Helping the mentally ill takes time and effort

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, I couldn’t help but notice all the accusations and questions leveled at the shooter’s family, particularly, his mother. No one disputes that Adam Lanza’s actions were unconscionable, but we can speculate forever about what the Lanza family knew or didn’t know, if his mother tried to get him help or what thoughts and feelings led him to commit this atrocity, but we’ll never really know. But, I can say from years of involvement with the mental health system, finding and easily accessing mental health services, is anything but simple. Whether it’s someone seeking help on the local, state or national level, our current mental health system is fraught with countless barriers to timely, affordable, quality, consistent psychiatric care. Between long waiting periods to see a psychiatrist, mounds of paperwork,a phone assessment and an evaluation, submitting your financial information, then just maybe, you may, or may not be referred to a psychiatrist depending on the intake therapist’s recommendation, and if you happen to experience a crisis, one is left with the option of calling a 24 hour crisis line and/or praying that your treating psychiatrist will call you back. There is absolutely no such thing as a quick, painless or efficient process in accessing our local resources, or those outside our area. The mental health system, as a whole, desperately needs a comprehensive overhaul, but that will only happen, if we as a community, and as a society, stop the blaming and shaming, and see beyond the stigma and stereotypes of those with mental illness and choose to treat them humanely and compassionately.

Lynn Powell-Kieliszewski