Predictable Tragedy in Arizona

We emptied state mental hospitals starting in the 1960s without providing adequate treatment alternatives.


Time to speak out, not hide!

It’s time for advocates to speak out and demand reforms!

NAMI | The Arizona Tragedy and Mental Health Care:

Statement by Michael J. Fitzpatrick, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

"Acts of violence are exceptional. They are a sign that something has gone terribly wrong, usually in the mental health care system."


The shooting's true lesson

Now that someone with mental illness has shot one of Washington's own, maybe Congress will start to pay attention to its abysmal failure to provide care for the most seriously mentally-ill Americans.


  1. Gina, thank you for your advocacy and for speaking the plain truth and raising awareness about untreated serious mental illness. It's not just across the nation from us ... or in another country ... it's in our own homes, our own backyards. It is my hope that every state's AOT laws will be reformed and only made stronger by this tragedy - and that those states without AOT will wake up to recognize the urgent need, i.e. my home state - Tennessee. It's way past time.

  2. Maybe this tragedy will help to "wake up" society as a whole about the importance of having our AOT laws reformed.
    It would be so much better to help people with brain diseases before tragedy strikes. There is so much suffering that can be prevented for the families of everyone involved.
    We need to work together. We can do it.

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