We Need To Speak Out NOW!

The national debate about the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School must include a strong call for improving our mental health care system. Now is not the time for us to hide or keep silent.

A blog by a desperate soccer mom about her struggles to help her son has gone viral.  That proves people are listening. They are trying to understand. We must not lose this opening to demand better services and to put a more representative face on those who have been diagnosed with mental disorders. Early reports suggest the shooter had a form of Asperger syndrome. Some consider it a mental illness. Others argue that it is not. Regardless, we need to speak about our failed system and not allow this debate to focus only on gun control.

There is another important part of this discussion that is not being voiced — but must be heard.

Most people with a mental illness can and do recover if they receive meaningful treatment and services. My son is  proof that recovery is possible.  Now more than ever, we need to emphasis that with treatment, recovery can happen.

We will dishonor the victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech, in Tuscon, in Aurora and  in Connecticut if we keep silent.


About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. Marti Cockrell says

    Yes! Thank you so much for getting a real conversation about this issue going.
    Some of the things I heard over the weekend, when put together, add up to a much larger portion of the public being open to seeing the need for changing our mental health system now. It’s not only those of us with mentally ill family members who are aware.
    Actually, one statistic I heard was that over 70% of NRA members want to find real solutions to these problems, and they should be open to support this cause. It is so vitally important. No one should have to struggle to find help when they are mentally ill. Help should be readily available.

  2. I agree. Where do we start?

  3. I think there are probably many other people like me who are “itching” to do something that will help forward discussion about what mental illness is (and is not) and advocate for better access to more comprehensive mental health care, but we don’t know what will be most effective.  For now, I’m just trying to be more active in the discussions that keep these conversations alive, supporting groups like NAMI and sharing facebook posts that help clarify mental health issues.  Pete, what would you suggest that an “ideal scenario” would look like to get us farther along the path toward helping everyday people and our legislators understand what would be most productive to do now?  The time seems most opportune.

  4. I believe we start by realizing that we must speak out as family members of the mentally ill.  But we must do it in a way that respects our loved ones privacy. I wish I could convince my sibling who has paranoid schizophrenia to be open about his illness as his story (like so many stories out there) could help others.  But he is reluctant to come out due to the social stigma.  I would have no problems whatsoever speaking out as I am and always will be proud of the person my sibling is.  I have never been ashamed of him or his illness.  He has done nothing wrong and nothing to cause his own illness.  He is the bravest soul I’ve ever known.

  5. Marti Cockrell says

    I agree. Our son is also very reluctant to call attention to himself. I guess it is up to those of us who don’t mind speaking up, but I still don’t see clearly where to put the limited amount of time that I have available to do anything extra.
    If the NRA membership got behind getting adequate and timely help for the mentally ill, that would be huge. They have a vested interest, like us, because, just like incidents like this shed a negative light unjustly on the mentally ill, they shed a negative light on legal gun owners.
    We are in the same boat with the NRA! It’s a little hard to believe, but true.

  6. I guess my only problem with this post is the depiction of the person who seems to be at the crossroads of buying a gun or overcoming the hurdles of getting access to mental health. Why is this character so “goofy” looking? Wouldn’t the point be made even if the person was as “normal” looking as the character playing the psych care giver?  I realize that stereotyping in comics is a technique for a quick read, as the psych care giver looks like Freud. But, it seems like sometimes these subtle ques don’t do the cause any favors. ALL of us have mental health needs.  Those with more extreme needs look like anyone/everyone else. Just a thought.

  7. Whenever national events like this occur, the related special interests groups speak up, Police brutality on blacks – NAACP. Gay bashing-  the Gay Rights Group, and etc. Now its the mentally ill – and so NAMI, this site, etc.
    Mental illness strikes eveywhere, and is not sequestered to one area of our country. There’s mentally ill children in public schools, mentally ill parishoners in church, a few in Congress ( Jesse Jackson Jr. ), Hollywood has dozens.
         The bettering of treatment for the mentally ill is everyone’s concern. Special interest groups can spearhead movement, but outreach is totally neccessary.
    The mental health advocacy groups must specifically target schools, communities, colleges, even religious institutions to come on board with the need
    for neccessary reform. The answer is to reach out to others and with a large populous at Washington’s door, change will have to occur.
         This approach also aids in diminshing stigma.
    Aside from better health care, mental health education must become a requirement in public schools.
    Improved mental health care is not a group-specific concern. It is the concern
    of everyone, as people with mental illnesses are here to stay!
       I would urge the CEOs and boards of all the national mental health type organizations, along with the national teachers assoc.and clergy, and others so empowered, to get mobile!
    Murder is a crime, but lets not forget the first crime was denying adequate health care.
    Time to put the A for action into advocacy!

  8. Unfortunately I do not ahve to worry about stigmatzing my son. One of the biggest obstacles to getting substance abuse treatment for my son was the current HIPAA law. My son never had emotional problems when he was young, and was as close to an ideal son as he could be,  until he started drinking and using drugs. He clearly had a genetic predisposition to addiction.  My husband and I went through much trauma to get him treatment between 15 and 17yrs. of  age. He spent one and a half yrs. in treatment and as a young adult was able to live independently, successfully and drug free for 7 and a half years. At age 25,  he had a relapse and was involuntarily hospitalized in Florida as a danger to himself and others. We flew from NH to Florida and when we arrived at the  psychiatric hospital we were told we could not see him or have any information on his condition. The ultimate Catch 22— he was admitted because he was not in touch with reality (as we later found out with drug induced psychosis). Yet he was being given the responsibility of making his own healthcare decisions. Needless to say, his situation went downhill and despite all our efforts he died in a single car accident within 7 months–all because we were denied the information we needed to get him the immediate help he needed.  There is so much more to our story, but I would like to get this information into the public discussion given the issues being brought to light now with the recent mass shootings.  Gun control and lists of people with mental illness will not solve the problem,  if parents and siblings can’t get help for each other because of HIPAA.