Take the initiative on mental illness

Shenoa Thompson is a Sacramento student

In 1998, I graduated high school armed with a full-tuition scholarship to one of the nation’s top colleges. A few years later, my 21st birthday passed as I lay trembling in a psychiatric hospital, unable to comprehend the book that lay open before me. The insidious entity lurking beneath the surface of my psyche had exploded into mental illness.

I struggled daily to perform normal functions, despite the adverse physical effects of major depressive disorder and the self-propelling mental chaos. Where I once had walked the halls of academia, I now was wandering the night, contemplating suicide with abandon. I was a prisoner of my own mind.

I finally sought help and realized the tremendous effect proper treatment has in assisting a person with mental illness regain quality of life. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), 70 percent to 90 percent of mentally ill individuals experience a significant reduction in symptoms and return to a functioning state when treated.

Obviously, early intervention, proper diagnosis and treatment of mental illness are of dire importance.

An initiative measure intended for the November 2004 ballot, the Mental Health Services Act, will ensure early intervention, medical and psychiatric care and job training for children and adults who are at risk of mental illness, show early signs of mental illness or have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Money also is allotted for students pursuing a career in one of the various mental-health fields.

The proposed measure would be funded by levying a mere 1-percent tax on incomes of over $1 million annually. The legislative analyst estimates revenue of almost $700 million per year and says that California will save “hundreds of millions of dollars annually” on costs associated with prisons and jails, homeless shelters and social-service programs.

I encourage all citizens to examine the benefits this act would offer. Please join NAMI, the California Psychiatric Association, the Service Employees International Union California State Council and a host of other organizations and individuals in supporting this initiative and offering hope to all citizens. Sign the petitions to put this initiative before the voters and support it with your vote in November.