First of all congrats on your recent debate! I believe you did fabulously against The Donald. The majority of the topics covered I really appreciated your opinions and plans of actions for. There was one topic that was slightly brushed against but not gone into in full depth. This topic was mental health.
You were explicitly referring to mental health problems that people on the street are experiencing that police officers have to deal with. I firmly believe that this topic needs to be broader and more thought through. There needs to be more understanding and proper treatment of mental illnesses, and more education on what they are, what they look like, and how they work.
First of all, how are police going to help those that are experiencing internal battles that are resulting in external ones? According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, or NAMI, 20% of state prisoners are living with a history of mental illness. Prisonpolicy.org’s reports prove that there are approximately 237,000 people in state prison, a simple math equation proves that there are 47,400 people imprisoned in state penitentiaries with a mental illness. Guns are not the only things that mentally ill people can turn to that will make them end up in jail.We can’t forget about substance abuse, a simple coping mechanism to cover their internal pain, or even theft which is common among the homeless. NAMI admits that 26% of homeless people in shelters have a mental illness, and 46% have a mental illness and/or a substance abuse issue. I feel that if those are the kinds of things that people ended up in prison for, then those are the things that prisons should work on fixing. They should have access to support groups and counselling to help them, not being forced into a place to just to keep everyone else safe.
Also, where did these people come from? How come they have to feel this way? Why did they turn to substance abuse, jail, or even suicide in order to escape their overbearing feelings? It all starts with the social stigma around mental illness. “Mentally ill” is an uncomfortable phrase for most people, and people don’t know how to react if someone admits to having one. This is a process that we inflict upon kids at a very young age. But the reality is, that is when it starts. According to NAMI 1 in 5 youth ages 13-18 experience a severe mental disorder throughout their life, and by looking around my classroom that means that there are at least six of us in here right now. I will never be ashamed to admit that I am one of them. But this is an advanced class with a good group of kids, what about the troubled kids? NAMI’s social stats prove that 70% of kids in the juvenile justice system have at least one mental health condition. And as for suicide, 90% of kids that commit it have a mental health condition.
How do we help these kids? How can we treat these people that are locked up for something they can’t control? Mental illness is genetic or is influenced by traumatic outside factors, such as veterans with PTSD. And there lies the issue, it seems almost impossible to treat or even understand a mental sickness when you can’t see it. You can see someone not getting out of bed because you saw them throw up and are physically sick, and you can see another person just not getting out of bed. This person isn’t visually ill at all, but what you cannot see is how their brain is trying to convince them that they are better off dead.
Mental illness needs to be acknowledged more, and much better understood. It doesn’t deserve to be something embarrassing about a person’s character because it is very real and very toxic, denying that it is a real issue or something you shouldn’t tell people about can just make it worse. That 70% of juvenile delinquents will most likely grow up to be that 20% of prisoners (NAMI), and those that don’t, might add on to the 46% of homeless people, or 90% of suicides (NAMI). But there is always hope that they received adequate help and therapy, because jail or death is not the right place for someone to end up that actually needs help. If we destroy this hush hush idea towards mental health, young kids could be more comfortable asking for assistance, the percentages would drop for suicides, homelessness, inmates, chemical dependencies, and much more, and our overall statistics would show that Americans are happier and healthier. So I’m asking this Hillary, let’s talk about mental health, let’s understand it the best we can, and let’s break this vicious cycle by starting where it begins, the youth of today.
Thank you for your time,
West St. Paul, MN