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Mental health problems continue to be overlooked

There is not one all-encompassing solution to the unimaginable tragedies that have occurred in Newtown, Conn., and Columbine and Aurora, Colo.

Gun-control proponents argue that stricter laws will help to prevent these massacres. Pro-gun lobbyists say that people kill people, not guns. In this reader’s eye, both are correct. However, one important variable continues to be overlooked in this equation: identification and continued care for mentally and emotionally unstable individuals.

As one with a close family member suffering from chronic mental issues, I am well aware of the ongoing attention and monitoring required to care for such a person. There is no magic-bullet cure to correct every symptom associated with depression, mania and other acute warning signs experienced by those suffering from such afflictions. These are lifelong conditions.

After all the progress and medical advances that have been developed to improve the quality of life of these poor souls, there still are stigmas attached to mental illness that tend to keep these conditions a “dirty little secret.” Shame and character flaw continue to be unfairly attached to conditions that have physical causes.

Cuts to aid the care of the mentally ill have not helped this cause. This loss of funding to help those who require regular supervision and occasional hospitalization continues to propagate the old world belief that mental illness is somehow not a legitimate sickness.

Surely, if we all were more empathetic to those who have done nothing wrong other than having the bad luck of being born with a chemical deficiency or having an unforeseen traumatic incident affect their lives, maybe these unexplainable tragedies could be reduced rather than becoming the norm in our society.

John Walker

Lancaster