NAMI California’s Statement about The Santa Barbara Tragedy: What Communities and Families Can Do

Sacramento, CA, May 28, 2014 / Jessica Cruz, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, California (NAMI CA) has issued the following statement:

NAMI California shares in the sadness over Friday’s tragedy in Isla Vista, California. NAMI California is an organization of individuals and families, whose lives are deeply affected by mental illness. We extend our sympathies to the families of those who lost their lives or were wounded. We are also sorry for the pain experienced by the family of the person responsible.

When tragedies occur, clear facts emerge slowly.  However, the immediate focus on mental illness often adds to the stigma that surrounds them. NAMI California has repeatedly called for action to erase the stigma of seeking help for mental illness.

Acts of violence are exceptional.  The likelihood of violence by people with mental illness is low.  In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General has reported that “the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small.”

Families and communities must work together to ensure adequate and culturally competent services are available to everyone, free of stigma and discrimination. NAMI California praises Senate President pro Tem Darrel Steinberg for addressing key issues today in his press conference. His suggestions to improve the mental health system by reforming sentencing, providing meaningful mental health treatment through the training of prison personnel and law enforcement; and promoting humane releases through Parole Out-Patient Clinics are taking the important next steps in ensuring an adequate response to the mental health crisis in our state.

NAMI California is also taking steps to combat these challenges, our innovative programs such as Provider Education work to reduce stigma and discrimination and better train frontline responders by helping them understand the perspectives of families and individuals living with a mental illness.

NAMI California, its 67 local affiliates and over 19,000 members look forward to being an active part of these solutions. In nearly every community in our state, NAMI members work every day to ensure Californians have access to mental health services and support. We will not rest until that work is complete.

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