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There is no denying that anyone who would spend months concocting such a brutal expedition is not mentally fit. James Holmes, whether he acted strange in the courtroom or not, is not a mentally fit fellow.
The case of Mr. Holmes has less to do with guns (or any other ridiculous political point for that matter) and more to do with the anemic state of modern psychiatry in our country. So far, we absolutely refuse to properly educate the populace on mental health, and when someone is suspected of having a mental health condition, we tend to ignore or ostracize that person rather than help. Our profession is completely reactive, waiting until someone calls us before any action is taken.
If someone is suddenly walking with a limp, we help them. If someone is exhibiting labored breathing, we help them. If someone is experiencing some kind of physical pain, we help that person and as a society, have no problems offering a helping hand.
If someone starts acting strange, we are mystified as to what to do. We are quick to judge that person and label them an outcast.
Currently, in our country, we go to the dentist for routine checkups. Were we having symptoms? Probably not. Might the dentist find a cavity where you didn't know you had one? Sure. We take care of our teeth because we know that if we don't it can lead to not only a morose smile, but health problems can ensue later on down the line.
Currently, in our country, we go to our primary care physicians for a routine checkup. Are we sick? No. Might your doctor find something to draw to your attention to make sure that you are maintaining optimal health? He or she very well could. We take care of our body because we know that if we catch problems early enough, our ability avoid early death is significantly increased.
Currently, in our country, we wait until we can't take it anymore before we seek mental health help. Moreover, our professionals make no active effort to offer preventative screenings for mental illness. Can mental illness lead to physical health problems such as heart disease that will kill you later on down the line? The literature is very definitive on this. And if your lack of self preservation leading to physical health problems doesn't get you, a mental health problems severe enough might have a hand in convincing you to take the initiative and end your own life.
All of this can be avoided.
As Dr. Keith Ablow points out in his latest article on the subject, "If we care whether our kids are exposed to tuberculosis, shouldn't we care if they are exposed to people struggling with voices, visions or paranoia? If students show up at university health services for physical examinations and medical histories and there is no evidence that they were screened for psychiatric symptoms, and tragedy ensues, shouldn't colleges be liable for the fallout?"
Pursuit of Happiness has long been a leader in developing mental health screenings that can catch problems before they develop. We have teamed with the University of Columbia's Teen Screen program, and have developed a multitude of proprietary mental health checkups to make sure that our minds are taken care of. We take care of our bodies. We take care of our teeth. We even take our animals to the vet for routine exams. But the most important tool of our humanity, our mind, is ignored until problems develop into full blown diagnosable conditions.
What can you do? Contact your schools. Contact your after school programs. Contact your doctors. Contact your state and local legislators, your PTA boards, members of your family, and any member of any organization you can think of and tell them you want to see mental health checkups become a routine part of their stewardship of your children and your loved ones. Share this page on your social network. Like this page on your social network. +1 this page. As a society, willing to do what is necessary to propel ourselves out of the dark ages of mental health, if we all join together we CAN and WILL accomplish this for ourselves and for our future. And be sure to tell them you know of a little ol' organization called Pursuit of Happiness right here in Dallas that has the tools at the ready to combat and take steps to prevent mental illness once and for all.
For dozen in Aurora Colorado, and for hundreds of their friends and families it is too late. Somewhere in the world is another homicidal maniac brewing and stewing and waiting to explode. With mental health checkups, we have the potential to reach out and help that person before the unthinkable happens.
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