Like so many sympathizers of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy, I am deeply saddened by the loss of so many young lives. A possible explanation for why these mass murders occur at schools is that three-quarters of cases of mental illness occur by age 24, and onset is during the time they are in school.
Symptoms of schizophrenia are delusions and paranoia, and 1.1 percent 1 in every 100 of American adults have schizophrenia with varying degrees of severity. The Surgeon General reports that 10 percent of children and adolescents in the United States suffer from serious emotional and mental disorders. Over 50 percent of students with a mental disorder age 14 and older drop out of high school, which leaves them unable to develop careers or have meaningful lives. Suicides are the third-leading cause of death for youths between 10 and 24, and 90 percent of these kids have a diagnosable mental disorder.
To prevent these tragedies, it is necessary for teachers to learn the symptoms of mental illness and be given the resources to refer students for help. NAMI has a program called Parents and Teachers as Allies that is an introduction to mental illnesses, but it is imperative that training to recognize symptoms becomes part of the curriculum when students attend college to become teachers.
NAMI also has Ending the Silence for high school students that addresses the stigma attached to mental illness. Mental disorders are illnesses and treatable.
JOYCE A. PLIS
executive director, National Alliance on Mental Illness,Stanislaus Affiliate