Recovery Resources has been helping people in Northeast Ohio triumph over the darkness of mental illness and addiction for more than fifty years. Please take a moment to read my friend Debbie Rodriguez's heartfelt words regarding the horrific events of December 14th.
May God bless you and your family all year long.
CLEVELAND - December 17, 2012. On Friday morning, when I learned about the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach - and have yet been able to take a deep breath. I am sure so many of you feel the same. As details continue to be revealed, the magnitude of the horror grows. There are so many facets to this tragedy, though it is understandably people's instinct to want to find a neat and tidy answer as to the "why". We all know it is not neat and tidy.
There will be a lot of conversation about mental illness in the aftermath of this tragedy, at both the local and national levels - and this is an important conversation to have, openly and honestly. I wonder, though, if a conversation about mental health, rather than mental illness, would not be more instructive? How do we, as communities, take care of our citizens? How do we create opportunities that are available for everyone, and not just those who can pay for them? How would truly believing that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers change the way we behave, and the sense of responsibility we have for one another? How do the various systems, set up to be helpful to community members, work in tandem, rather than at odds with one another? How do we, once and for all, eradicate the stigma that paralyzes so many individuals and their families from seeking the help they need so desperately?
While little is yet known about the shooter or his mental health status, we have to be vigilant not to perpetuate the inaccuracy that mental illness equals violence. It does not. Data clearly demonstrates that people with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime, rather than the perpetrators. One in four Americans lives with a mental illness, and while events like Sandy Hook are tragic and impossible to make sense of, they are, thankfully, rare. That said, there can be - and are - devastating consequences to mental illness when left untreated, and that is the second message we need to trumpet. The 27 families who lost loved ones this past Friday will have mental health needs for the foreseeable future - perhaps forever. And hundreds of children and their parents are likely to exhibit signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental health condition that can be effectively addressed if done so early, and with appropriate resources. Everyone deserves access to excellent treatment for all of their medical conditions, including those involving mental health.
As concerned citizens, there are tools we can use to better equip our communities to avert such tragedies, by identifying potential crises before they erupt. RR offers Mental Health First Aid, for example, to do just that. In the past year, we have trained nearly 300 individuals from throughout the community to be alert to the signs and symptoms of mental distress, and given them the necessary tools to put short-term plans in place while connecting those in need to relevant community resources. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the shootings at Chardon High School, a tragedy that rocked our community to its core, let us re-commit to doing whatever it takes to be there for one another - to mobilizing resources quickly and effectively; to ensuring that funding is never a barrier to accessing treatment; to prioritizing prevention and education in our schools, college campuses, places of employment and communities-at-large; to eliminating the stigma and shame that are, perhaps, the most difficult barriers to overcome.
Please consider Recovery Resources your partner in doing whatever it takes.