As the year draws to a close, we would like to thank all of our supporters here at Weston United. In addition we would like to thank all of our dedicated staff who work so hard to make a difference in our community. We wish you all a very happy holiday season and a happy, healthy and peaceful new year in 2012. We appreciate all your contributions and ask that if you can make a donation before the year end to support the work of Weston House, please do so online or mail in your contribution. On behalf of Jean Newburg, CEO, and the rest of the board, we would also like to thank and acknowledge the many contributions of Max Nuti who stepped down from the board this Fall. We are very grateful for his service and his generosity to the Weston Community.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life to building a more just and equal society. Today, Americans across the country honor Dr. Martin Luther King and mark the 25th anniversary of the holiday that bears his name. Sixteen years ago, Congress passed legislation making the holiday a national day of service. Dr. King believed that we are at our best when we serve others and anyone who has volunteered their time or energy will probably know that so often, we reap more than we sow when we give back to our community.
“Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
People who experience mental health problems are heavily discriminated against and stigmatized in society, and often feel excluded. But they are equally deserving of civil rights. At Weston United we aim to provide support and services to people in our community who suffer from mental illness. We need your help and support – both financial and in kind, and not just today, but every day. Even if you didn’t have an opportunity to mark the occasion today, it’s not too late to get involved! You can donate here or contact us to find out more about volunteer opportunities at Weston United. We salute Dr. King and his example and thank our staff and supporters for the good work they do in our community every day.
The issue of mental health is again in the headlines with the tragic, and senseless shooting of Gabby Giffords and others in Tucson, AZ. This latest news is all too familiar. Someone goes on a shooting rampage and the media, mental health experts and law enforcement struggle to find lessons in the aftermath. While some commentators believe that right wing rhetoric incited the young man responsible, it is very likely that he suffered from some type of mental disturbance. Severe mental illness, on its own, is not intrinsically linked with violence. In fact, a 2009 analysis of nearly 20,000 individuals concluded that increased risk of violence was associated with drug and alcohol problems, regardless of whether the person had schizophrenia. Two similar analyses on bipolar patients showed, along similar lines, that the risk of violent crime is fractionally increased by the illness, while it goes up substantially among those who are dependent on intoxicating substances. In other words, (as Vaughn Bell wrote in Slate.com) it’s likely that some of the people in your local bar are at greater risk of committing murder than your average person with mental illness.
That being said, mental illness affects an estimated one in four Americans every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Planned reductions in state funding are only likely to increase demands on emergency rooms, schools, nursing homes, foster care services and charities that provide assistance to the homeless. The cycle of hospitalization, homelessness and incarceration continues with our jails acting in a significant number of cases as (inadequate) mental health facilities.
Too often, however, people seem to ignore the obvious signs of serious mental illness. Student Seung Hui Cho demonstrated worrying signs of instability prior to taking the lives of 33 people at Virginia Tech in 2007. Within hours of this latest shooting in Tucson, evidence was coming in from around the Internet of the disjointed thoughts of Jared Loughner. In the wake of this tragedy in Tucson, Arizona, isn’t it time that we had a campaign that raises awareness of the signs of serious mental disturbance?
The “If You See Something, Say Something” anti-terrorism campaign was originally put in place by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2002, but adopted by the Department of Homeland Security. The campaign has been effective in engaging the public and key frontline employees in identifying and reporting “indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats,” Homeland Security officials say. We need to create a public awareness campaign to educate people on the signs and symptoms of serious mental illness – the type that can lead to violence. Obviously there are challenges but without fostering paranoia, there are warning signs that everyone could be more aware of. In addition to better gun control, an education campaign could make the difference between life and death. So if you see something, say something.
We hope Representative Giffords and all those injured make a full recovery, and offer our condolences and sympathies to those who died in this tragedy.
At this time of year, it’s only natural that many of us think about how to help people in need. Some homeless people have shared how they are often inundated with offers of food this week. But a better idea to think about is spreading your support throughout the year–either by giving to organizations like Weston United which provide support to those in need throughout the year, or reaching out to someone in need at a less obvious time. Weekends in particular, can be difficult days for homeless people to access food resources. We would like to thank everyone for their support of our work and we wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!
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