After Isla Vista: A glimmer of light. . .

One week ago today, we were shocked and saddened by news of the killing of six young adults near Santa Barbara, CA by 22 year-old Elliot Rodger whose violent rampage ended with his death by suicide. Once again, we watched and listened as the news media reported the details of the incident and the life of the young perpetrator. So much of what we’ve heard and read about the tragedy in Isla Vista is maddeningly familiar, after Columbine and Virginia Tech, Aurora and Newtown. The isolation, anger, delusions and disintegration of a young man tormented by symptoms of his mental illness. The limitations and inadequacies of laws governing the treatment of the mentally ill.  The ineffectiveness of current gun control in our country.

As we head into the weekend today, however, there is a glimmer of light in the darkness of what has become far too frequent and familiar. The media has expanded its focus beyond the facts of the recent tragedy to include the human challenges and struggles surrounding it. And as a result, we are hearing and reading about more than just the ‘madman’ responsible for the latest mass bloodshed.  There is mention of the need for a political response to episodes of mass violence that extends farther than the question of gun control.  Finally, happily, there too is the suggestion that our state and our nation deserve a better mental health system that would support family members in intervening when their loved one is losing control of the battle against mental illness.

This glimmer of light is especially welcome and inspiring now, as we end the month of May/National Mental Health Awareness Month 2014.  In celebration of mental health awareness, I urge you to join GPS and other local, state and national family support organizations and mental health and chemical dependency treatment agencies  in helping the this light grow from a glimmer to a great beacon. Let’s urge our state policymakers to revisit and reverse their decision not to pass Joel’s Law.  Let’s ask them to support our national policymakers in making available needed psychiatric, psychological, and supportive services for individuals diagnosed with mental illness and families in mental health crisis.

Let’s make change by expanding our efforts to raise mental health awareness throughout the year. Mental illness is treatable, tragedies preventable.

You may not think you can reach it.

                            Climb anyway.

             You may not think you’ll be heard.

 Speak anyway.

            You may not think you can change things.

                      Try anyway.

                                    -Maya Angelou