The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 18, 2013

Our View: Mind over matter

The Joplin Globe

— President Barack Obama’s proposals to increase access to mental health services and start a dialogue as part of the effort against gun violence should be embraced by this nation, no matter how it feels about mandates pertaining to gun control.

The overall issue of violence in America is far more complex than simply the control of firearms. At a minimum, there should be an expectation of effective care for the mentally ill.

No, that will not put an end to violence. But it sounds like a good first step to improve mental health care, thus helping to control violence in America.

Obama’s measures announced Wednesday include training teachers to recognize students who need help and refer them to mental health services.

It also calls for the completion of regulations that define what mental health coverage must be included by insurance plans.

Obama also said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan will develop and lead a national conversation about mental health.

We are now seeing local school, university and law enforcement authorities beginning some of those discussions as well.

Wayne Lindstrom, president and chief executive officer of Mental Health America, in a written statement to a Bloomberg reporter, said: “His (Obama’s) call for a national dialogue on mental health is critical to changing the conversation surrounding mental health, improving understanding and eliminating stigma. The actions he announced today represent the beginning of a sea of change in the way we look at mental health in this country.”

Fixing a broken mental health system should be our first step to stemming gun violence.