A BETTER MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM IS NEEDED

NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is deeply saddened by the mass shootings that are far too common and impact every corner of our nation. Every time we experience a tragedy like this, people with mental illness are drawn into the conversation. The truth is most violence is not perpetrated by people with mental illness. Statements to the contrary only serve to perpetuate stigma and distract from the real issues.
 NAMI sees gun violence as a national public health crisis that impacts everyone. “In the U.S., it is easier to get a gun than it is to get mental health care,” states Angela Kimball, NAMI CEO. “We need to flip the script. It should be easy – not hard – for people to get the metal health care they need.”
 We implore and advocate for commonsense approaches to ending gun violence. For example, we support gun violence prevention restraining orders or “Red Flag” laws, provided due process is used, that don’t target people with mental health conditions, but allow for the removal of guns from any person who poses a real, evidence-based risk of violence to themselves or others.
 Elected officials have made statements about reopening mental “institutions,” some have called people with mental illness “monsters.” This is not constructive and has perpetuated false stereotypes. Words matter!

Persons living with mental health problems are our friends neighbors, children and spouses. They’re not “monsters,” “the mentally ill,” or “crazy people” – they’re us. Talking about putting people in an institution only further marginalizes and isolates the one in five persons that experience a mental illness sometime in their life. Instead, we need to be talking about the power of early treatment and effective intervention to change lives. We should be talking about better care and earlier access to intensive treatment, not revisiting the shameful institutions of the past.
   Frequently people languish in emergency rooms and law enforcement officers are responding to avoidable crises because community based mental health services aren’t there. We know these approaches are effective so we must
– promote early intervention. Half of all mental illness begins by age 14.
-invest in better access to quality care. 60% of all counties do not have a single psychiatrist.
-Divert people from the criminal justice system. Jails shouldn’t be today’s mental health institutions.
    NAMI welcomes the opportunity to work with our government on steps for improving mental health services in Idaho and across the nation.