Raising mental health concerns

By Stephanie Saviola

Since the infamous Jan. 8 Tucson, Ariz. shooting that claimed the lives of six people and injured 12, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, there has been an increasing push to instate new mental health laws. At the same time, there is a need for increased government funding for mental health care.

Rob Barber, a congressional aide who was injured in the attack, recently announced he is starting a program, The Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding, to promote mental health awareness and ensure those impacted by the shooting can seek clinical counseling.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in four Americans has some form of a mental disorder. In Illinois, 70,000 people lost mental health care due to program cuts from lack of funding.

Additionally, a report released earlier this month by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed the U.S. was spending less on mental health care compared to all other aspects of health treatment during the last 20 years.

After the Tucson shooting, numerous people came out to discuss the shooter’s habits and lifestyle. He was dismissed from college and refused to take a mental health evaluation test to return. A similar story was told of the student behind the Virginia Tech shooting in which 33 students were killed, including the shooter.  A former professor recalled the Viginia Tech shooter as acting disturbed in class.

It is not always easy to diagnose mental health disorders if you are not a doctor, and we can’t walk around paranoid about everyone. But it might help if there were a way to take precautions when people show symptoms. The same thing can be said for those who are suicidal. If the warning signs are there, it wouldn’t hurt to reach out or help those individuals find the resources they need to get better.

It is sad when there are precursors to these tragic events. Perhaps some of these people could have received the much-needed attention to help them through their struggles.

While it may not be as pressing as other health problems, more funding and awareness should go to people with mental health disorders. Those who need counseling services or medical attention can often be discouraged because for one, it is difficult to find and two, they might not be able to afford it.

People who go untreated from these disorders can find themselves alienated and suffering. More awareness and more funding for resources and advocacy for mental health needs to happen to ensure more people don’t fall victim to tragic events such as the Arizona shooting.