Continuing the Discussion about Mental Health

Over the past few days, there has been increased discussion about mental health in our country after the shooting at Sandy Hook.  Dr. Tim Kearney, our Chief Behavioral Health Officer, has provided talking points about the recent school shooting in Sandy Hook for children and adults.  The talking points for children are also available in Spanish and Portuguese.

Yet this is part of a much larger discussion in our country about mental health.  The day of the shooting, Liza Long wrote a blog post, Thinking the Unthinkable, with the now famous paragraph:

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

Now, everyone is talking.  Her blog post has received over 3,000 comments.  It has been written about extensively.  People are talking about privacy issues, about the stigma of mental illness and many other topics.

A psychiatrist responded with ” I Am Adam Lanza’s Psychiatrist”: A Response From the Mental Health Trenches to ‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’”.  A man with Asperger’s wrote a brilliant article, Asperger’s, Autism, and Mass Murder.

Here at CHC, Dr. Velandy Manohar has shared several important resources.  One article he highlighted as The Intricate Link Between Violence and Mental Disorder:  Results From the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions

That article concludes with:

The current study aimed to clarify the link between mental disorder and violence, and the results provide empirical evidence that (1) severe mental illness is not a robust predictor of future violence; (2) people with co-occurring severe mental illness and substance abuse/dependence have a higher incidence of violence than people with substance abuse/dependence alone; (3) people with severe mental illness report histories and environmental stressors associated with elevated violence risk; and (4) severe mental illness alone is not an independent contributor to explaining variance in multivariate analyses of different types of violence. As severe mental illness itself was not shown to sequentially precede later violent acts, the findings challenge perceptions that severe mental illness is a foremost cause of violence in society at large. The data shows it is simplistic as well as inaccurate to say the cause of violence among mentally ill individuals is the mental illness itself; instead, the current study finds that mental illness is clearly relevant to violence risk but that its causal roles are complex, indirect, and embedded in a web of other (and arguably more) important individual and situational cofactors to consider.

The cost of violence to individuals, families, and communities is great. Efforts to make violence risk assessment more scientifically based will ultimately improve our ability to evaluate risk of violence more accurately so we can take steps to manage that risk effectively and humanely, and direct the task of promoting safety without unwarranted stigmatization of people with mental illness. The recent spate of violence serves to underscore the importance of this task and the responsibility of our medical and legal systems to continue study in this area.

CHC has always been concerned with all aspects of health, including mental health and we hope that these discussions can help reduce stigma around mental illness and increase access to those that can benefit  from quality behavioral health care.

About Aldon Hynes

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