January 17, 2011 |

Arizona shooting brings mental health to the forefront once again

It’s interesting to read reports and articles pertaining to the alleged Arizona shooter, Jared Lee Loughner.

Many point the finger at right-wing conservatives and the Tea Party movement in particular while still others speculate he was a left-wing radical. Some even go so far as to blame Sarah Palin for the tragic shooting rampage which killed six people and wounded 14 others, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

According to reports from friends and classmates, Loughner had major personality trait changes around 2006. Some former classmates discussed being afraid of Loughner and what he might do.

While fingers continue to point in every direction, the real culprit seems to be a lingering mental illness that for some reason, either wasn’t diagnosed or wasn’t treated. Arizona State stated that Loughner did not seek help through the public system.

Some of his friends are feeling guilt for not seeing what Loughner’s potential for harm was but is it really the responsibility of his friends to help Loughner seek help?

His parents are devastated and claim they didn’t realize how far their son had fallen from reality. As a parent, sometimes it may be hard to discern exactly what is going on inside a child’s head. Thinking that their son has severe mental problems may have been something they chose not to see.

This issue of mental health in our country continues to arise again and again and pointing fingers at politics, books and movies doesn’t solve the problem of how we can stop, or at least reduce, the effects that mental illness is having on our society as a whole.

The stigma of a mental illness continues to follow those who are either diagnosed with it or have family that is diagnosed with some form of it. Shame and humiliation are often side effects of the diagnoses, especially in young Americans.

So, what’s the answer? The first step would be to start talking about it more often. Not after a tragedy created by someone plagued with mental instability but before, when teachers, parents and friends can see that someone they care about is changing right before their eyes.

When someone gets cancer they seek help quickly and aggressively without shame or embarrassment. The same should be done for those with mental illnesses.

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