Connecticut School Shooting Shows Need for Mental Health Intervention

Published by Daleen Berry on

As the nation mourns another tragic school shooting;, it’s crucial to look at what we’re doing wrong. I say this with regard to mental illness, since anyone who kills 20 children is undoubtedly deeply disturbed. I’m speaking both as a former victim of mental illness, and as someone who has survived a loved one’s mental illness.

It’s no secret that I was hospitalized in 1991 with major depression and symptoms of PTSD. I’ve been talking and writing about it since I left the hospital after a two-week stay. I can only say that voluntarily checking myself into Chestnut Ridge Hospital saved my life—and probably that of my four small children.

What I haven’t talked about is what I did in 1996, when I had to have my husband committed to a mental health facility. (No, not the husband in my memoir.) This story of mental illness, its causes and subsequent consequences for my family, will be told in one of the sequels to Sister of Silence. Since it may be awhile before I finish writing that story, let me just say this: filling out the paperwork to have a loved one committed is one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Yet 15 years later, I’m still glad I did it. Because I’m sure that act saved his life—and the lives of other people. That’s because my second husband was an armed police officer, and the final act that forced my hand occurred inside a public restaurant. Stressors from his job and becoming a new stepfather exacted a huge emotional toll. I knew this—I just didn’t know how much of a toll. I learned exactly how much pain he was in as he sat across from me during lunch and told me he would kill anyone who tried to stop him from carrying out his plans.

A few hours later, two patrol cars full of police officers picked him up and took him to Ruby Memorial Hospital for a psych evaluation. The next step was a hearing before a mental health commissioner—who ruled my then-husband desperately needed psychiatric help. So he was committed to inpatient status. It was heartbreaking—but utterly necessary. And after months of outpatient therapy, he eventually led a normal life again.

I have friends who have taken this step, too. It’s been just as hard for them as it was for me. My actions destined our marriage to become a casualty. My friends’ losses were just as heartbreaking as mine. If you have a mentally ill family member, I’m sure it will be equally difficult for you.

So, before the next massacre occurs, ask yourself which is more painful—enduring the consequences of having them committed? Or living with the agony that in failing to get your loved one enough of the right kind of help, you might just unintentionally contribute to other people’s deaths?

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Daleen can be reached at daleen.berry@gmail.com.

Editor’s note:; Daleen Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change, for her second book, Lethal Silence to be published sometime in 2012. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country.

Berry will present a soliloquy of her memoir, Sister of Silence, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2013, at Penn State’s University’s Cultural Conversations 2013. This event will be held at The Penn State Downtown Theatre Centre on Allen Street. Tickets are $3 at the door.

Berry is the first recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change, for her second book, Lethal Silence, to be published sometime in 2012. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country.

Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.” To read her award-winning memoir, Sister of Silence, in e-book format (or any other e-book), download a free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.

If you want to read more than 100 reviews, go to Amazon. To view the Sister of Silence book trailer, go to her VintageBerryWine Youtube channel.
Her memoir (paperback and as an e-book) can be found at bookstores everywhere, or ordered online. To read the first chapter free, please go to Goodreads. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.” To read her award-winning memoir, Sister of Silence, in e-book format (or any other e-book), download a free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.

If you want to read more than 100 reviews, go to free app from Amazon for your phone, tablet or computer.

To view the Sister of Silence book trailer, go to her VintageBerryWine Youtube channel.


Daleen Berry

Daleen Berry (1963- ) is a New York Times best-selling author and TEDx speaker who was born in sunny San Jose, California, but who grew up climbing trees and mountains in rural West Virginia. When she isn't writing, she's reading. Daleen is also an award-winning journalist and columnist, and has written for such publications as The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and XOJane. Daleen has written or co-written eight nonfiction books, including her memoir, "Sister of Silence," "The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese," "Pretty Little Killers," "Cheatin' Ain't Easy," "Tales of the Vintage Berry Wine Gang," "Shatter the Silence," and "Appalachian Murders & Mysteries," an anthology. In 2015, West Virginia University placed "Sister of Silence" and "Guilt by Matrimony" on its Appalachian Literature list. You can follow her blog here: https://www.daleenberry.com. Or find her on Facebook and Twitter, as well as email her at daleen(dot)berry(at)gmail(dot)com. She loves to hear from readers.

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