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Pay attention to mental illness



Published: Thu, February 7, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, Ill.: Following the school shootings in December, the nation’s gun laws seemed the obvious place to look to prevent future attacks in schools, malls, theaters and workplaces. But another key theme that emerged — and deserves a great deal of attention as well — is the question of how to help the mentally ill.

That it takes a mass shooting for us to consider in depth the needs of the mentally ill is a tragedy in itself. Perhaps this topic is uncomfortable to us because mental health is such an imprecise science; human beings are vastly more complicated than a metal barrel with a trigger. Or maybe it’s the specter of the growing costs to treat the mentally ill. Help for them is not something we can throw more money at because there isn’t more money to throw. Illinois cut funding for mental health programs last year by 13 percent, the highest drop in the nation, according to a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

What should be done? While lawmakers weigh funding issues, an important piece of any solution must be education and awareness at all levels. Until the public has a better understanding of the signs and best treatment of mental illness ... progress will lag.

As for prevention of future tragedies or mass shootings, we can do a better job of learning the signs in someone at risk of committing an act of violence. If we turn our backs, we all will suffer. The loss of 28 lives in Connecticut has rekindled the debate about mental illness.


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