June 27, 2016,
Letter to the Editor:
There is no denying that Massachusetts’ mental health system is in crisis (The Desperate and the Dead, June 26, 2016). However, the focus on people with mental illness committing extreme acts of violence only perpetuates stigma and people’s worst nightmares. “Stigma” means widely shared negative stereotypes about the causes and effects of mental illness. Stigma is the single greatest barrier preventing people and their families from getting the help they need.
It is NAMI’s hope that future Spotlight articles highlight more specifically the lack of a comprehensive, community-oriented system of care, and what state resources are needed to create it.
Emergency rooms are overcrowded with people boarding when no hospital beds are available. Police are our front line responders to people in crisis and jails are filled with people who need mental health services, not incarceration. Ill-equipped and fearful families frequently assume the crushing responsibility of caring for loved ones because the current system is impossible to navigate and there are simply not enough resources. It’s hard to imagine a similar system treating someone with diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
Perhaps this series will be a catalyst for finding sustainable solutions to the increasingly alarming crisis in our state.
Some of you saw the disturbing Boston Globe Spotlight series that appeared online on Friday and Sunday newspaper entitled: The Desperate and the Dead. This is the first in the Globe Spotlight series on mental health; several more articles will follow over the summer. We have heard from many NAMI members who were upset with the sensationalized article and the linking of mental health and violence. You can respond directly to the Boston Globe by submitting your own letter to the editor AND/OR by joining the Globe Spotlight Series FaceBook page (a closed group) by following these instructions.
Violent tragedies leave traumatic impressions not only in the communities in which they occur (including first responders), but also our national community. The immediate impact may affect existing mental health conditions or contribute to ones in the future.