To the Editor:
December 14 marks the one-year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children and six teachers died, as well as a mother and the troubled son who was responsible. Sandy Hook sparked intense national debate on many issues including mental illness.
While statistics tell us that people with mental illness are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than the perpetrator, events like Sandy Hook illustrate the need for policy makers to act swiftly to increase access to mental health services and make guns less accessible to those at risk of harming themselves or others.
The time has come for lawmakers to build and fund a better system for early screening and evaluation to identify “and treat” individuals whose symptoms could develop into devastating conditions. As we mark the one year anniversary of the Newtown tragedy, we must continue the state and federal dialogue on mental health issues; we must act now so future lives can be saved.
Increased funding, expanded availability of resources and comprehensive community-based mental health services must be a top priority of our elected officials. Anything less is just talk.
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts (NAMI Mass)