[YSPNetwork] Mary Monnat, Oregonian guest opinion.
Damien J SANDS
Damien.J.Sands at state.or.us
Tue Feb 17 08:52:13 PST 2009
I'm copying an article from today's Oregonian. On a personal note, it is great to see our Early Assessment and Support Alliance sites and the GLSMA on the same page. FYI:
We need to talk
by Mary Monnat, guest opinion
Monday February 16, 2009, 8:00 AM
When I read the headline in The Oregonian, "Two dead, seven hurt in downtown Portland shooting," I knew.
I knew that somewhere in the investigation a history of untreated mental health issues would surface. Why else would a young man fire into a crowd of vibrant young people and then turn the weapon on himself, taking his own life? I also knew that despite the dire economic times facing us, this is not the time to cut funds to mental health and addiction services and further erode the fragile safety net that can mean the difference between life and death. This is the time to talk openly and honestly about mental health and the resources that exist in our community to help people who are struggling to lead healthy, successful lives.
We are living in difficult times. People by the thousands are being let go from their jobs, facing home foreclosures, turning to food stamps to feed their families. Life is hard enough to navigate these days when you do not have a mental health diagnosis. Add depression -- and in Erik Ayala's case, schizophrenia -- and it can become exponentially more difficult. Cultural barriers often further complicate matters.
I grieve for the families and friends of Ashley Wilks and Martha "Tika" Paz De Noboa, two young people whose lives were cut needlessly short. I feel too for the Ayala family, for though nothing can justify such a heinous act, they have also lost a child.
The real tragedy is that it doesn't have to be this way.
We know there are innovative approaches that work. All of us in the community should know how to reach out and encourage those needing support to take advantage of existing resources. Every day at LifeWorks NW and many other mental health and addiction organizations throughout our state, compassionate professionals provide new skills and hope to those in need. We have seen great success for youth when they are taught to manage their illness.
Thanks to former U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith, the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act recognizes that youth suicide is a public health crisis and makes confidential screening programs readily available through our colleges and universities. Additional support is available through Oregon Partnership's suicide prevention line (800-SUICIDE).
On an even more promising note, last legislative session Oregon lawmakers established a new ground-breaking regional network, the Early Assessment and Support Alliance, which provides intensive services and support to young people and their families as they experience the very first signs of a serious mental illness. By intervening early and intensely with the support of a caring community, young people with mental health diagnoses are able to graduate from school, keep their friends, maintain family ties and have successful careers and lives in our communities.
While times are tough, this is not the time to cut funding for mental health and addiction services. This is the time to start a serious discussion - about what's working to help those struggling with mental health and addiction issues. It is time to make information widely available about the signs of mental illness and the ways we can help in our families, our schools and our workplaces.
Let's face it. We need to talk.
Mary Monnat is the president and CEO of LifeWorks NW.
Hope all is well.
Damien J. A. Sands, MPA.
Young Adult Services Coordinator
Addictions and Mental Health Division (AMH)
500 Summer St. NE, E86
Salem, OR 97301-1118
damien.j.sands at state.or.us
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