Treat mentally ill like other illness

Afghans murdered by a soldier, a pilot taken down by passengers, a flight attendant restrained, and it makes headline news? Teen suicides plastered across social websites — parents blamed for not caring. There should be no surprise in those reports since the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration came out this year stating that one in every five Americans has been diagnosed with a mental illness.

I have worked in community mental health for some time. My clients live in horrible conditions, have next to nothing in finances, and rarely have any clue where they will get their next meal.

As a citizen, this is appalling. The stigma has outlived the reality that mentally ill individuals are something besides a “person with an illness.” We won’t ever throw a cancer patient on the street, “Sorry, but you don’t qualify — no medicine for you.” Then, why in the world are we not showing the same empathy to our mentally ill citizens? Neither had a choice in the matter.

My children are worse off. They are educated about sex, drugs and birth control — something I truly support; once class is over, they are in control.

Did you know that the most common time for diagnosis of mental illness is the mid to late teens? Are you aware of the rising numbers in teenage suicides? Did you know the most common reason for suicide is un/under-treated mental illness?

I believe it is time to refocus the societal view of mental illness through education, support and understanding rather than the grossly overused stigma that has historically done nothing more than segregate individuals for their differences.

Jenifer L. Galvan

Founder/Executive Director

PEER Roots Foundation