A new state of the art, 72-bed mental hospital was scheduled to be opening late this fall in the city of Gilbert, Arizona. This would have been Gilbert’s only mental and behavioral health facility.
Instead, the plans for the behavioral health institute have been canceled for the second time when a group of residents and parents at a nearby school opposed its construction. Upset neighbors and parents expressed their fears over safety and diminished property values.
Rebecca Flake, a mother of four children who attend the nearby school implied that opening a mental health facility so close to an elementary could lead to another tragedy like Sandy Hook. However, someone with a severe mental illness is five times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than to be the perpetrator (TIME.com). But because of the way media publicizes incidents involving a person with a mental illness committing a crime, it seems much higher to the general public.
It still surprises me that in this day and age people still see mental illness as something that doesn’t affect them. Mental illness will affect 1 in 4 people each and every year, and no single community is immune. Not even Gilbert, Arizona. The individuals seeking treatment at these facilities are not criminals, they are patients. They are sons, daughters, parents, and spouses.
Gail Evans, of the stakeholders group, tried to explain to the parent group that assuming a community is safe because it does not have these facilities is incorrect. She explains that, “If treatment is readily available, the community wins.”
This story was a painful reminder of how much further our society needs to go in removing the stigma around mental illness. The Kim Foundation works tirelessly every day to educate the community, to raise awareness, and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. What can you do to help the fight against stigma?
About Jill Sauser, The Kim Foundation Project Coordinator
Jill graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Speech Communication from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. During her time at UNO, she completed a two year PR practicum program where she worked with numerous nonprofit clients including the MS Society, The Archdiocese of Omaha, The Omaha Food Bank and YWCA. Jill joined The Kim Foundation as Project Coordinator in April 2014.