With the recent tragic events in Newtown, the issue of mental illness has been brought front and center in the national discourse with several questions continuing to plague us regarding that terrible day. How could someone do that? What was wrong with that kid? How come nobody got him help? Sadly, we will never really know why this event happened. But what we do know is that mental health care is still not being treated with the seriousness that it should be. This is especially true when it comes to the mental health of our kids. We see far too many children suffering from conditions like depression, anxiety, bi polar and other crippling disorders. According to the United States Surgeon General, 20% of children in America suffer from a diagnosable mental illness with nearly 5 million suffering from serious disorders, affecting their day to day life. And sadly, far too many of these kids will die of suicide because they were not able to receive the proper care or because parents were afraid to speak out because of the negative stigma still associated with mental illness.
With that said, there are many extremely dedicated mental health care workers who are on the front lines, often doing more with less in trying to stem the tide of what seems to be a rising epidemic. Here in Albany County, our Department of Mental Health, led by Dr. Stephen Giordano, assist hundreds of people a day with their illnesses. Individuals receive counseling, medication and other assistance as they deal with their often times debilitating diseases. And make no mistake these individuals are not just the homeless person on the street. They are our friends, our neighbors our co-workers, our family members and our kids.
With May being National Mental Health Awareness Month, we should look to address the issue of mental illness not just in terms of gun ownership but in terms of making sure that those suffering from diseases of the brain are getting the proper care they require to live normal and healthy lives. We should look to end once and for all the negative stigma that has for too long been associated with mental illnesses. We should look to make certain that those on the front lines of battling mental illness have all the resources they need. And as parents we should make certain our children are not suffering in silence. We must be willing to speak up and speak out so that the millions of children who suffer from mental illness receive the care they need to go on to live normal and healthy lives. And while we may never know why an unthinkable event like Newtown occurred, we as a society can work to ensure that it does not ever happen again.
If you or someone you know has a child suffering from mental illness, please contact the Albany County Department of Mental Health Child Services Unit at 518-447-4550. If you are in severe crisis, call the 24 hour emergency crisis line at 518-549-6500.