Letter to The Washington Post

November 28, 2013

Letter to the Editor

The tragedy affecting the Deeds family in Virginia once again casts a spotlight on mental health issues in our society [“Virginia investigates release of Deeds’s son,” front page, Nov. 21]. Inadequate state funding and too few beds for the mentally ill are only part of the problem. In the aftermath of such tragedies, it is easy to blame large public institutions or the government. This is the time, however, for us to explore how we, as a community and a society, can improve our understanding of mental health issues.

The underlying issues include not just an underfunded or unresponsive mental health system but also the difficulty we all have in talking about mental health concerns. We must acknowledge that we have fallen short in addressing the stigma associated with mental illness, which hampers individuals’ efforts to reach out for help and demeans those when they need help most. Reducing the stigma surrounding mental health care and the prejudice directed toward people with mental illness is a responsibility we all share.

It is not enough to teeter from crisis to crisis when we could prevent them from ever starting. Educating ourselves about mental illness is a good first step. Seek out programs in your communities that provide this education. The more we all learn about mental illness and the opportunities available for treatment and recovery, the healthier our communities will be.

Anne Edgerton, Richmond

The writer is executive director of Mental Health America of Virginia.

Source: The Washington Post