We need balance in the national discussion about improving mental health

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Another horrific incidence took place this week with the stabbing of Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds apparently by his son, Gus, who later committed suicide. This is the latest in a string of mental health related violent incidents. So once again the media is filled with stories about the need for more hospital beds, stricter guidelines for when someone can be committed by a family member or loved one, and a growing call for a more prominent focus on the seriously mentally ill.

And who am I to argue? I agree that we need better services for the seriously mentally ill. No one should be turned away who is a potential danger to themselves or others. But I also worry that we are slipping in to an all-too familiar prescriptive remedy of calling for an increase in psychiatric bed space in hospitals and residential facilities to handle what are often described as "dangerously mentally ill individuals" as an answer to the overall challenge of providing services and supports for a broad spectrum of young people and adults with mental health challenges, most of whom are nonviolent. And this is where the conversation gets polarized. On one side are those calling for more intensive services to the exclusion of anything else and on the other side are those who call for less intensive services to the exclusion of anything else. What we need are both. The dialogue about the future of public mental health services in America needs to honor both ends of the spectrum, recognizing where each is most appropriate. 

Share your story of positive approaches to working with youth who have mental health challenges
If you have a story of a successful approach (either intensive or less intensive) to working with young adults with mental health challenges that avoids stigma, is strengths-based and welcoming, let us know so that we can share it throughout the CMHNetwork. We will do our part by highlighting a successful program each week. Next week we will focus on an less intensive peer-support program that shows promising results. We need some balance in the national conversation about what is not working in the mental health system to include what is working well.

Scott Bryant-Comstock
President & CEO

Children’s Mental Health Network

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