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Mental Health Issues Receive Nation's Attention

Will that Attention Be Beneficial or Harmful in the Long Haul?

Yahoo Contributor Network

Mental health issues have received much attention since the gunmen in the mass shootings that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. , and at the Century movie theater in Aurora, Colo. , are known to have, or have had, mental illness. As individuals, public health officials and politicians grapple with the relationship between gun violence and mental illness, suggested changes and improvements abound throughout the United States.

President Obama's Proposed Budget Includes New Spending in Mental Health

President Barack Obama's proposed federal budget calls for $235 million in increased spending in the area of mental health, proposing new initiatives and mental health programs. Some of the president's ideas were first presented in January in a presentation from the White House titled "Now Is the Time ."

The single largest amount, $100 million, would go toward the creation of programs to train teachers and other adults the early warning signs of mental illness so that referrals to assistance can be made. A portion of this funding, $55 would go toward Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education), a new program that would provide states and local school districts with grants to administer the training programs and collect quality assessment data to evaluate such programs.

A plan for funds towards training additional masters-level mental health professionals would be allotted $50 million in the president's proposal, to expand the existing mental health care field and readying for 2014 when millions of uninsured Americans will have access to insurance under the Affordable Care Act and therefore, increased access to mental health services, explained WashingtonPost.com .

Sen. Lindsey Graham Plans to Introduce Alternative Gun Control Plan

Sen. Lindsey Graham , R-S.C., told the press yesterday that he has formulated an alternative gun control plan to the one about to receive debate in the U.S. Senate, reported HuffingtonPost.com. Graham expressed optimism that his plan has as much support among other senators as does the one being advocated by Sen. Harry Reid , D-Nev., Senate Majority Leader.

Graham is reported to be working on his proposal with Sen. Chuck Grassley , R-Iowa, and all the details of the measure had not been determined as of Wednesday, nor had which of the two senators would be presenting the measure as an amendment to Reid's gun control plan.

Included in this proposed measure would be "increasing prosecutions of those who background checks," increase background checks in the area of mental illness and reform health care privacy laws to ensure better access to information "so we can get better access to troubled folks -- the Virginia Tech situation," Graham explained .

Bottom Line

While it's true that the nation's mental health care needs to be more readily accessible to those who need it, measures such as Graham's do more to demonize those with mental health issues than they do to assist them. Additionally, permitting access the government to people's health records that are currently confidential is a slippery slope; today it may be mental health issues, tomorrow it could be something else, and then more and more.

In February, the Children's Mental Health Network explained that pairing guns and violence with mental illness is in no one's best interest. It is a knee-jerk reaction to tragedies, but it doesn't address the underlying issues in any adequate way.

And if the government gets its desired access to confidential health records, will people seek more or less mental health care, not knowing how that information may be used against them in the future?

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