What editorial writers are saying about mental health after the Arizona shootings

The suspected gunman's motivations are not known, but observers have suggested that his behavior points to a serious mental disorder.

Posted Jan. 31, 2011.

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In the wake of the attack that killed six and wounded 13, commentators called for a reassessment of the mental health system.

Mental illness

Evaluating and treating mental illness is an imprecise science which relies on subjective assessments from qualified professionals. And, the system is rife with cracks that a sick individual may slip through. That all said, it remains crucial that the states and the nation provide for screening and public education, and for treatment programs -- inpatient and out -- to help those in need of care and their families. Although those mentally ill people who wreak havoc capture the headlines, far more other Americans have been helped by treatment programs and go about their lives without causing harm to themselves or to others. Evansville (Ind.) Courier & Press, Jan. 19

California pays high price for not caring for mentally ill

Like California and most other states, Arizona has created a culture that leaves the mentally ill to fend for themselves. Much of this can be attributed to the stigma that goes along with mental illness. Medical professionals leave no doubt that these conditions are biologically based brain disorders -- physical problems like heart disease or cancer. Californians wouldn't dream of turning heart patients out in the street to fend for themselves -- and heart patients aren't as potentially dangerous, or likely to clog our jails. Let's bring some sanity to the way we care for the mentally ill. San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, Jan. 15

Evidence shows need to address mental illness

We would urge our leaders to take a deeper look at our mental health system, which since the 1960s has actively de-institutionalized many of those with serious mental health issues. The intent was honorable -- to "mainstream" those who suffer from mental health problems, so they are not stigmatized. But we can no longer ignore the fact that opening the institutional gates has also taken away the very support system that could help those who need help, but cannot help themselves. The Dunn County (Wis.) News, Jan. 16

Tucson and mental health care

It was only a matter of hours after the shooting that mental health advocates were recalling how Arizona had reduced spending on mental health just months earlier. That would seem more shocking if Arizona were unique in this respect, but it isn't. Advocates say states have collectively cut out more than $2 billion from their mental health care budgets, the result of the economic recession and the gaping budget deficits it has caused. In turn, that's translating to fewer psychiatric hospital beds, longer waiting lists for housing the chronically ill, and less for emergency services. The Baltimore Sun, Jan. 16

Avoiding the next Tucson

[The recent] tragedy in Tucson is helping focus needed attention on the intersection between serious mental illness and crime. Modern society prides itself on being open-minded, but there's still much room for progress in how we look at the mentally ill. In most cases, proper medical intervention can work wonders. Some problems can't be definitively cured, but they can be managed well enough for sufferers to lead decent lives without threatening anybody. The Washington Times, Jan. 12

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