Sandy Hook Tragedy Exposes America’s Mental Illness Problem

A Nation’s Tragedy

Sandy Hook Tragedy Exposes America's Mental Illness ProblemLast week, a horrific tragedy hit the entire country as a young 20-year-old man entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and shot and killed 20 very young children and 6 adults, including 4 teachers, the Principal, and the Psychologist. He then took out his own young life with his gun.

In the shocking aftermath we have heard the young shooter, who also killed his mother just before going to the school, was suffering from a mental illness. The criminal act itself and news of the killer’s mental condition surely raises many questions, but one thing is for sure, the tragedy exposes America’s deep mental illness problem.

Wow!!! Is this what it takes to finally get the message through to the country to wake up to this problem? The NRA says it’s not guns, its people. Well it takes both. Doctors know this, Families know this, and the public knows this. Yet the health system in this country ties the hands of the professionals, the hospitals, and the families. It’s time the health system takes the responsibility for a change.

Everyday families across the nation are hurt by the very system that is supposed to help them. I believe the death of marriage is due to the Mental Health System in our country. It is their failure to really take care of the mentally ill that has caused more tragedy to families and society than any other illness, if not all other illnesses combined.

When a person has a physical illness, such as a heart condition, the family is called in and included in a game plan to help the patient. Everyone shares in the treatment, often with a happy ending. When a person becomes mentally ill, it is also just an illness and should be treated in the same way with respect to the patient and the families involved. When in the throes of the illness, many times the patient is incompetent of making good judgmental decisions that will not only affect his well-being, but the well-being of his loved ones and perhaps society. Presently, they are the ones that determine if they receive treatment or not. If medication is indicated as necessary in their treatment, the patient can refuse. The family has no say, and are often kept out of the whole treatment process. They may simply get a phone call: ‘come pick up your loved one, we’re discharging him now.’

The mentally ill person may choose his illness because they enjoy the high of the experience. They don’t want to lose the voices in their heads, and medication may take that away. Some self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Some are argumentative, unable to hold a job, or sustain good relationships. Some get in trouble in public, while others are homeless. Most come from loving families who are willing to share the burden. But our Mental Health System allows the ill person to determine the treatment or refuse to be helped.

Ultimately, the family may be advised to obtain Power of Attorney in order to make wise financial decisions.

The bottom line is, with proper treatment (counseling and/or medication) most can lead normal, productive and loving lives. It’s a win win situation. However, our preset laws allow patients control of their plan, and too often the patient is hurt or they wind up incarcerated and some even commit suicide.

What a waste of good people to themselves, their families and society.

When will modern medicine include everyone? Why do so many people have to suffer before we as a nation do something?

Phyllis Dolinsky

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