Twenty-six-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer has been identified as the gunman in the Umpqua Community College shooting, leaving 10 people dead. Investigations described Mercer as a troubled young man. Survivors described how Mercer 'singled' out Christians during his 'bloody last stand' on Oct. 1, 2015.

The recent shooting incident in Roseburg, Oregon is the recent addition to a string of violent attacks perpetrated by unstable, young men. Further examinations dc proved that many of these men were mentally ill, a fact that pushed many mental health groups nationwide to urge Congress to reform the United States' mental health system.

A groups joined together and came up with a conclusive letter to the congressional leaders. In an ironic twist of fate, the letter was delivered (PDF) a few hours before the Oregon shooting took place.

"Thirteen million Americans have severe schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression. The majority of these people are going without treatment, and families are struggling to find care for loved ones," the letter read. Mental illness does not equate to violence, however, the latest attacks by mentally unstable individuals pushed mental health care under the spotlight, highlighting its severe gaps.

"How many more reminders do we need that mental health has to be a high priority?" asked Renee Binder, a psychiatrist and president of the American Psychiatric Association. Binder is part of the group who wrote the letter addressed to the House of Representatives. She stressed that the severe gaps in the US mental health care is not a Democratic or a Republican issue, but an American issue.

Many health bills concerning mental health have been introduced in recent years. Many healthcare providers have raised issues pertaining to federal privacy laws that 'shuts out' family members. House representative Doris Matsui of California sponsored a health bill that allows the involvement of family members in the professional care of mentally ill loved ones.

Representative Tim Murphy from Pennsylvania's and Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson from Texas created a bill to clarify the confusing privacy rules concerning health care. The bill asks for the appointment of an Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders who will act as a coordinator across agencies. The appointee will ensure compliance of private insurance companies when it comes to mental health coverage. The bills have not moved forward and Rep. Murphy expressed his frustration.

National Alliance on Mental Illness director of policy and legal affairs, Ron Honberg, expressed similar frustration, saying it would be 'heartbreaking' if no action will be made to better the mental health coverage. 

"We need to get something meaningful passed this year," Honberg said. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that the nation's mental health care needs to be improved, making this time the best chance they have.

The letter was signed by the following mental healthcare groups, namely:

  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • American Counseling Association
  • American Foundation of Suicide Prevention
  • American Occupational Therapy Association
  • American Orthopsychiatric Association
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America
  • Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare
  • Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness
  • Community Catalyst
  • Eating Disorders Coalition
  • Mental Health America
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health
  • National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
  • National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems
  • National Association of Social Workers
  • National Council for Behavioral Health
  • National League for Nursing
  • School Social Work Association of America
  • Treatment Advocacy Center
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