By Mike Fitzpatrick, NAMI Executive DirectorIt’s almost a week now since 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
America’s hearts are still broken.
Although news reports have gotten many facts wrong over the last week, it seems clear now that the young man responsible for the tragedy had lived with a form of mental illness since childhood.
The tragedy has resulted in an enormous push for the country to make a sustained effort to provide real solutions to our mental health crisis, as well as gun control. The test is whether Congress, state legislatures and the country as a whole are serious enough to face up to the challenge.
It’s not a new challenge. NAMI has been fighting on the mental health care front for many years, with victories and defeats. What’s tragic is that it has taken a horrible tragedy to wake others up.
This past week, NAMI has been working 24/7 to stoke the momentum. We have given close to 100 interviews to national and regional media outlets. We are talking with Senators and Members of Congress about legislation in the coming New Year. NAMI State Organizations and NAMI Affiliates have circulated press releases and other information to their own networks.
Again, it shouldn’t have taken a national tragedy to get this far, especially when we consider how many personal tragedies Americans affected by mental illness experience every year.
Start contacting Congress and state legislators now.
Keep the pressure on.
Tell them they need to step up to ensuring mental healthcare.
They need to make the availability of screening, early intervention, treatment, services and supports a national priority.
Family education and support must also be part of mental health care. Too many families don’t fully understand the nature of mental illness, what to do if they are concerned about a child and how to cope.
President Obama has pledged to use “whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators, in an effort to prevent more tragedies.”
NAMI represents individuals who actually live with mental illness.
We represent parents and other kinds of family members. We have a long track record working with law enforcement, educators and mental health professionals.
We’re ready to work with the President.
Is the rest of the country?
Talk with your friends and neighbors. Ask them to help.
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