Northampton Press

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Editor's View

Thursday, January 3, 2013 by The Press in Opinion

My New Year's wish for 2013

Dess Alt Yohr is now fer-bei; wos now aw-fongt is yoh gons nei.

Mier leava un mier wolda, fom Neia biss tzu'm Alta. Darrich feel Ongsht un Druvvel; darrich Tzittera un darrich Farricht. Darrich Grieg un grossa Schrecka; dess dutt de gons Welt be-decka.

The old year is gone; what is now beginning is all new.

We live through much fear and trouble; through nervousness and through fright; through war and through terror this covers the whole world and we leave this to the disposition of God from the new to the old.

This Pennsylvania Dutch New Year's wish, many generations old, shows that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Fear, trouble, war, terror all have visited this nation and its citizens before. All will visit again.

What is important, however, is our national and individual resolve to remain strong in the face of these destroyers of spirit.

Topping my list of New Year's wishes for 2013 is the need for "compassion."

Merriam-Webster defines the word "compassion" as: consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

If someone, anyone in the educational or mental health field in Newtown, Conn. had been "conscious of the distress felt" by an obviously mentally ill Adam Lanza, or his mother, Nancy, maybe just maybe, the tragedy of Dec. 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School could have been averted.

Before mental illness was identified as a treatable illness rather than possession by demons, the mentally ill were burned at the stake or locked away in darkened dungeons.

In the days following the slaughter of innocents in Connecticut, news reporters, politicians and talking heads referred to Adam Lanza as evil.

One Catholic bishop even used the word "demonic."

His act was without question beyond evil, but I question whether a mentally ill individual, such as he, can form the intent to be "evil" and I truly doubt some "demon" took over his body.

My fear is a return to the Dark Ages when the mentally ill were thought to be possessed rather than in need of medical and psychological treatment.

My fear is America will becomes a less compassionate society, desiring not to "alleviate the distress" felt by the mentally ill but rather to exorcise the demons within by locking away the sufferers or worse yet, killing them.

Mental health laws in this nation are woefully inadequate to protect the individual who needs the "compassion" of a society, or the long-suffering family members who are forced to deal with an individual who may at times become a danger to himself, his family or the community-at-large.

When state psychiatric hospitals began being closed across this nation in the 1980s, in an effort to be "compassionate" and to better the lives of those living within the walls, advances in medication, community-based treatment such as clinics, half-way houses and group homes, were supposed to pick up the slack.

Unfortunately, residents of neighborhoods where housing was proposed for those in need of "compassion," often yelled "Not In My Back Yard" at municipal meetings and, all too often, they won.

The mentally ill were either turned out to the streets, where no one monitored whether they took their antipsychotic medications or not; or they were returned to their ill-prepared families who often, in order to survive, also sent them packing.

Walk around New York City, Philadelphia or any large city.

Tell me who is lying on the streets or on the park benches.

Who is it wandering aimlessly up and down the streets, muttering to themselves or yelling at the top of their lungs to no one in particular.

Twenty-four-, 48- or 72-hour commitments for those threatening themselves or others are just part of the rotating door policy we now call mental health care.

Parents and family members have the right to sleep at night without worrying whether or not their loved one will kill them in their beds.

May this new year bring some "compassion" to those in authority so they have "a desire to alleviate" the poor quality of our care for the mentally ill and pass laws to prevent a future Sandy Hook massacre.

Deb Palmieri


Parkland Press

Northwestern Press