By Kathy Day
December 14, 2014
Two years ago today, a young adult with untreated mental illness killed his mother, and then
drove to the elementary school that he attended when he was a child. He opened
fire in a classroom, killing twenty children and six staff before turning his
weapon on himself.
After that terrible tragedy, our elected officials vowed to
make changes in our system so that this would never happen again.
have not been made.
We have had 44 school shootings since the Newtown tragedy
(as of June, 2014 according to CNN).
These tragedies are preventable.
It's not only schools that bear the brunt of our
dysfunctional system. There are many unseen tragedies of smaller proportion.
Law enforcement officers often kill people with untreated mental illness when they are in crisis. On average, 40,000 people take their own lives
each year, due to mental illness. It's estimated that 2/3 of homeless people
have untreated mental illness and 1/3 of those incarcerated.
Years ago, there was an outcry to move mentally ill people out of the
psychiatric hospitals and into the community. What a noble idea. But the
community wasn't ready for the influx of people who need support. The laws
changed, making it more difficult for families to get help for their loved
ones. We have arbitrary 72-hour holds for people who do get hospitalized, but
that can be appealed in front of an administrative law judge.
The LAW is all over the place in these mental illnesses, but in NO other illness is it so prevalent. Judges often make the call about
whether or not a person with mental illness needs medical
treatment, frequently going against the advice of the medical doctors. This
must stop. We are supposed to be more civilized than this.
We need to bring dignity to people with mental illness and
treat them when they are too sick to seek help on their own. We do that for
people who are brought into the ER unconscious and unable to speak for
themselves. We do that for people with dementia.
Why don't we allow the same dignity of a Right2Treatment for
people with severe mental illness?
We needed this two years ago. We've wasted two years arguing
about which party has the better plan. We've argued that people have the right
to be homeless and psychotic.
The bottom line is that everyone has the right to receive
treatment so that they can enjoy life and be productive. We should at least
try, shouldn't we?
How better to honor the children who have died at the hands
of someone with mental illness? We all have to work
together. Mental illness has been said to affect 1 in 4 Americans. I disagree.
It affects all of us in one-way or another.
Let's speak up and change the system!
Those changes have not been made.