I want to DO SOMETHING about Virginia Tech

Sue Bergeson Health Guide
  • The events at Virginia Tech were so horrifying.  No one should ever have to face this type of tragedy.  And no one should have to live with the devastation this will bring to the thousands of people facing the aftermath.

    While we do not fully know what was going on with Cho Seung-Hui, it’s tempting to play armchair psychiatrist and diagnose what his problems were and what solutions we might have had to solve those problems.  It’s important to remember, however, that only a trained psychiatrist can diagnose mental illnesses, and often it takes years and years to come to the correct diagnosis and treatment. It’s also important to understand that the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are absolutely no threat to others. To the contrary, people with mental illnesses are twice as likely to be victims of violence.
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    Having said that, we do know that Mr. Cho had used mental health services to some extent, but were they enough?  Given the current state of mental health care in the U.S., it’s sad to say – but probably not.  

    One of the frustrations in dealing with these real medical illnesses is that what we don’t know about mental health far outweighs what we do know.  And most frustratingly for any of us who live with mental health conditions is that the research money our government puts into that National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is a pittance when compared to any other illnesses.  

    This is especially frustrating when you consider that depression and bipolar disorder are the number one and number six most disabling conditions in the world.  So if we are looking to address the problems that led to the horrible events at Virginia Tech, the first thing we need is more funding for research so we can understand and better treat these real medical illnesses.  

    So if you want to DO SOMETHING, write your senators to ask that funding for mental health research be increased.

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    Another area of great frustration is that the mental health system has been so terribly under-funded that a commission set up by President Bush has stated it is so badly broken that it needs to be completely transformed – not fixed, but transformed.  Right now if I go to my doctor with a stomach ache, chances are good that my insurance will pay a significant portion of that expense.  If I go in with a mental health condition, chances are even better that my insurance will cover almost none of the costs.  A bill to mandate that insurance covers both mental health and all other health equitably, evenly and fairly, is on the floor of the House and Senate right now.  If it passes, it has the chance of making mental health care more affordable, and more accessible, so that people seek treatment and recover. So if we are looking to address the problems that led to the horrible events at Virginia Tech, the next thing we need is insurance parity so that these illnesses are covered by insurance in the same way any other illnesses is covered by health insurance.

  • So if you want to DO SOMETHING, write or call your legislators and ask them to vote to ensure mental health is covered like any other health expense.
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    Yet a third area of great frustration is that even now the government is looking to cut 76 million dollars out of the already meager mental health budget for next year. This means even more people will literally be sentenced to a life without the care they need.  For some this will be a death sentence. So if we are looking to address the problems that lead to the horrible events at Virginia Tech, the next thing we need is for money to be fully restored to the Center for Mental Health Services budget and for this appropriation to be increased so that it is at the same level that is spent on services for all other illnesses in the country.  

    So if you want to DO SOMETHING, write or call your legislators and ask them to  restore full funding for the Center for Mental Health Services in the 2007 budget.

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    We can not sit and wring our hands about this terrible situation.  We have to take some action so that people are getting the help they need to reach recovery.  It’s up to each of us.
Published On: April 25, 2007