Last week's tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn., has the country asking itself: What has happened to our society? Is it lax gun control laws? Underfunding for treatment of the seriously mentally ill? The breakdown of the nuclear family? Violent video games? All of the above?
Although much remains unknown about the shooter's mental state, it appears he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which typically is not associated with violent behavior.
But one aspect of the shooter's emerging profile is that he was socially isolated. Such isolation plays a big role in the lives of people living with mental illness. If their illness renders them faceless and invisible to society, they will never get the help they desperately need.
A program in our city, the B'More Clubhouse, seeks to address the isolation of mental illness. By providing a place for community and by believing that people can reclaim their lives from the despair living with a mental disorder entails, we can remove the crippling isolation that leads to distorted behavior.
We currently serve 180 members of our community by welcoming them to a validating space, meeting them where they are in their illness and believing in their potential to play a larger, more productive role in our community.
The stigma and isolation that accompanies living with a serious mental disorder is huge and often one of the most painful consequences of the illness. The B'More Clubhouse has been successfully fighting this stigma and isolation and helping the mentally ill emerge from the darkness of illness to become contributing members of society.
Tara Gallagher, Baltimore
The writer is president of the board of directors of B'More Clubhouse Inc.