Like many, I am deeply saddened and disgusted by the recent events in our world. I wept due to the loss of life of African Americans simply for being African American and the innocent children who were killed while attending school. As a society how do we end these heinous actions?
While there are many related issues which should be addressed, one conversation we at Rosecrance can tackle is stigmatization and how we speak of mental health. The blanket equation of mental illness with mass murder creates an unintended consequence of stigmatization for those living with a mental illness.
Our words matter and we must use caution during this time of extreme tension.
Clearly those who commit atrocities are disordered people and perhaps have a mental illness. Yet, over 50 million Americans live with a diagnosable and treatable mental illness, and most have never contemplated violence against fellow human beings. Just because someone has a mental illness does not make them a bigot or murderer.
Making an overspread correlation between unthinkable violence and mental illness may cause those with a mental illness to retreat into the shadows instead of getting the help they need. Already, less than half of those who need treatment for their illness actually receive care.
We know that early treatment and access to quality mental health care is a foundation for a healthy community. We also know that a lack of accessibility to quality mental health care services, stigma surrounding mental health, and discrimination are barriers to making mental health treatment attainable.
As a community, we must fight the stigmatization of behavioral health conditions wherever it exists, we must make serious investments into funding for mental health care and we must afford treatment early to improve access – or the mental health crisis will continue to go under-addressed.
I’m so grateful for Rosecrance, an exquisitely diverse community of humans who champion hope every day. In their own way, each of our staff stand, fight stigma, and help those in need.
Let’s show those who are hurting that life truly is waiting.
Dave Gomel, Ph.D.
President and CEO
Rosecrance Health Network