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Today’s Letters: New approaches needed to the treatment of mental illness

  Published October 21, 2007

Discharged with his demons Oct. 14, story  

 James Allen lived with an illness that is horribly cruel and disabling. He died alone and forsaken by a society whose approach to mental illness is disjointed and fragmented.

 Mental illness is not a lifestyle choice. It is not a character flaw or moral failing. It does not define a person. It is a disease that needs be treated the same as any other.

 Serious mental disorders affect an estimated 6 percent of our adult population, or approximately 1 in 17 people. An estimated 33 percent of the homeless suffer with severe mental illness. Chances are each of us knows someone who suffers with a severe mental illness.

 Sadly many myths and misconceptions about people with mental illness persist in this country fueled by sensational headlines, TV, movies and books. Most people with mental illness would like nothing more than to live as normal a life as possible in the community with friends and family – not to be feared, avoided or mocked.

 Ironically, our society has the knowledge, talent and resources to create environments in which people with mental illness can live their lives to the fullest extent possible given the nature of the illnesses. Our challenge is to translate our store of knowledge and experience into programs, support and appropriate services that are available to all who need them.

 Mental illness affects all of us. It is time we realized this and developed a clear and healthy approach to treating it.

 Diane Gruslin, secretary, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Pasco County, Land O’Lakes