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OUR VIEW: Mental health options needed

The Alexander City Outlook - 11/11/2017

There is a desperate need for better and more accessible mental healthcare in our nation, in our state, and yes, even in Tallapoosa County.

It is a tragedy in itself that the subject of mental healthcare only arises when a tragedy occurs because mental healthcare, or the lack thereof, is an issue that affects us each and every day. America, "The Land of the Free," should be leading the way in mental healthcare, but instead we lock citizens up in cages for nonviolent offenses like drug possession, and now, in Alabama, threatening to prosecute folks for voting across party lines in runoff elections.

.Many of those who wind up in local jails and in state prisons are dealing with mental issues which helped put them on the wrong side of the law in the first place. Too many times people who need long-term mental healthcare are faced with no options and put on the street where law enforcement and ill-funded social agencies struggle to deal with the issues that accompany the people so desperately needing help.

In talking with local law enforcement officials, they can list case after case where individuals with serious mental problems have to be dealt with by officers on an almost daily basis. If people have issues when they are incarcerated, imagine their state when they get out if they get no assistance while they are locked up.

For a start, we must elect public officials with empathy and who earnestly attempt to treat others like they would like to be treated ? those who genuinely care about the welfare of our society's most marginalized individuals, including the poor, the downtrodden, and the mentally ill. But it is also a societal problem because society still stigmatizes mental illness to the point where people who desperately need help would rather conceal their illness than seek treatment. And in more extreme cases, this can result in the afflicted taking their own or other's lives.

Courts have already said that the state's prison system must improve its mental health options for those who are in the state's prisons or face federal repercussions.

How about getting people help before their mental issues lead to criminal charges? That's a start.

Nothing will happen without funding and a carefully thought out plan that politics play no role in formulating.

Let's start there.


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