Not just an awareness ribbon, evergreen is the color of Mental Health Treatment for all.
Connecticut is beautiful
I spent many childhood Christmases and summer vacations in Connecticut. Mostly in a town called Darien where my mother's brother and his family lived. From the nicely tended streets of gracious Colonial homes that ooze early American history, to fresh lobsters chosen from the market at Mystic Seaport, to picnics on Long Island Sound, it's an exceptionally beautiful state, less than an hour away, yet a world apart from huge, noisy, legendary New York City.
I wouldn't have believed tragedy could strike Connecticut as it has.
What can we do?
Be pro-life with me!
Let's be clear. It's not at all that I lack empathy for HIV/AIDS.
I am probably the only Spencer Daily Reporter reader that has friends, good friends, who are living with HIV even as I write this, and my heart breaks. And all the celebrity support, legislation, public awareness, societal change, and access to treatment does not change that fact for Mike, whom I went to school with, and several other writing contacts I know of and pray for every day.
I have done writing and design work for the Africa AIDS Fund. I'd love to see true AIDS prevention in our lifetime. ASAP for my friends who are beating the clock -- for now.
HAVING SAID THAT, if mental illness would be treated as a public health issue -- if serious mental illness received HALF the number of celebrity concerts, ribbon days, societal overhauls, political advocacy, and move toward effective treatment that HIV/AIDS has received in the last quarter century, maybe we could contain it, too.
There's already mental health awareness and all that; I'm seeking something much, much bigger.
What if there was a ribbon movement as celebrated and pervasive as the pink ribbon movement and Susan G. Komen? People with overwhelming mental disorders can be unpleasant, unkind, angry, strange and every other thing. But they're still people worth saving. Not many of them will knowingly commit violent acts against another person, and surely not against a mass of people -- but a few is too many. This IS a pro-life movement that will save the lives of the already born. I hope my conservative friends can appreciate their value as fully as they advocate for the value of the not-yet-born. Conservatives, liberals, libertarians, egalitarians, Greens -- this transcends religion, politics and any other ideology. We all were someone's child once; many of us are parents or aunts/uncles, and have a child we loved. What if he had killed yours? Or you?
How can we prevent more tragedies?
If child and adolescent mental illness received the resources it deserved, so young people who struggle can begin internalizing new ways of dealing and coping with the storm inside their minds, then maybe we will get to a point that we have seen our last senseless tragedy like this. Real, effective, life-affirming treatment that goes beyond a prescription pad of quick-pill solutions.
It will take a lot of money. It will take a lot of time. It will take a lot of effort. It will be wrenching. But what if there were active, engaged, smart people in treatment facilities who yes, did what they had to do to stabilize acute patients, but then said, "Adam, Jared, Dylan...let's make you better."
Some of these illnesses are treatment resistant, and patients are let go with, "Well, we tried." Are the people who lost their lives just this past year in no less than three massacres worth it? Is this class of first graders worth it? Are their heroic teachers worth it? Is Gabby Giffords worth it? Are you worth it?
It's not about the ribbon; it's about action
My friend, web and graphic designer Jules Burnell, made this evergreen ribbon on Photoshop. We combed through all the awareness ribbons out there, and have not found a dark green one. With the Sandy Hook shootings taking place near Christmastime, yet not wanting to obviously tie it to just Sandy Hook, we thought it was appropriate.
Mental health is evergreen -- it's always with us. It's for everyone. One in six adults will experience a mental issue in his or her lifetime -- from mild (or severe) depression to PTSD to anxiety attacks, every family deals with it at some point.
The brain is the most complex organ in the body. Why should we not devote a wealth of our collective resources to treating its illnesses and disorders? This is so important, we shouldn't wait another moment.
As an example of a politician who may well make more of an impact after his term of office than during it, former Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Connecticut's neighbor, Rhode Island, has created a foundation treating the brain:
Kennedy's foundation focuses on the neuroscience end of mental illness.
It's a start. The real solution will take all of us.