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Monday, September 14, 2015

Jane Corwin
This summer, our nation has endured too many acts of senseless violence, taking too many innocent lives. The frequency of these acts of domestic terror are becoming too much of a norm. As we search for solutions to end violence, there are several issues that have been left out of the conversation including providing the appropriate resources to individuals suffering from mental illness.

People suffering from mental illness are in no way criminals – and as our nation continues to struggle with violence, it is vital that law enforcement, lawmakers and citizens remember this fact. However, changing our views to allow mental illness to be part of the conversation would have a tremendous impact on how we approach not only public safety but, more importantly, individual health and wellness.

Many politicians take advantage of acts of violence to argue that the cause of mass shootings is the combination of mental illness and firearms, further enforcing the antiquated stigma currently preventing many Americans from addressing their mental health care needs. Furthermore, their politicized grandstanding does very little to increase mental health awareness or resources, encourage their constituents to include mental health as a component of a healthy lifestyle, or to provide support to the healthcare workers in their communities.

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, more than 43.7 million adults experience some form of mental illness every year. These cases include mood disorders, major depression, and bipolar disorder and are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the United States for people aged 18 to 44. Suicide is currently the 10th leading cause of death in our nation and the second leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24.

As I have since the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook and Webster brought this conversation to our State Capitol, I will continue working to implement solutions bettering public health, wellness and safety. While I prepare for the upcoming legislative session, I am taking a new, multifaceted approach that increases awareness and services for individuals in need of regaining mental clarity, ends the negative stereotyping of mental illness, and encourages our state to become a leader in allocating funding to local healthcare and not-for-profits providing individuals necessary services and support.

Based on the success of programs in states including Connecticut, Indiana and Texas, my goals also include implementing safeguards for healthcare providers and law enforcement to better identify behavioral risks or violent histories and tendencies while maintaining individuals’ constitutional and privacy rights.

The reality of national tragedies is that pundits and politicians use polarizing rhetoric to take advantage of the public’s interest in the event. Taking aggressive and divisive stands move us no closer to generating results or rectifying a problem. However, while they continue to argue, I will continue working to change the fact that this entire dialog is currently failing to provide the necessary encouragement or resources for individuals and families concerned about their mental health to get diagnosed and seek or receive treatment.

Jane Corwin is the Assemblywoman for the 144th District. 

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