The responsibility to protect

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By Jon Parton

My sister’s friend committed suicide last week. She had family, friends and a fiancé. What she didn’t have was the professional help needed to improve her mental health.

She couldn’t afford it.

The greatest mark of a civilization is how it treats its citizens with the least advantages; the poor, the young, the physically handicapped, the mentally handicapped, the minorities.

I never understood those people who claimed to be religious in one breath and then complain about freeloaders on welfare with the next.

Having read the entire Bible, the behavior I see in these people does not match up to the religion they claim to follow. For reference,  look at Luke 12:33-34, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

It’s wrong to say that every Christian is a hypocrite. That’s the point. Generalizations about a religion are just as wrong as generalizations about the sick and needy.

As a nation, we have the moral obligation, the responsibility to protect the least of our citizens. It’s not a matter of money; it’s a matter of providing for those who can’t afford mental health care for themselves.

The suicide rate in the U.S. jumped 31 percent from 1999 to 2010, meaning about 105 people committed suicide a day. My sister’s friend had a future, but she’s just a statistic now because of her inability to receive mental health care.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in self-interest. People have plenty of problems in their own lives to fix, let alone the problems of others. However, it’s this line of reasoning that has led to the situation we face today.

Look at all the mass shootings that have occurred within the past few years. No one thinks mental health care is a problem until something traumatic occurs.

The American Psychological Association ran a survey in 2008 that found many Americans with mental illness were forced to pay out-of-pocket for their own psychiatry sessions. What about those who can’t afford to do so?

Another major problem is the stigma associated with mental health care. We’re a nation that can talk openly about sex and guns, but mental health is seen as taboo. A person who seeks help for mental illness is often looked down upon in our society.

Beyond our  responsibility to provide for those less fortunate, we need to lose our negative connotations regarding mental health care. We have to say as a nation, “It’s OK to seek help. It’s OK to talk about what’s wrong.”

We already know what our silence has cost us. It’s time to break through our comfort zone and have a discussion about things that
matter.

Contact Jon Parton, managing editor, at jparton@jccc.edu

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