To the Editor:
In April 29’s opinion column, Donald Lambro wrote that our nation is ill equipped to deal with the violently mentally ill. I agree. I further argue that our nation, which is comprised of family units, is ill equipped to help them deal with any type of mental illness, violent or not.
The Reinking’s story is a microcosm of a mentally ill family unit. In the case of Travis Reinking, his parents knew he had been delusional since August 2014. The police contacted Reinking’s father and told him to get him help.
But the father can’t make his 29-year-old adult son seek help. The father, too, must have been mentally ill to give his delusional son an AR-15 rifle.
Mental illness is scary. We are a nation that believes “mind over matter” and somehow one should be able to think their way out of mental problems. Combine a “pull yourself up by your boot straps” attitude with the stinging stigma that follows anyone admitting to a mental illness.
Disgrace leads to denial, for who wants to admit to being “crazy?” Because mental illness is misunderstood, it is difficult for someone to reach out to others. The family unit or the individual may know how or where to seek help.
For young people, the stigma and confusion can be worse. What parent understands depression or psychosis? What parent wants to believe their beloved child has such frightening problems? They may overlook signals or clues a young person sends out because they don’t or won’t understand. Thus families struggle alone.
Mental illness is an expensive disease. Often insurance plans cover a bare minimum of services or put a financial limit on funding. Outpatient services offering a sliding scale or reduced payment are often crowded and personnel overworked.
As individuals who comprise a nation, we must look within and change our attitudes. Mental illness doesn’t happen in isolation and affects us all. Families like the Reinkings occur more frequently than one may think. Whatever help they needed as a family they didn’t receive. And society paid anyway.
Caroline Pharr Sobolak