This national fixation on guns is diverting much needed attention to the causes of gun violence.
Acknowledging Minnesota legislators’ fixation on the gun answer, Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, said Friday that legislators should focus more on mental health issues. “I think we’re complicit in the violence if we don’t intervene,” she said. She wants additional funding for mental health services in schools, better training for professionals and more help for adolescents in their first psychotic episode.
We applaud Connecticut, Franken and Sheran for wanting to focus on mental health as a major focus for change. Both are valiantly trying to raise awareness of the inadequacy of the system even after Wellstone’s parity law continues to languish at the federal level — a fact Connecticut cites as a problem and one which still gets short shrift in Wellstone’s home state.
Experts have pleaded for years that we need to cut down drastically the number of people who go undiagnosed or untreated. “Part of lowering those barriers (to access) is making mental health services more widely available,” said Carolyn Drazinic, president-elect of Connecticut Psychiatric Society. Franken did caution that “I in no way want to stigmatize mental illness because the vast, vast, vast majority of people with mental illness are no more violent than the general population.”
No, but guns get the bigger headlines while the general population gets much better treatment than do those suffering from mental illness. And that’s a travesty that needs correction.