How can the debate on mental health lead to real improvements?
It goes without saying that there exists and has existed since our first experiences of mass gun violence a deep desire to see a change within our society that will prevent future similar atrocities. By and large we want to see the development of effective and practical prevention strategies that will make communities, schools, and general populations safer, more protected, and more prepared.
Yet we struggle to find a stable guiding force with the power to enact such change.
Time and time again the only bodies positioned to intervene, to protect, or respond to a community’s call for assistance have failed to be effective. Time and time again we have seen a failure of follow through, resulting in communities becoming witnesses to an individual’s progression towards violence yet powerless to intervene in any way to stop them.
The topic of gun regulation remains the primary point of focus in many of the fiery and emotional discourse that arises in the wake of such tragedies, however, discussions regarding improvements to mental healthcare do exist. The existence of the topic of mental health in discussion has the potential to be very significant for manifesting improvements within the mental healthcare community.
The debate regarding guns and the protection of the second amendment is powerful and goes much deeper than simply a response to mass gun violence. Only recently have we seen the passage of deliberate, preventative gun limit legislation, let alone any legislation that mandates funding or support to developing and sustaining the mental healthcare system–a system that has the most viable potential to serve as an effective prevention method.
The gun limits legislation, recently signed into law by Florida Governor, Rick Scott, have great starting points, including reforms like raising the age limit to purchase firearms, extending the waiting period by three days, and imposing restrictions on firearm purchases to name a few. For our cause, however, the most significant mandate of the legislation exists beyond the relatively drastic gun limits it imposed. In addition to gun limits, the bill mandated the allocation of more funds to support and improve mental health services throughout Florida.
The inclusion of this mandate for a deliberate allocation of funds to improve mental health services has the potential to be an incredible step towards capturing and manifesting an actual method of prevention through developing and enhancing mental health services.
It may be disheartening to recognize that deliberate actions leading to the allocation of support and funds to mental health services have at times been a result of a tragedy but such action should be celebrated, nonetheless.
We should never forget that the current state of mental health services is in many ways a silent chronic tragedy affecting thousands of individuals from all walks of life. Regardless of the cause behind an increase in the concern for mental health resources, members of the mental health community should not hesitate to take full advantage of the support received, regardless of the reason.
In the wake of tragedy, have we stumbled into an opportunity to truly develop and improve our mental health community?
Next time we’ll take a closer look into the benefits of the growing Community Inclusion Movement not only on preventing gun violence but also on improving outcomes for individuals living alongside a severe and persistent mental health diagnosis.
Until then we want to know,
● What questions are raised for you as we dig deeper?
● What solutions can you imagine?
● Can you think of ways to garner support for the cause beyond the support arising
merely from reaction to an unspeakable tragedy?
● What do you think are the most important benefits to investing in mental
● In what other ways can we positively capitalize on public discussions on mental health?
Madeline Jaekle is a Mental Health Advocate and Author, based out of Greensboro, North Carolina. Even though Madeline was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder early on in her adolescence, it wasn’t until the age of 20 that her mental illness fully manifested, in the form of a severe manic episode, with psychotic features. Largely due to the encouragement of fellow community members, Madeline decided to fully embrace the role of Mental Health Advocate, focusing primarily on topics such as adolescent (pre)diagnoses, the criminalization of mental illness, and trainings meant to better equip and prepare not only mental health professionals, but also first responders and police officers. When Madeline isn’t advocating she enjoys spending time with her four-legged companion, and the family and friends that stood by her despite the traumas that arose in her journey to discover the best way to manage her mental illness. In addition to continuing her Mental Health Advocacy, Madeline is working on a memoir chronicling her journey thus far.