Training more people nationwide to recognize the signs of mental illness is important and could prevent future tragedies.
Reflecting on the Virginia Shooting, I thought about an unlikely anti-gun violence mouthpiece: Mr. Stevie Wonder, the famed blind musician.
In Philadelphia recently for a surprise concert, Mr. Wonder made several remarks about guns and their availability to those who aren’t mentally stable enough to have them.
Former WDBJ-TV news anchor, Mr. Vester Lee Flanagan, who, before committing suicide on Wednesday, shot and killed WDBJ7 reporter Ms. Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, is the type of person Mr. Wonder spoke of.
Mr. Flanagan, who appeared before his viewing audience under the name Bryce Williams, on multiple occasions showed signs of mental instability.
As reported by The New York Times, Mr. Flanagan’s run with the Roanoke, Virginia, television station was plagued with heated confrontations, including the day he was fired, when police had to be called to remove him from the premises.
“People see the signals, but figure it will never happen,” Mr. Donald Trump, the popular republican presidential candidate, told CNN’s Mr. Chris Cuomo.
Mr. Trump denounced the narrative that the shooting was a gun problem and, like Mr. Chris Christie, asserted that it was, in fact, a “mental health problem.”
“Mental illness is a massive problem,” Mr. Trump said, who noted that even if his co-workers did recognize the signs, what could they have done; “put him in jail for the rest of his life?”
Mr. Trump’s comments aren’t always lucid, but the ones made in reference to the killing of two Virginia journalists were. And more than being coherent, the billionaire’s remarks raise up great issues: How can people recognize the signs of a mentally ill person? And if you notice a person’s mental health diminishing, what can you do to help?
Well, to address the latter first, the answer is certainly not to call the police with the intentions of having the ailing persons jailed.
“Individuals that need, deserve and are entitled to treatment should receive that treatment in communities, not a jail cell,” said Dr. Jean Wright, Pys.D, who, on the #SAYNOTOSUICIDE live broadcast hosted by The Dr. Vibe Show and organized by Techbook Online, told me that in Philadelphia’s prison system, roughly 15 percent of the 8,000 inmates would be designated as having a mental illness, which would make mental health, he said, a justice issue.
In terms of people recognizing the signs and helping others through their issues, Philadelphia, the largest city to ever implement a public health education program, should be used as national model.
On September 10th, 2015, here in Philadelphia, Dr. Wright’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services will celebrate having trained 10,000 people who live and/work in the City in the Mental Health First Aid program.
“I’m very proud of our mental health program,” said Dr. Wright, on live the broadcast, where the news of the 10,000 aides trained broke.
The Mental Health First Aid program is national and very prominent in Philly, Dr. Wright mentioned.
With that being the case, and whereas, two republican presidential candidates spoke openly about mental health in the wake of the Virginia Shooting, the least we could do, as the American public, is agree that bolstering the visibility of the Mental Health First Aid program – which, among many things, teaches people how to be allies to the mentally-ill – and training more people nationwide to recognize the signs of diminishing mental health is important, doable, bipartisan and could prevent both future tragedies and mass incarceration.
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik