Ongoing events in America are confirming what I have believed for quite a long time: something needs to be done to help those in our communities who suffer from various kinds of mental illness.
The Center For Disease Control and Prevention says that 25 percent of the adult American population suffer from some form of mental illness. That’s a quarter of us.
The country seems beset by frequent murderous rampages that it’s hard to account for outside of some kind of epidemic of mental illness.
While I’m not excusing the behavior of those who break the law, and while I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be consequences for those who do so, I think it’s pretty fair to assume that many people who commit murder, either of individuals, or en masse, are suffering mentally in some way.
And that breaks my heart. Because I truly believe that time and money would be better spent trying to help and to rehabilitate those suffering, whether it be from depression, addiction, or any other form of mental disorder, rather than spending that money to send that person to jail.
I hope not to offend anyone by saying that, but to plant a seed, that we can try to understand.
Maybe most importantly, to try and recognize the signs of mental illness and to reach those suffering before situations, and in many cases tragedy, such as this weekend’s, occur.
On Friday night, I watched an episode of “20/20,” where Sue Klebold, the mother of one of the Columbine killers, spoke in the first interview she’s given since the shooting happened 17 years ago.
The entire hour was a tearjerker, but maybe the saddest and most shocking part was Klebold’s admission that she never realized her son was troubled.
“I want people to be aware that things can seem awfully right when things are terribly wrong,” Klebold said in an interview with Diane Sawyer.
Much of the hour-long episode was spent talking to Klebold, as well as mental health specialists, who stressed the many warning signs that could easily go undetected, particularly in young people suffering from depression, suicidal, and eventually homicidal thoughts.
Other mental health disorders were seemingly present in the case of the Columbine shooting, but nevertheless, there were many clues to the mental instability of both youngsters who eventually committed the murders.
Of course this is an extreme example, but I wonder if we were trained to recognize signs of suffering, maybe we could help those who are hurting before something so heartbreaking occurs.
I’m not saying I have all the answers because I don’t. I don’t have many answers at all, honestly.
I’m not sure how we would fund help for those suffering on such a large scale and I’m not sure how effective that help might be.
I only know that I think we should try, and try harder, to care for those whose suffering we can’t see, to help eliminate an illness that often goes undetected but is very real when we do see what it can do.