Massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary

Mental Health Crucial to Well-Being

The tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut have put mental health issues in sharp focus for our nation.  As we look at the consequences of these events, we must consider the troubled individuals who lack appropriate ways to express their frustrations and emotional pain, the difficulties and confusion experienced by their families in trying to help them, and the enduring needs of people who have been affected by trauma.  All too often, people with mental illness and their families have felt isolated; dealing with the additional burden of stigma, which further limits the possibility of treatment and recovery.  It is important to know that there is help for individuals and families who are feeling stressed and distressed and that there are resources to help in difficult times.  In addition, I believe that reaching out to communities is crucial to providing hope to the various communities which make up our cities and towns throughout the United States.

People everywhere struggle with psychological problems stemming from physical illnesses, life changes, and relationship pressures.  In addition, many people may find the adjustments to life to be very difficult; there are stresses associated with everyday living in today’s fast-paced environment.  Sometimes conflicts and stresses associated with daily living become especially apparent, and it is confusing for families to know how to cope with such stresses. Family members who are struggling to understand and help someone with a brain disorder (the basis for true mental illness) may have increased grief and guilt.  They may also feel overwhelmed by dealing with an unfamiliar mental health system and types of treatment that are different and perplexing. However, your local mental health department should be able to offer guidance to individuals and families from a positive and respectful perspective.

I recognize that often the first call made to a mental health provider is the most difficult one to make, but every mental health hospital in the US should have ways to offer support to individuals and families in need. Hospitals should have attentive and caring clinicians who can assess concerns about mental health and the emotional development of children and adults.  If you seek mental health care, clinicians should also be able to determine the urgency of your concern and to work with you to select the most qualified service provider to begin treatment and to help you on the road to recovery and wellness.

Health, safety, and a sense of emotional balance are crucial for all members of our communities, and it is our responsibility to assist everyone in achieving these goals.  Recognizing potential problems is the first step, and intervention can help to prevent more serious issues in the future.  The only shame of mental illness is when it is not acknowledged or treated. Let’s work together to help people find their strength and begin to heal. We must collaborate as members of the wider community to increase access to mental health care and help reduce the likelihood that horrors like the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary do not continue to occur.

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