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Mental health services need big improvement

Mental health experts evaluated Austin "Gus" Deeds, 24, of Millboro, Va., and released him from emergency custody because there were no psychiatric beds available at Rockbridge Area Community Service.

On Tuesday, Deeds severely wounded his father and then shot and killed himself, police said. As his father is a state senator and was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2009, this made national news.

Maybe some good can come of his son's death because it underscores the need for better mental health treatment throughout the United States.

Community mental health treatment is an improvement over the prison-like state hospital systems of yore, but the new system is poorly funded as this shortage of beds showed.

While gun violence is uncommon among the mentally ill, the facts show that better treatment of mental illness would make the nation safer.

* Nearly two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides,

according to the Pew Research Center in May.

* The gun murder rate dropped by half from 1993 to 2010 while gun suicides fell 14 percent, Pew reported.

n As a cause of death, suicides surpassed traffic fatalities among people 35-64 in 2010, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported in May.

* Suicides increased 28 percent from 1999 to 2010, the CDC reported.

* Military suicides outnumbered combat deaths in Afghanistan last year, 349 to 295.

After the Sandy Hook massacre last December, many pushed for what they called a national discussion on expanding gun control.

Congress had that conversation and decided more gun control is not necessarily the answer. The law

requires federally licensed dealers to do background checks on purchasers through the FBI facility in Clarksburg.

One way America can reduce gun deaths is better mental health treatment and research.

Improving the community mental health system would reduce the number of people who take their own lives and could save the lives of many other innocents.

There was no room on Monday for someone with mental issues. It's time to make room.


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