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Public Statements

Mental Health Funding

Floor Speech

Location: Unknown

Mr. MURPHY of Pennsylvania. While our Nation still grieves the loss of so many children and teachers and others in Connecticut, it is a time for Congress to begin a thoughtful dialogue on what we can do to deal with these mass-casualty incidences in our country. They have been going on for some time; but perhaps when we see the faces of children, principals, teachers and others, it will burn upon our hearts and motivate us to take further action. I want to make sure, Mr. Speaker, that Congress takes the appropriate action in a thoughtful, willful, determined way and that it doesn't jump to quick conclusions as if simple fixes will prevent this from happening.

First, to the parents of children across America who are asking questions, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to offer some of this advice, and also in my background as a psychologist, it's important for people to remember this:

Parents should be asking their children what they have heard about the incident. We should listen to their concerns and their emotions. We should answer their questions with age-appropriate information. We should support and comfort and reassure them of their safety at home and at school. We should observe and watch for symptoms of problems, such as changes in appetite, such as sleep issues, worries, aggression, anger, and sadness. We should protect our children from other media exposure and information that creates more fear and problems;

It is important for parents to call for professional help for their children if they are showing some concerns and symptoms of this beyond simple adjustment. For parents who have children who also have anger disorders, it is important for parents to review with school personnel locally how their schools are handling security and providing counseling assistance at school;

It is important for parents to pay attention to their own concerns and worries and to, over time, keep watch as concerns and symptoms may come later--even for those who are far distant from the location where this occurred.

For my colleagues, Mr. Speaker, I recommend that we remove the stigma surrounding mental illness in our talk about it and that we, first and foremost, address this as a mental health issue. We must commit to expanding access for those who are unable to receive treatment. If parents are not sure what to do, we need to provide them with information and assistance to get their children help. We have to review a wide range of things, such as television violence and video games in relation to violent behavior. We have to make sure that we are reviewing research that is being done with the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Mental Health, and our universities across the country. What we do not yet have is an answer to understanding how we can accurately predict those who will perform violent acts.

It is also important to understand that, for mentally ill persons, it is a diagnosable and treatable condition, that in the vast majority of cases there is no violence involved, and that, as a matter of fact, those with mental illness are 11 times more likely to be the victims of aggression rather than the sources of aggression. We can understand some of the risks: these often times are people between the ages of 15 and 25, and they generally tend to be males, intelligent; but we need to make sure we are identifying and providing resources for care for the families.

At the Federal Government level, I also recommend that Congress use a thoughtful approach in reviewing every single mental health program that we fund. In the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, we need a thorough and thoughtful review of what we spend and how it is spent even if it gets down to the level of family and community.

Understand, for example, in the Children's Mental Health Services program, it was funded at $117 million in fiscal year 2012. The President has proposed a cut of nearly $29 million of this; and with sequestration, it will be cut by a further $8 million. Should we make those cuts? Is that a program that is using this money effectively and efficiently? Let's talk about these in a candid and honest way with Members of Congress and the community.

Let's also understand that about 58 million Americans suffer from a mental disorder in a given year. About one in four people will have some diagnosable illness; and if one seeks treatment, one can get help. We also need to understand that, with psychotropic medication, over 70 percent of the time it is prescribed by a non-psychiatrist. With persons who have other problems with that--drug interactions--or who have other problems not quite dealt with, it is important to make sure that insurance plans funded by the Federal Government, State governments, and private insurers are appropriately allowing people to be treated for this.

We have many directions in which we need to go on this. Let's make sure we don't go in the wrong direction.

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