As our country comes to grip with yet another tragic incident of a violent murder inside of a high school, this time from a stabbing in Connecticut, and at a time when our own community prepares to have another very high profile trial weighing the sanity of a killer, is it time to look at mental health differently?
A quick glance of the headlines in Colorado show that there is no lack of ails in our society that can be traced to the lack of professional mental health treatment. But what is lacking is a cohesive response far earlier than moments away from significant violence.
Perhaps it is time to rethink the idea of mental health and consider it a part of our own overall health care that begins very early in our lives.
Society looks at medical doctors, dentists and even eye doctors in a completely different way than it looks at psychologists, and we visit them as children, not just as adults.
Much of that starts with our own ego. We have no problem telling someone we need a filling for a tooth or need glasses for a stigmatism, but we would abhor the idea of telling somebody that we need to see a therapist.
But imagine if we treated mental health checkups the same way we treat dental checkups. Imagine what problems we maybe able to catch as a society if children began seeing therapists as often and as early as they do dentists and optometrists?
Right now, we expect our teachers and parents to catch the warning signs and address issues themselves. Yet, we don’t expect parents to spot a cavity or teachers to correctly prescribe glasses for near-sightedness.
So why do we expect them to spot mental health problems?
This concept is not simply about weeding out violent students from our high schools. This concept would help address the homelessness problem and our jail overcrowding issue.
As an electorate, we are routinely asked to approve new taxes to pay for new jails that have proven quickly fill up in Denver. And the Denver City Council is currently raising the hackles of the Ballpark Neighborhood because of a proposal for a major expansion of the Denver Rescue Mission to help provide an oasis for the homeless.
Now imagine both of those issues through the prism of a responsible and effective environment of mental health treatment that starts for everyone as early as all of us go to the dentist or the doctor.
Arriving at mental treatment solutions for our community is much easier said than done. But like any answer to a significant problem, it begins with how we look at it as individuals and not as what other people should do.
If we embraced mental health treatment exactly the same way we treat going to our dentist or our doctor for our annual check-up, then we could change how society views the concept.
If we refuse to even talk about mental health, except for something other people need, we have absolutely no shot as a society at solving our biggest problems.
We cry and shake our heads at incidents of violence in our schools. We’re frustrated at the constancy of the homeless problem. And we keep paying for bigger jails so that they can be quickly filled with all sorts of criminals.
How long will we put up with each of those issues before we accept that we need to look at ourselves in an entirely new way?
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About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.