Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Tue, Oct. 15

Editorial: Mental illness at root of our 'wars'

Forget the war in Afghanistan for a moment, if you will.

We have wars - plural - right here at home that rage on, and we can't seem to stem the tide. Drug abuse. Alcohol abuse. Domestic violence. Child abuse. Suicide. Murder. The list is endless.

If one single thread connects these societal woes, we submit mental illness as the common denominator.

Why else would a shooter in Tucson go on a rampage, killing so many and wounding others. Why would a man suddenly decimate his entire family? Why does a man beat his wife? What provokes men and women both to molest children. Why the rapists? How can mothers and fathers harm - even kill - their own children?

Why don't we see any of these tragedies coming? We all too often fail to recognize the signs of mental impairment before tragedies occur.

Some of it seems to come out of nowhere - unfathomable in the minds of all who watch helplessly from a distance.

Statistics from Mental Health America tell us that one in four American adults lives with diagnosable, treatable mental health conditions but never seeks help because of stigma, lack of information, cost, or lack of health insurance coverage.

Can we look into a crystal ball and see ahead when a seriously disturbed person is about to go off the edge? No. There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness, according to the mental health organization. Most common among the illnesses are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.

Only professionals can diagnose mental and emotional illness, but the rest of us can be watchful. If we see someone struggling, we can at least reach out with a sympathetic hand.

Signs to look for are changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.

May is Mental Health Month, and its intention is to raise awareness of mental health conditions and how important it is for all of us to be healthy in mind, body and spirit.

Dealing with someone who we think needs help would be sensitive and delicate. But if we were to have the courage to be proactive, who knows who we might save from a complete mental breakdown before it's too late and the damage has been done.

Saving one person at a time is a step forward.

Remember, too, that a mental illness is no more of a stigma than a physical disease - and it is often more treatable.

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