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Problem: It's time for a serious look at mental health issues

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a good time for all of us to reflect on what as a community with our social service agencies, state and nation can do  if anything  to ease anxieties that cause mental health-related problems.

Some of the issues and numbers are frightening. We have all read about school shootings and other acts of violence in Texas, Florida, and elsewhere. It is sickening. Reports say a young teenage girl rejected a request to date a young man, and that rejection prompted a horrendous killing spree in Santa Fe, Texas.

Another report suggested that more children have been shot and killed in schools (20) than soldiers have died in combat (13) this year. Goodness.

Or the story about the guy who got up from the table where he was dining with wife and daughter in a restaurant and drove his vehicle through the building, killing them both. Mentally ill? What else could it be? Did anyone see it coming?

Veterans and enlisted military personnel are disproportionately as risk for mental health issues. This is definitely an issue about which our community should be concerned. 

Fortunately, groups are working on the problem, and there are at least two themes by national organizations that are worth looking at. They suggest a path to better educate ourselves and others and, maybe, save lives.

One in five Americans, (that's 20 percent), are affected by mental health conditions, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Really? That translates to 784,000 Oklahomans. Incredible. 

"Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support people with mental illnesses and their families," NAMI says. More info can be found at

"Stigma is toxic to an individual's mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents him from seeking help and treatment." That is true.

Meanwhile, Mental Health America, the organization that started Mental Health Awareness Month, has an equally important theme: Risky Business, and it suggests personal responsibility.

"We believe it's important to educate people about habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illness or could be signs of mental health problems themselves. These include risk factors such as risky sex, prescription drug misuse, Internet addiction, excessive spending, marijuana use and troublesome exercise patterns."

We know that illegal and prescription drug abuse has been growing and that it can cause all kinds of family, criminal and health issues. The state legislature has taken notice, too. Mental Health and Substance Abuse appropriations were nearly $325 million in 2017, according to numbers found on the Oklahoma House website. That's 22.4 percent of a $1.4 billion public health budget.

While it may be easy to pinpoint the problems and appropriate and raise funds to address them, it is not easy to pinpoint workable solutions that are a wise investment. Some behavior is just not explainable.

It's time for all of us to look for ideas to get professional help for those with mental health issues to keep us all safer. NAMI's and Mental Health America's proposals are worth studying.

Maybe successful completion of anger management studies should be required in school.

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