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Statement of the NAMI Massachusetts Board of Directors

Statement of the NAMI Massachusetts Board of Directors

December 20, 2012

The National Alliance for Mental Illness of Massachusetts (NAMI Mass) is deeply saddened by the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We mourn the senseless loss of life and extend our most sincere sympathy to the families of the victims. It is clear that this attack has shocked the world.

While the families of the victims grieve, the investigation into this horrific crime continues. It will take time for the police and other authorities to uncover the facts and motives behind this hideous act.  Local and national leaders are increasingly focused on efforts to prevent such events from happening in the future.  None of us should underestimate the enormity of the work ahead, and the need for a sustained commitment to reduce and ultimately stop the episodes of wholesale violence.

NAMI Massachusetts asks that there be no rush to broadly judge individuals with mental illnesses. They are no more violent than people without mental illnesses.  They are our family, our neighbors and friends who, like so many, are grieving the loss and sharing the horror of last Friday’s tragic events. However, with the focus on mental health issues, we believe this is an appropriate time to remind the public about the prevalence of mental illness and the critical need for more services and community supports for those living with it every day.

What we can say with certainty is that mental illness exists in every state, every city and every neighborhood in the U.S.  One in 4 adults experiences a mental health disorder in a given year.  One in 17 lives with a serious mental illness and 1 in 10 children has a serious mental or emotional disorder.  Yet fewer than one-third of adults and one-half of children with a diagnosed mental disorder receive mental health services in a given year.

NAMI Massachusetts calls on our local, state and national leaders to commit to providing a sustainable and robust array of community based mental health services-including crisis intervention and jail diversion training for police and first responders, mobile crisis services, assertive community treatment and peer supports and supportive housing. Additionally, a review of delaying hospital discharges which result in mental health crises that could otherwise be prevented must be conducted. We are convinced that universal access to a stronger system of community mental health programs provides a strong safety net and proactively helps to avert crisis.

Any discussion that involves mental health issues and public safety in an effort to prevent future tragedies must include a commitment to additional resources for vital community mental health services. Calling attention to the mental health crisis our country is facing is the first step towards learning more about mental illness, and ensuring that people have access to the care and treatment they need.

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts is a nonprofit grassroots education, support and advocacy organization. (www.namimass.org). The mission of NAMI Mass is to improve the quality of life both for people with mental illnesses and for their families. We are a vital state resource for individuals and families facing the challenges of mental illness, providing free mental health family-based education, family and peer support and grassroots advocacy.

For media inquiries, please contact Laurie Martinelli at lmartinelli@namimass.org or 781-938-4048.