December 11, 2013
The Newtown Bee – Sandy Hook Families Joining Vice President Announcing $100 Million In Mental Health Funding
Rasmussen Reports – 54% Think More Focus on Mental Health Issues Will Prevent Future Newtown Incidents
One year ago in Newtown, Conn., our nation experience what I consider to be perhaps the saddest tragedy in our 237-year history. All of us parents remember hugging our children extra tightly that day, and having a tough time understanding how anyone could take the life of a defenseless child.
In the aftermath of this horrific event, I continue to pray for all those affected by the tragedy. But while I wish it had never happened, I still am thankful for the good that has come from this.
When I speak of good following the shooting, I speak of the subsequent nation-wide focus on mental health. Keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals is certainly part of the solution to prevent mass shootings. But the root of the problem lies in our ability to adequately treat mental health issues in this country.
One of the reasons people suffering from mental health issues do not get the treatment they deserve is because of the staggering amount of stigma that still exists around the issue. My belief is that the more open we are about our issues and the more we talk about – and collectively face – our problems, the more that stigma will fade. It may be uncomfortable to imagine that Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, was experiencing an episode of psychosis when he committed these crimes, but from my perspective, that could likely be the case.
At first, I might have said that Newtown added to the existing mental health stigma in a way, because, let’s face it – who would want to identify with a mass killer? I’m happy to say, though, that I saw a change in the media climate over the past six months, and it seems like most of the articles I read stressed that openness about mental health issues and early prevention are keys to reducing or eliminating the number of mass shootings in this country.
There is no shame in dealing with a mental illness. And while serious, it is common for persons to have thoughts that are either homicidal or suicidal. The shame comes when a person is dealing with these sorts of issues, and the only response they receive in return is one based in fear. We need to respond in love and understanding every time and explain to the person in crisis that their struggle is a medical one, no different than a broken leg or even cancer. We should all be willing and open to receiving psychiatric help with our heads held high.
I am proud of the way many of the family members of those injured, killed or affected by the Newtown tragedy have kept the focus on mental health, and I want them to know that their effort is helping to make a difference in saving lives. A new Rasmussen poll has shown that 54 percent of Americans now believe that a focus on mental health issues will help prevent another Newtown tragedy, which is up from 48 percent of respondents in a poll conducted just one year ago. While a six percent increase may not seem like a lot, consider where we’ll be if we can move the needle 6 points per year in the next seven years.
Today, let’s all take the time to pray and grieve with the families on the one-year anniversary of Newtown. But let’s also continue to fight for more mental health awareness that will improve lives in our communities and help prevent another Newtown from happening.