While 2016 Candidates Point Fingers On Cause Of TV News Shooting, A Real Mental Health Crisis Brews

NewsOne’s PolitickerOne blog tackles some of the most important topics in politics: Election 2016, moves by the Obama administration, voting rights, lawmaking, and the way that elected officials represent our communities. Three times a week, we will go beyond the mainstream media’s “pack” coverage of politics to highlight the underreported aspects of how politics and policy affect you and the people you care about. In between, follow the conversation on Twitter at #PolitickerOne.

Why Presidential Candidates Should Be Talking About The Mental Health Crisis

A day after alleged gunman Vester Lee Flanagan shot and killed two television journalists on-air in Roanoke, Virginia, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump weighed in on the connection between the crime and how America handles mental illness.

“Mental illness is a massive problem,” Trump told host Chris Cuomo on CNN’s New Day after Flanagan reportedly killed WDBJ-TV 7 reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward Wednesday morning on live TV. “This isn’t a gun problem, it’s a mental health problem. You’re not going to get rid of all guns.” Trump went on to mention funding cutbacks for mental health services and the deinstitutionalization trend, adding in relation to Flanagan, “In the old days, we had mental institutions for people like this.”

With his partisan response to protect gun rights, Trump was one of many political hopefuls and elected officials to address the shooting. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton supported her party’s call for greater gun control laws, and also universal background checks. And in a press conference following the tragedy, President Barack Obama pointed to the shooting as a reason to overhaul gun laws.

SEE ALSO: Obama Administration Urges Congress To Act On Gun Control After WDBJ-TV Slayings 

But where were the same overwhelming calls to overhaul the nation’s fragile mental health system?

While it’s unclear if Flanagan ever had a diagnosed mental health condition, he was encouraged to seek counseling while working at WDBJ-TV after confrontations with co-workers, reports the Guardian:

He was told to contact employee assistance professionals at the company Health Advocate. “This is a mandatory referral requiring your compliance,” Dennison told Flanagan on 30 July 2012. “Failure to comply will result in termination of employment.”

Flanagan reportedly never sought treatment and there was nothing in his medical history that barred him from purchasing a gun. Still, in a 23-page letter to ABC News, Flanagan reportedly suggested “job and societal stress had put him on the verge of explosion.”

To be sure, after years of cutbacks, the nation’s mental health system is in shambles. “For years, the nation and its leaders have been accused of neglecting mental health and remaining silent as millions suffer on the streets, in jails, or linger without treatment,” U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), said in a news release earlier this month. The release trumpets new bipartisan legislation – the “Mental Health Reform Act of 2015″ aimed at overhauling and strengthening America’s mental health care system.

The news release states:

In fact, studies show that approximately 44 million Americans (or 1-in-5 adults) suffer from a serious mental illness, 90% of those who commit suicide each year have an underlying mental illness, and that the mentally ill die an average of 25 years earlier than their peers, often cycling between prisons and homelessness. Annually, serious mental illness costs the United States over $193 billion in lost earnings and productivity. Despite the severe emotional and financial costs associated with mental illness, a needless stigma surrounds the issue and has caused America to shy away from openly discussing simple solutions. The Cassidy-Murphy legislation identifies the weaknesses in our current mental health care delivery system and seeks to reform America’s mental health system so that it meets the needs of all patients.

Those senators are not alone. U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) support bills that would force states “to do a better job reporting criminal and mental health information to the federal background check system,” reports the New York Daily News:

“We have to deal with the challenge of mental health if we’re going to stop the scourge of this random violence,” said New York City Mayor [Bill] de Blasio.

Public and private spending on mental health has generally increased in recent years, according to a federal study.

Already, Obamacare and a less well-known 2008 law barring insurers from putting up financial barriers to mental health care have increased access to mental care.

And in the aftermath of high-profile police-involved deaths of people of color across the nation, #BlackLivesMatter has developed Campaign Zero, a policy agenda that in part calls for improved training to better equip officers to deal with people in mental distress.

Certainly, these are all positive steps in the right direction, but political hopefuls and elected officials have to be braver on issues of gun control and mental health.

SOURCE: The New York Daily News, The Guardian | VIDEO CREDIT: Twitter


Officials Commemorate 10-Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest natural disasters in the nation’s history, swept through New Orleans and the surrounding Gulf Coast region. Its wake left almost two thousand people dead, destroying homes, businesses, and countless lives. This week, elected and government officials recalled the storm that represented a turning point in the way the nation responds to natural disasters.

Here are a few tweets:

SOURCE: Twitter


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