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Statement by Laurie Flynn, Executive Director, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
Governor Jesse Ventura's lack of sympathy for persons driven by brain disorders to commit suicide stands as an example of the ignorance and stigma that still needs to be overcome in American society in the treatment of mental illness.
We expect more of public leaders. Governor Ventura needs to apologize to the nation for his remarks and demonstrate new awareness and support for people who need help instead of contempt for a no-fault disorder that destroys lives.
Suicide is the ninth-leading cause of death nationally and the fourth-leading cause among children ages 10 to 14. It is especially offensive and alarming that fewer than three months after the U.S. Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent Suicide, any governor might believe that children who commit suicide are "feeble and weak-minded" and state that he doesn't "have time" for them.
Suicide occurs because of biological factors in the brain that distorts rational thinking. It is not the result of a lack of character or courage.
As a nation, we have lost many leaders, public and private, to suicide. Too many talented and greatly-loved citizens-31,000 Americans, young and old-are lost each year. No one is immune.
Yesterday, Senators Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and Harry Reid (D-NV) responded to Governor Ventura's remarks from the floor of the United States Senate, noting the need for greater education about mental illness and greater access to treatment. Their efforts to spare American families the pain of suicide and to provide paths to recovery stand in noble contrast to the Governor's remarks.
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