Editorial: No community is shielded from mental health | AspenTimes.com

Editorial: No community is shielded from mental health

All it takes is one unhinged person to disrupt or even ruin the lives of many.

That's what happened Tuesday in Washington, D.C., where 13 people were killed, including the disturbed gunman, at a shooting in the Navy Yard cafeteria.

Shooter Aaron Alexis' motives aren't precisely clear — he had previous run-ins with the law and was discharged from the Navy in 2011, according to published reports.

Aspen has been fortunate not to have endured such a tragedy. But mental illness comes in all forms and does not discriminate.

On Friday morning, Aspen resident James R. Regan, 24, allegedly threatened to kill Aspen police officers and Pitkin County deputies minutes before authorities arrested him on Maroon Creek Road, about two miles from the Aspen School District campus. The campus was put on lockout status from 8:15 to 8:30 a.m.

At Monday's court hearing, in which a judge kept Regan's bond at $100,000 (with conditions), the suspect unleashed a verbal tirade of four-letter expletives directed at law enforcement officials, his mother and others in the courtroom. He even shouted toward prosecutor Andrea Bryan — after she noted that his actions were "erratic, dangerous, unpredictable" — that authorities "should have just killed me when you had the f—ing chance."

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These obviously are not the words of a stable person. Regan, said by his mother to have a methamphetamine addiction, apparently suffers from mental issues — whether the allegations against him are true or not.

Regan's situation is a dire and sad one, but it's also one that needs serious attention. Incarceration does not always have to be the end result, and options such as counseling, therapy or inpatient treatment can help someone in need before situations spiral out of control, as was apparently the case with Regan.

Locally, the Aspen Hope Center provides counseling for mental illness and offers suicide intervention. Its 24-hour hot line is 970-925-5858.

There's also the Aspen Counseling Center, which has a 24-7 crisis line at 888-207-4004, or Colorado West Inc., at 888-207-4004.

September also is National Suicide Prevention Month, and the Aspen Hope Center is offering suicide-prevention classes throughout the valley until Tuesday. For more details, visit http://www.aspenvalleyfoundation.org/ AHC_suicide-prevention-training.pdf.

Whether you suffer from mental-health issues or want to be part of the solution for a family member or loved one, there are multiple ways to be proactive.

Addressing mental-health issues head-on is the first step in what can be a long process. Complacency, however, can lead to grave results.

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