Tragedy in Tucson Touches Close to Home

Mental illness can be a debilitating disease with significant impact on all parties. Though the mentally ill are not typically violent, their frail state of mind can turn to violence more often than not towards themselves.  The tragedy that happened in Tucson this past weekend is yet one more reminder of how fragile life is and how we can never be attentive enough to those who suffer from such an illness.  Representative Gabrielle Giffords’ brother-in-law, who is an astronaut, summed it up when he said, “…we are better than this…” and indeed we are. Overshadowed in the violence were the many acts of kindness and care that were displayed in the midst of the carnage. Ultimately, these acts are examples of who we truly are as a society.
The one common denominator for many services we offer at Hillsides is the mental health issues of the majority we serve. We know their pain firsthand and attend to them with an array of services that ease their suffering and stabilize them sufficiently to recover. We attend to them without reservation in spite of the inherent risks. But it is a challenge and is very demanding.
Treatment is essential for any one with mental illness. Unfortunately, the stigma associated with mental illness often impedes access to services. Without treatment the risk of violence is increased.
Let the tragedy in Tucson help us resolve to be attentive to those we serve, confident that our interventions will reduce the risk of such a tragedy occurring. Let us also strive to be understanding of the subtle way that mental illness can present itself and, as a result, be better equipped to offer assistance. Finally, let us also put aside our fears and commit to be attentive to the needs of the mentally ill.
At a time of lingering, limited public resources no one is spared the impact of budget cuts. Whether it is protective services for children, special education funding or mental health services, the reality of budget cuts will further weaken a system of care that will jeopardize the well-being of the most vulnerable. More than ever, we need to be especially attentive to those around us that will be negatively impacted by these cuts. We must never underestimate how our presence, our attentiveness and our interventions may be the decisive factor in getting help and easing the risk of violence.

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