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We have failed the mentally ill of our society

By on February 13, 2013
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By Tyler Mercer–

When the gun debate originally started, it was unnerving to hear people stating that it was those who were mentally ill that were killing people in shootings of all natures. It isn’t uncommon for anyone to look back at major tragedies such as the Aurora theater shooting or Columbine and say that the shooters were mentally ill and this is the direct cause of their actions. The idea that people still have this disturbing ignorance about mental illness truly troubles me and is something I believe should be changed immediately.

President John F. Kennedy proposed a program through whiche instead of state-funded centers for the mentally ill, the federal government would begin funding community mental-health centers. Unfortunately this proposal failed the people who needed it most of all. These centers were not treating the patients coming from state hospitals that needed the treatment the most. Those suffering with severe mental health problems who would need to be hospitalized or treated immediatel, were not treated and have lived lives that are less than acceptable.

These people cannot be blamed for their actions or words, because if they had been treated in a way that was suitable, medicine and therapies could have helped them overcome their own battles. It is amazing to me, personally, that someone suffering from mild anxiety can walk into a doctor’s office and almost always be prescribed some sort of medication, while the many people living with chronic depression, bipolar disorder, and other severe mental illnesses are not being treated.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the “untreated mentally ill are responsible for 10% of all homicides (and a higher percentage of the mass killings), constitute 20 percent  of jail and prison inmates and at least 30 percent of the homeless.” Unfortunately, these numbers aren’t going to change any time soon. President Obama’s agency Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has almost completely denied that there is even a problem with how our country currently treats the mentally ill.

It is a sad fact that President John F. Kennedy’s proposal did not work. If it had maybe we would see fewer mentally ill individuals living on our cities’ sidewalks, fewer sleeping at bus stops and maybe fewer living in shelters altogether. We want an economy that is stable, right? Who is to say that if these people were treated correctly in the first place, that they wouldn’t be productive members of our society? They could have easily been hard workers who purchased things they needed for daily living just like everyone else. They could be working and paying taxes just like everyone else in America.

As Americans, we are supposed to stand for freedom and the fight to make sure that every person living on our soil, has the same rights and freedoms. We have failed the mentally ill population of our country. We have shut the doors of freedom right in their faces. By neglecting to treat them properly and with the same care that people suffering from any other illness receivs, we have told them between the lines that a life of poverty, unstable living conditions and a life that lacks peace of mind and happiness is the freedom they are getting. We are telling them that the freedom they have is to decide which shelter to live in.

It is not my intention to say that all mentally ill are suffering to this degree. There are some out there who could afford to seek treatment on their own. Some, even, who have mild cases of their illness and are able to live day-to-day fairly normally. Those people are the lucky ones and unfortunately they do not offset the many, many others who weren’t so lucky. The ones who without help won’t be able to live lives that are merely affected by their illness. It has become correct to refer to people with autis, as exactly that: people with autism, but not to refer to these individuals as autistic. They aren’t autism, they are simply affected by it. The mentally ill whot we have failed don’t have that same chance. They should be living lives that are not controlled by their illness. Our failure to them labels them as their illness and says you are not an individual; you are an illness that Americans don’t care about. This must change and it must change now.

opinion@louisvillecardinal.com

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