Mental illness is an issue that must be addressed


We at the International Bipolar Foundation mourn the loss of those killed in the tragic shootings Friday, July 20. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims’ families and all those affected.

We recognize that this senseless shooting will stimulate many conversations about gun laws, public safety, violence and their association to mental illness.

James Holmes, the alleged gunman, opened fire on innocent moviegoers during a midnight screening of the “The Dark Knight Rises” at an Aurora, Colorado theater, leaving 12 people dead and more than 50 wounded.

Although his actions clearly demonstrate that Mr. Holmes was grappling with demons, it is too early in the investigation to know if he has a mental illness or not. His actions, however, do beg us to look more closely at our nation’s mental health system.

According to Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., a leading authority on the association of violence and severe mental illness and founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, “People with mental illnesses who are being treated are not more dangerous than the general population, but evidence has become overwhelming that untreated severe mental illnesses are a significant contributor to violent acts, including homicides and a large percentage of rampage murders.”

More than 75 million American adults and 12.8 million children have a mental illness (three times the number of those with diabetes and 10 times the number of ALL cancers combined). Deep cuts to state spending on services for adults and children with mental illnesses has resulted in significant reductions in hospital and community services. With one in four Americans suffering from a diagnosable mental illness, the impact on society is staggering.

Despite the alarming number of people affected with a mental illness, statistics show that only one-third of these individuals seek treatment. According to Dr. Thomas Insel of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), psychiatry is the only part of medicine where there is actually greater stigma for receiving treatment for these illnesses than for having them.

Four of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide are mental disorders. Why then do we continue to veil it in silence, bringing it out only when tragedies such as this senseless shooting occur? Mental illness is an issue that we as a community and a nation must address. Mental illness affects 1 in 4 with no regard to race, gender, religion or socio-economic status. Get involved – who is your 1 in 4?

For more information about the International Bipolar Foundation or to get involved in our anti-stigma campaigns, please visit:

Muffy Walker MSN., MBA; President

International Bipolar Foundation