I firmly believe that our society still has a substantially ingrained stigma, fear, and overall lack of knowledge about mental illness, brain disease, and intellectual disabilities. My opinion is the television and entertainment industry continues to exacerbate the stigma by producing nonfactual and sensationalized shows, movies, and games which erroneously and negatively portray persons with mental illness. As a result, many impressionable young and middle aged adult viewers have established misconceptions about mental illness.
Suicide ranks as the third leading cause of death of young people age 10-24. Approximately 4600 youth age 10 through 24 die by suicide each year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC.gov) estimates also indicate that 45 percent die by firearm, 40 percent by suffocation, 8 percent by poisoning and 7 percent by other means. This data does not include persons aged 18-24 who are in the military.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA.gov) research in a recent report suggests that approximately 8.7 million American adults age 18 and older considered suicide in 2010; of those, approximately 2.5 million made a suicide plan, and there were 1.1 million attempted suicides. Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States general population in 2007. Any substance use disorders co-occurring with a mental illness greatly increases the risk of death by suicide and homicide in all age groups.
One in five (20 percent) of the general United States population will have a mental illness sometime during their life time according to SAMHSA, CDC, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and many other sources. Less than 40 percent of persons with a serious mental illness receive treatment.
A national shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists reached a crisis level several years ago. There is a severe shortage of psychologists for this age group, especially school psychologists. This is well documented in education, psychology, and other social-science journals throughout the past 15 years.
Nationally, the impact of budget cuts and unfunded mandates for education has resulted in a critical shortage of school nurses and school counselors. Many districts have ridiculously disproportionate counselor to student ratios. Some are as high as 1 counselor per more than 400 students.
We can only speculate why Adam Lanza's suicide included a radical, vengeful and homicidal retaliation against those who were supposed to nurture his psychological, social, and spiritual behaviors, his mother and the school.
While we grieve and mourn along with the families who were victims (including Adam Lanza's family) and others impacted by this suicide-homicide tragedy; I believe we need to seriously act upon the facts we do have to prevent suicide, and eradicate the stigma about mental illness. By doing so, we will be able to better optimize medical care, social-science treatments, and recovery oriented systems of care for millions of Americans who have, or will have, a serious mental illness during their lifetime.
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom