Fix our Nation’s Broken Mental Health System now

C. Ron Allen

Earlier this week, the country was shocked to learn that a gunman shot and killed 12 people at the Navy Yard, a U.S. Navy command complex building, in Washington, D.C.

The tragedy sparked yet another so-called “national conversation” about gun control, igniting predictable passions on both sides of the heated debate.  And as with any national tragedy, calamity or disaster, there is overwhelming bipartisan outcry to fix our nation’s broken mental health system.

We heard this following the tragic elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., in December. Yet despite this consensus, it appears that Congress has not taken any tangible action.

On Tuesday, the Senate’s Democratic leader, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, opened speeches on the floor of the Senate chamber with an echoing litany of praise for the military and first responders and well wishes for the wounded and the families of the dead in the Navy Yard shooting. No legislative remedy was suggested by either man. Reid segued abruptly to a defense of the Affordable Care Act and excoriated Republicans for persisting in their efforts to strip its funding.

I spoke to one of my Congressman’s staffers this week only to learn that “Gov. Scott said he didn’t want the money from President Obama.”

This isn’t the only obstruction to the Affordable Care Act coming from the Sunshine State. Since the law was passed and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, Florida officials have turned down health grants allocated through the law, they decided not to expand Medicaid, and have prohibited the state insurance commissioner from regulating insurance premiums.

Some county officials have been getting around the state-ordered obstruction of navigators, though. Pinellas County health officials said because their facilities are county-owned, they wouldn’t have to follow the ban.

Just recently, I attended Open House at one of our schools where I spoke to some parents about KOP, formerly Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network, a mentoring program that I volunteer with.

The most striking thing that happened was the parents, the mothers, who talked to me about their children who suffered from depression and bipolar disorder. Never had these women seen me before, yet it was obvious they were grasping for help, reaching out to anyone who could provide them hope for their babies. Some of these stories were truly heartbreaking, and after leaving that meeting, I became committed to fight to better our mental health system.

CRA & Associates, my media relations company, will host a series of seminars and forums to address mental health issues in economically depressed and minority communities.

The first community forum, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Saturday, Oct. 26, will focus on recognizing mental health issues in youth and how drug abuse coincides; the role of law enforcement and options for counseling.

CRA & Associates has taken up this cause with KOP and Boca Raton-based Breaking the Silence, an emerging mental healthcare series for high school students. Taking it another step, our experts want to address the community as a whole. Partnering with the Delray Beach Police Department also helps deliver information from the view of law enforcement. The idea of these mental health workshops is to open the communication lines to mental health issues, which are often not discussed in depressed communities, especially black or African American. Too often depression goes unrecognized, thus, self-medicating takes on the form of street drugs and alcohol.

Most of us know someone who has struggled with mental illness, but who feels uncomfortable talking about it.

Whether it is a friend, neighbor, or family member, mental illness impacts all of us in some way. But we are uncomfortable talking about it.

Unfortunately, too many Americans suffer in silence rather than getting the help they need. One-third of those with mood disorders do not receive the treatment they need, and fewer than half of those with severe mental disorders receive treatment of any kind in a given year.  This is unacceptable.

We must reverse what has become the status quo for too many mentally ill individuals, unemployment, homelessness, incarceration, hospitalization, and the rare yet devastating tragedies that have occurred in Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Newtown, and now in D.C.


About Pedro Heizer

I'm a person of simple taste, all I need is some country music, Batman, Star Wars, sports, coffee, and most importantly Jesus Christ, because what profits a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? View all posts by Pedro Heizer

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