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MENTAL HEALTH: Connecticut Mass Killing’s First Victim

Letter by Alan Robert Winslow, Tacoma on Dec. 24, 2012 at 12:09 pm | No Comments »
December 24, 2012 1:51 pm

Re: The shootings in Newtown, Conn.

My sympathy is with the victims’ families. We shouldn’t forget Nancy Lanza, the mentally ill shooter’s mother. She wasn’t the first and unfortunately won’t be the last person killed by a mentally ill relative.

I empathize with her because I too am the parent of a mentally ill adult. Denial comes first. This can’t be happening to us. Your child may deny being ill and resist or reject treatment.

Next you cope. You struggle daily to help your child while facing a host of difficult problems.

First, you don’t know where to get help. Getting effective treatment is by trial and error. You will get little financial help. Mental health insurance coverage parity is a myth. Rules and regulations like HIPPA interfere as barriers.

Second, state treatment programs are hamstrung by ever-shrinking budgets in the face of increasing service demand. Your child’s illness can take an emotional and physical toll on your entire family. Their mental health improvement may come slowly. Mental illness is chronic. It doesn’t go away, but it can be treated and controlled.

Finally, you reject the stigma attached to mental illness and you radically accept your child’s situation.

Families are often the first line of help for the mentally ill. The Nancy Lanzas of this world deserve a more family friendly mental health system. We need more recoveries and fewer murders and suicides.

(Winslow is a board member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Pierce County chapter.)

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