Following the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn., our nation joined together in mourning the victims, sympathizing with the survivors and seeking an answer to why it happened. Our President stated since taking office, he has been to four communities where tragic shootings have taken place and he hopes to make changes to prevent future tragic events. I hope he will succeed.
Visit our agency's website at www.thefamilycounselingcenter.org and Facebook page which features state and national resources that are full of information about dealing with children who have experienced traumatic events like a school shooting. In addition, there was a recent posting on The Blue Review by Liza Long, "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother," where she shares the frustrations about being the mother of a child with serious mental illness. Her personal story reminded me of several local families I've worked with over the years.
In my years of experience in mental health, I continue to see stigma, misinformation, cost shifting and denial getting in the way of significant change. Mental health programs have been underfunded for years and always seem to be the target for budget cuts on local, state and national levels.
This past year, we closed our Turning Point program along with 14 other family based treatment programs across New York state. Will this group of children just vanish? Or will they get pushed into psychiatric hospitalizations or become part of the juvenile justice system, with neither option serving them well?
Many mental health diagnosis and treatment choices deal with body chemistry, just like other health issues including diabetes. We encourage the people we know and love to get help for cancer, heart disease and broken bones. Yet when it comes to mental health, we don't want to talk about it and we definitely don't want to spend the money it takes for treatment and research. If we were really serious about dealing with mental health, we wouldn't be closing psychiatric hospitals while, at the same time, adding mental health services in our jails.
When parents have to charge their child with a crime or give up custody of their child in order to get needed mental health services, then I have to wonder if we are really taking treatment of the mentally ill seriously. If we don't take it seriously, are we doomed to live through another tragedy such as the one in Newtown, Conn.?
MICHAEL L. COUNTRYMAN
The Family Counseling Center