DON’T SCARE AWAY PEOPLE SEEKING HELP by Ron Honberg
In the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, it’s important to consider whether changes to America’s gun laws are needed. The focus should be on steps to keep highly lethal weapons out of the hands of dangeous individuals, whether or not they suffer from a mnetal illness or not.
One in four Americans experience a mental health problem in any given year. One in 17 people live with a serious mental illness. Most are not violent. The majority of violent crimes are committed by people who do not suffer from a mental illness.
Since 2008, America has cut $4 billion from its already ailing public mental health system. Many community mental health programs have disappeared and more then 4,000 psychiatric hospital beds have been eliminated. For too many, even basic mental health care is illusory because people can’t get help until they go into crisis.
It is time to make mental health care a continual national priority, not just in the days after tragedies.
Ron Honberg is the national director of policy and legal affairs for the National Alliance on Mental illness.