It’s difficult to write today. The events of last Friday, Dec. 14, continue to weigh on my mind and the minds of everyone I know. Looking at all the sweet faces of innocent young children and those brave souls who tried to protect them is almost unbearable. You can’t do so without thinking of your own loved ones and wondering “what if?”
There’s much discussion now about gun control and laws—understandably so—but there also needs to be a real discussion about how to help the many people in our country who suffer some form of mental illness, such as the young shooter who perpetrated this horrific act.
Unlike a common physical ailment that can be easily identified and corrected or controlled by standard, one-size-fits-almost-all, proven medical treatment (yes, I know not all physical ailments fall into this category), mental illnesses are more difficult to diagnose and treat. The nuances of these illnesses make their victims as unique as snowflakes, voices, fingerprints, and the beautiful faces of those who lost their lives at Sandy Hook.
I can tell you that caring for someone with a mental disorder and trying to help him or her assimilate effectively into society is a very large undertaking that can drain a family’s emotional and financial resources. Yet caregivers continue to try as hard as they can and to hope that some effective treatment can be found. Maybe this therapy, medication, dietary restriction, exercise, education—maybe some combination of all these—will be the key that frees their loved one from his or her torment and inability to get by in our world. Mind you that no one is immune to difficulty in this world, but those who suffer from mental illness have it so much worse.
Late last spring, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the latest estimate of how many
children in the U.S. have autism or a related disorder—about one in 88.
As noted in a Reuters article, “among boys, the rate of autism spectrum disorders is one in 54, almost five times that of girls, in whom the rate is one in 252.
Quoted in the Reuters article was Mark Roithmayr, president of the research and advocacy group Autism Speaks, who said, “This is a national emergency and it’s time for a national strategy.” He called for a “national training service corps” of therapists, caregivers, teachers, and others who are trained to help children with autism.”
Perhaps this latest senseless act will be the catalyst for a national initiative that will truly help those affected by mental illness. This concern deserves as much if not more attention than gun control.
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