The government’s plan largely revolves around training those who work with children, teens, and young adults to recognize the signs of developing mental illnesses. (Varney) Some argue that this is too young an age to be looking for mental illnesses; however, research shows that approximately 50 percent of lifelong mental illness begins before the age of 14, while 75 percent of mental illnesses develop by young adulthood. (Varney) These afflictions include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and depression – all of which are extremely serious mental illnesses. The president is pushing for a program that would provide mental health first aid training for teachers as well as a referral system for kids with mental health and behavioral issues.
This, in some contexts, makes sense. Of course it is important to realize the warning signs of emotional disturbances in youth – especially as it can be a strong indicator of abuse or other traumatic experiences. However, does this not warrant some kind of bias against children and young adults who are already suffering with mental illnesses? Plenty of functioning adults have mental illnesses and do not commit these heinous crimes and to assume that somebody is capable of something awful because they are suffering from a disorder or disease is profiling to an extreme.
These times are developmentally difficult, even for children and young adults who do not have to deal with mental illnesses. If there are constantly people pointing out a child’s potential depression or schizophrenia, are they not going to suffer more? Are they not going to feel more alone, feel more different than and disconnected from their peers?
If they are diagnosed, will they feel ashamed or scared that people will look at them differently? Even worse, will people work at them differently? Will this new focus on mental health create a stigma surrounding the unfortunate number of young people who suffer from mental illness? If another tragedy were to occur, would the mentally ill be the scapegoats immediately?
I hope not. We need to remember that those who are mentally ill are suffering. They have the potential to have fulfilled, happy lives and deserve to be treated with the same respect as anybody else.
Profiling is profiling, and it isn’t right. I understand that, as a country, we need to protect the public, but we also need to protect the vulnerable among us, and two of the most vulnerable groups of people there are include the mentally ill and children. What kind of society are we if we are going to subject the most vulnerable of them all (children who suffer from mental illnesses) to the same pain and profiling that drives people to the edge?
Varney, Sarah. “Obama’s Plans For Guns Put Focus On Mental Health Of The Young.” npr.com. 17 January 2013. 18 January 2013 <http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/>.