By Jack “Alex” White III, columnist ~ “Small towns, big potential”
There is no doubt that our first responders once again acted within their training to protect lives. At the same time, it is clear that we can all do more to prevent future mental health crises.
Mental health issues are America’s most savage silent killer. In fact, suicide is the leading cause of gun death in the U.S., and countless other mental health issues ruin lives every single day.
In what might have been a textbook example of “suicide by cop,” last week’s events were triggered by an individual who was clearly struggling with serious psychological challenges.
No wonder — only half of Americans with mental illness actually receive treatment, and it is no exaggeration to say that any one of us can be pushed to the extreme by trying life events.
Still, we often overlook mental health, and it persists like a deadly plague. This is especially true in rural areas like Page County, where mental struggles can often be brushed aside, overlooked, and misunderstood by a culture of unfeeling rugged individualism which leaves people behind.
We do so to our own detriment, and these issues can fester into the kind of violence that we just saw. None of that will change until we turn the page on mental health in communities like ours.
Page County is tired of the bloodshed, and I am sure that local law enforcement is tired of having to pick up the pieces — and sacrifice themselves — when mental health issues go too far.
If we don’t get honest about mental health, then last week’s events will stand as another sad chapter in a story that we know all-too-well. It falls on each one of us to finally change that story.
Jack “Alex” White III is the Executive Director of the Rural Leadership Initiative and the District 1 Representative on the Page County Economic Development Authority — where he was reported to have been “Virginia’s youngest government official” at the time of his appointment.
Alex is a lifelong native of Page County, a graduate of Luray High School
and is currently enrolled at Harvard University.