Help our nation prevent another tragedy

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Daniel Kill

On behalf of Thrive Counseling Center, I would like to express our deepest condolences for those affected by the recent Tucson shooting that left six people dead and many others injured.

There is evidence to suggest that the shooter was living with an untreated mental illness. However, it is very important to emphasize that having a mental illness does not increase one's propensity to commit violence. In fact, The U.S. surgeon general reported "the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small." But similar tragedies at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University and elsewhere have raised concerns about mental health care access and awareness in the United States.

Our community, schools and workplaces must be educated on the signs of mental illness. They must know what to do if people become so detached that they may be a danger to themselves or others. Fortunately, there is an exceptional 12-hour training program available nationwide called "Mental Health First Aid," www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org. This program helps participants identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. Thrive Counseling Center is working to make this training available in Oak Park. In the meantime, interested participants can sign up for free training at the Community Counseling Centers of Chicago. Visit www.C4Chicago.org/MHFA or call 773-765-0814 for more information.

We must also work to end mental illness stigma in the United States. Mental illness stigma keeps individuals from seeking help and, sadly, often keeps their families from acknowledging the presence of an illness. Illinois recently started the "Say It Out Loud" campaign at www.MentalHealthIllinois.org, which provides a host of anti-stigma tools including mental illness education, personal stories, volunteer opportunities and other excellent resources.

At Thrive Counseling Center, we are dedicated to building healthy minds, families and communities. It is time to look at our nation as one large community. We must ask ourselves how we can reach out to friends, loved ones, neighbors and colleagues who might need our support. As President Obama said so eloquently in his address to the nation, "Let's use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy and remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together."

Thrive Counseling Center is always here to help you, a loved one, a neighbor or a colleague. From counseling, to psychiatric recovery services, to a 24-hour crisis line — Thrive offers an array of mental health services. Contact us at 708-383-7500, ext. 204, or admission@thriveCC.org to inquire about appointments or services.

Daniel Kill is the president and CEO of Thrive Counseling Center, a mental health center serving the Oak Park area for more than 112 years. He is also a licensed clinical social worker with nearly 40 years of experience in the mental health field.

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