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12/23/2012 2:14:00 PM
As our hearts break, a plea for mental health services
Catholic News Service
A rosary hangs over a memorial for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 18.
Catholic News Service
A rosary hangs over a memorial for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., Dec. 18.

The entire nation is blue over the Connecticut school massacre, and soon we will be angry. That’s the natural progress of grief.

Even as we struggle in the mire of national depression, we can barely imagine the tidal wave of pain and emptiness hitting the parents of the first graders and the loved ones of other victims. What about the children who saw their best friends die?

Right here in Oregon, families are bereft over the loss of beloved people cut down at a shopping mall by the gun of another unstable young man.

First, we must grieve and honor the dead, celebrating even their first-grade accomplishments, their scout badges and coloring books, their jump rope skills and gap-toothed laughter at corny jokes.

Then, fueled by that righteous anger, we need to face these savage acts that surpass our ability to describe. The shootings were patently demonic, a tragic reminder that evil exists, even if we don’t understand its causes.

Next, we think about how we help our neighbors who are mentally ill. Most mental health patients hurt no one. But the tragedies of last week show that we are inept at addressing the whole field of disease, except for the very rich and perhaps the very poor whose illness has sent them to the streets and the programs there.

Most of us in the middle, even if we have good health coverage, can plainly see that psychological and psychiatric care is a neglected sideshow. Mental health experts in organizations like Kaiser Permanente tell us they are overworked and frustrated. Imagine the plight of patients trying to seek care. Imagine if Jacob Tyler Roberts and Adam Lanza had been in solid treatment, sent there by parents or teachers educated in psychological disease.

At St. Mary Cathedral last Sunday, Msgr. Patrick Brennan said the horrors of the week seem to be moving the country together “to counter evil by doing good, to fight hatred by showing love, and to dispel the darkness by being light.”

The best tribute we can give our nation’s beloved dead is a decent and comprehensive mental health system, full of compassion and light.

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