Society must address needs of mentally ill

Sept. 17, news headlines, "D. C. rampage leaves 13 dead," were yet another wake-up call to the crying need for increased support for individuals facing mental health challenges. Newspapers describe Alan Alexis as well-known by the police who knew of his continued efforts to escape the internal voices and paranoia he experienced. It is reported that he also sought treatment from the Office of Veterans Affairs last month. Now he and 12 others are dead.

Sound familiar? These much-too-frequent tragedies share some common themes; in most cases, the perpetrators were seeking help. Treatment was either not available, refused, or ineffective.

Another common theme is that these individuals were intelligent and, in many cases, friendly. They had potential for being contributing members of society.

What went wrong? Research shows that the best indicators of recovery from mental health disorders are the support of family and friends, early intervention, and ongoing treatment. We need to increase mental health funding for education and advocacy, and expand treatment availability and options, in order to prevent these tragedies.

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