Not addressing mental illness is what is crazy

By Barbara Goodmon

The tragedy of mental illness continues to grow as resources grow scarcer.

If you question this, please know that the incidents at Virginia Tech or Columbine can happen anywhere at anytime.

None of us is safe from the effects of untreated mental illness.

As a society, we do not want to provide the necessary resources for diagnosis and treatment; it is always passed off as someone else’s responsibility.

This is what we know about mental illness:

* Mental illness affects one in four people sometime in their life.

* Most people with mental illness are not a danger to themselves or others.

* Most mental illness is treatable.

* Mental illness, left untreated, has a tendency to worsen.

Based on these facts, I do not understand our society’s attitude toward mental illness — lack of insurance parity; lack of community services; lack of state services; policies that stand in the way of identifying people diagnosed with serious mental illness who can be a danger to themselves or others; and, most importantly, lack of compassion.

We look through a person showing signs of mental illness, whether it is as minor as depression or as serious as schizophrenia.

We are quick to diagnose and treat cancer or heart disease.

Though no one chooses to have cancer or heart disease, they are acceptable diseases.

No one chooses to have mental illness, but it is not an acceptable disease, so it is ignored.

Each of us is made up of a body, mind and soul.

We can only be healthy if the whole is healthy.

Medical care is available to a majority of us; spiritual care is available to all of us; mental health care is available to only the most privileged of us.

Each of us has a responsibility to use our voices to let our elected officials know that the time has come to change policies so that all people with mental illness have a chance for treatment.

What will you do to help make this happen?

Barbara Goodmon is president of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which publishes the Philanthropy Journal.

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