Mental health for its own sake…

The shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT has focused the attention of the nation, including myself, as the father of a first-grader the same age as the victims.

As President Obama said last night in his remarks at the vigil, there should and will be vigorous discussion and action. Two topics of immediate interest is reforming our gun control laws (and our gun culture), and improving our nation’s mental health system.

Here’s some background on our mental health system currently, and the good news is that there are already some improvements underway, thanks to the Affordable Care Act–but there’s a lot more to do.

Mental health advocates will take all the help they can get in arguing for funding and support, but I do worry about the frame of supporting mental health for the sake of preventing mass shootings–as opposed for the broader goal of getting people the care that they need, for themselves and their families, and the resulting broad health, economic and societal benefits. The awful event at Newtown can be an impetus for us to be better as a society, but we need to see it as such, rather than as a way to stop a specific act at a specific time.

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