Press Release: Rep. Napolitano Co-Hosts Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Mental Health Briefing
(Washington, DC) Yesterday, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), a vice-chair of the House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, co-hosted a briefing and panel discussion examining the status of mental health in America today.
“I want to thank President Obama and Vice President Biden for allowing us to bring an issue that is very near and dear to my heart to the forefront,” Napolitano said. “I also thank my colleague Mike Thompson for including the mental health perspective as part of the dialogue on gun violence, as well as all Task Force Members who are here today. This is an issue that affects us all and for that reason, it is critical that everyone; elected officials, mental health professionals, and the general public, be part of the conversation and become properly informed and educated about mental health.”
Napolitano was joined by chair of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-5) and other Members of the Task Force including Representatives Ron Barber (AZ-2), Bobby Scott (VA-3), and Ed Perlmutter (CO-7), Minnesota Senator Al Franken, as well as mental health experts. The panelists presented unique insights to the status of our current mental health system and offered ways in which to improve it.
“The mental health component of our task force is extremely important, and it is necessary that it is part of our comprehensive approach,” said Rep. Thompson. “We are not just going to throw some money at it. We have to be smart, figure out what works, and proceed in that direction. That is what we will do.”
“I want to thank Congresswoman Napolitano for holding this important and informative briefing,” said Rep. Barber. “We know that to address gun-related violence, we also must address the need to identify and treat people with mental illness – keeping in mind that these individuals are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. I appreciate Congresswoman Napolitano’s leadership and support of my Mental Health First Aid Act, which is one step in preventing gun violence by providing training to help people identify and respond to signs of mental illness.”
“Congresswoman Napolitano organized an informative session on the importance of a comprehensive mental health component in our response to the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy,” said Rep. Scott. “Such a comprehensive approach must assure affordable mental health services for all, with a focus on prevention and early intervention for children as well as adults.”
Two important themes of the panel discussion were the urgent need for mental health parity and the elimination of the harmful stigma that surrounds the issue of mental illness.
“Mental health maintenance is no different than maintaining your physical health,” said Adrian Veseth-Nelson, President and co-founder of Invisible Wound and retired Army Captain. “It is absolutely critical that we view it in the same manner. There is nothing wrong with going to the doctor because you have a cold. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with getting help for mental health issues.”
“Behavioral health, mental illness, and substance abuse issues are not social problems,” said Pamela Hyde, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). "They are public health problems, and they should be tackled and solved in that way.”
“We must rethink how we talk about mental health disorders,” said Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). “Science trumps stigma.”
“The most hopeful sign I’ve seen is that mental health finally sits at the table,” said Dr. Wayne Lindstrom, Director of Mental Health America (MHA). “If we invest early in mental health, we can see a sizable return on that investment.”
“This is no longer an issue impacting only big urban areas and traditional resettlement states,” said Dr. Olga Acosta Price, Director of Prevention/Intervention School Based Mental Health Services. “This is a national issue, and our social, emotional, and mental health programs must reflect this reality.”
“We need to train all teachers, family members, students, and administrators to identify the warning signs and symptoms to catch issues early on,” said Mike Kennedy, Director of Sonoma County (CA) Mental Health Services.
“Emotion can help capture the public’s interest when reporting on mental illness,” said Brian Dyak, CEO and President of the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC). “Listening to those who are living with mental illness can establish a dialogue that has the power to break down the stigma and discrimination.”
Napolitano is the Co-Chair of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus, and she has been active in securing mental health parity in health insurance and raising the profile of mental health in Congress. She began funding mental health services for schools in her congressional district in 2001. The program has since expanded to 15 schools and serves as a pilot program for the Mental Health in Schools Act, which she has introduced in the past three congresses and plans to re-introduce in the 113th Congress.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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