US mental health crisis often dismissed

Writing in FOCUS, a Pew publication, Dr. Thomas Insel, former director of National Institute of Mental Health, says that “feelings of anxiety and depression have grown to levels where virtually no one can ignore what is happening.”

He noted that a recent CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that “90% of Americans feel we are in a mental health crisis.”

Even though more people in the United States are prospering in an era of incredible wealth, anxiety is prevalent at all levels of society. The country is in the grips of a mental illness pandemic.

Nothing has brought mental health into the fore as much as the mass killers who have captured the headlines by destroying the lives of schoolchildren.

NRA ploy

To ward off the outlawing the AK-15s and other rapid fire weapons, the National Rifle Association and cohorts have muddled corrective action by pointing to mental health, not guns, as the problem.

But it is obvious that the NRA doesn’t care about mental health or it would have led the parade to pour more money into the fight against mental health. Their inaction proves that they are using mental health as nothing but a ploy.

The decline of the membership of the NRA by one million is encouraging, probably caused by sportspersons who could no longer stomach the radical behavior of the leadership. (Some are under indictment for internal corruption.)

Domestic violence

Associate Professor Laura Vomit of Case Western Reserve University, has raised the issue of mental health and domestic violence.

“Certain childhood experiences can put people at risk to commiting domestic violence in the future,” she observed. “Social isolation and unhealthy social networks can be dangerous for victims on violence because they can worsen mental health conditions.”

Red Flag laws

Admittedly, identifying mental illness is difficult and treatment denies legal access to the kind of action needed, for example the “red flag” laws that are supposed to dispatch cases of mental aberrations. Who waves the red flag and when?

While we wait until other lives are endangered or suicides occur before acting – most of which is hand-wringing – mental illness is being confronted too late to be predictive. It needs to be identified earlier.

Educators are confronted every day by “troublemakers” and bullies. Numerous laws have been passed to restrict teachers from managing disruptive behavior in the classroom. Many of these restrictions have been imposed by lawsuits of of parents whose children can do no wrong. In the meantime, a stalemate exists.

ND can do better

Some educators and mental health workers have proposed that all children be measured for anxiety in schools to detect aberrations early on. Unfortunately, many of the anxiety and mental problems of children begin in homes so treatment must go beyond mere testing. It suggests involvement of social workers to bridge the gap between schools and parents.

Universal anxiety testing and followup would not be cheap, especially in a school system that is already underfunded. But that shouldn’t dissuade North Dakota from launching this sort of program because the state has gobs of money to cut taxes and fund speculative ventures.

Looking at the priorities of the past few legislatures, it is obvious that North Dakota is waiting for federal funding as it has for many people programs. This refusal to adequately fund state programs has been occurring for decades, making federalism a farce.

North Dakota can do better.


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