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Don't equate crime with mental illness

I am grateful to Mark Komrad for his expert commentary related to persuading a troubled loved one or friend into professional mental health treatment and The Sun for publishing it ("Helping them to get help," Dec. 19). I would like to emphasize a point Dr. Komrad made twice: Mental illness should not be equated with crime.

Mistakenly, some of the public identify mass killers, as in Newtown, Conn., with all people with any mental illness. Consequently, the social stigma of mental illness is an added burden people with these illnesses must bear. Mental illness is a treatable illness, not a crime or a lack of moral strength. As a person with successfully treated clinical depression, I can speak to this subject with some personal authority.

I meet with a support group of folks with clinical depression or bipolar disorder. When a tragedy like the Newtown shooting occurs, we grieve as does the rest of our country. Our response personally to such major stresses is regular treatment with our mental health professionals — psychiatrists and psychotherapists, supplemented with attendance at our support group and the social support of family and friends. In this way, we care for our illnesses, just as most of you with hypertension, diabetes or cancer would do.

Mental health services are difficult to access even for people with insurance or financial means. Some medications are extremely expensive. Without financial advantages, treatment is woefully inadequate at best. But that's another sad story.

V. Hoagland, Baltimore

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