COMMENTARY: Mental health matters

 By Helaine Zack

Did you know that 1-in-5 people or 57.7 million Americans suffer from mental illness every year? In the wake of Sandy Hook and other mass shootings, the Oakland County Commissioners reviewed the threat of gun violence in Oakland County.  The Public Services Committee reviewed expert testimony from federal and local law enforcement officials, school superintendents, mental health experts and gun rights advocates.  The Committee issued a report entitled “Gun Violence in Oakland County” in July 2013 containing many recommendations about how to keep citizens safe from gun violence.

After its fact-finding mission, the Public Services Committee made a number of recommendations designed to prevent outbreaks of gun violence. One of the primary areas that the Committee identified was the connection between gun violence and mental health.  The Committee found that early intervention and effective treatment of persons suffering from mental health disease should be given a greater priority.

As part of the recommendations, a series of public service announcements were produced with the most recent announcement proclaiming mental health disorders as serious and treatable conditions.  The committee’s goal is to educate the public on the warning signs of someone in crisis and inform them on what they can do to get help by contacting the Common Ground Resource and Crisis Helpline at 1-800-231-1127.

Another source of help in Oakland County is the Free “Mental Health First Aid Training” sessions offered by Training and Treatment Innovations. To participate in a Mental Health First Aid Training Session, call 248-524-8801 or email  Participants will learn how to recognize the warning signs of mental illnesses build understanding and can learn about common support options at these sessions.  Trainings for adult or youth interventions are available.

As we enter what has been designated as Mental Health month, it is important for all of us to understand the link between mental health and gun violence. This link confirms the need in Oakland County and the State of Michigan to provide tools to improve the understanding of the warning signs and to ensure that mental health treatment remains a bipartisan priority.


Commissioner Helaine Zack serves on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners’ Public Services Committee and the Curbing Gun Violence Study Group.