- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Editorials from around Pennsylvania:

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MIDDLE GROUND NEEDED TO HELP THOSE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

The question of which is more important, a person’s right to privacy or a family’s right to know when a loved one might be in danger because of mental health issues, has resurfaced.

On March 1, Amy Sell, who’d struggled with various forms of mental illness for years, died of cardiac arrest caused by abuse of difluoroethane, a chemical used in spray cleaners. Her death was ruled accidental.

Two weeks earlier, Sell told her mother, Kay Kramer, in a text, “I want to die.”

Since then Kramer said she has been telling Sell’s story to prompt legislative changes that would have allowed Kramer to have her daughter involuntarily committed and given the mother access to Sell’s mental health information.

Clinicians and other mental health professionals can offer scientific definitions of depression and severe mental illness, but to many it remains a mystery.

A compelling description comes from the novelist William Styron, who chronicled his own struggle against depression’s ravaging of the soul in his bestselling book “Darkness Visible.”

“The pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it,” Styron wrote, “and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.”

Styron spent the last part of his life speaking widely about his depression, often counseling others.

In Sell’s case, it appears that her mother knew something terrible was going to happen. What’s needed is a system that listens to a mother who receives a text such as the one Sell sent, if only to allow a mental health professional to intervene.

“If the mentally ill aren’t making good decisions, their caregivers and family members need to be allowed to somehow be a part of care decisions,” Kramer said.

Help could come from several legislative remedies in Harrisburg and Washington that emerged after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Help also can come by listening closely to the sufferers so we can understand the illness that strikes one in 17 adults.

“Depression is the flaw in love,” wrote Andrew Solomon about his depression in his book “The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression.” ”When it comes, it degrades one’s self and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself.

“In depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion, the meaninglessness of life itself, becomes self-evident. The only feeling left in this loveless state is insignificance.”

As a community, we can correct that flaw by joining Kramer in calling for legislative and other measures that would allow family members to intervene when the people they love and know best behave in ways that threaten their well-being or pose a danger to themselves or others.

We must listen to the cries for help from the mentally ill no less urgently than we would listen to the cancer patient. We must also heed the survivors of the mentally ill whose loved ones have succumbed to the darkness.

-Reading Eagle

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CONSIDER ALL ALUMNI TRUSTEE CANDIDATES

Some might be troubled by the fact that alumni voting for Penn State’s board of trustees is behind the pace set in 2012 and 2013. But we see a potential upside to the slow start.

Could it be that alumni are spending more time contemplating the candidates and studying their positions?

With so many quality individuals seeking just three seats, we suggest just that approach.

Voting began April 10 and continues until 9 a.m. May 8.

That gives alumni plenty of time to make sound decisions - given a diversity of candidates - and still approach or surpass the record 37,500 total votes cast two years ago.

Jennifer Bird-Pollan, a professor and first-time candidate, said: “I hope that interested voters will read the candidate statements, and vote based on the qualifications and message of the candidate, rather than based on the money spent by that candidate in the election.”

We hope Penn State graduates will consider all 31 names on the ballot, those sponsored by organizations and those running independent campaigns.

The Centre Daily Times provided an extensive look at the candidates that can be found at www.centredaily .com/pennstate-trustees.

Many are advertising their views on our website and in the printed CDT. The candidates have their own websites and social media outlets.

The “message” is out there for alumni to find and contemplate.

The candidates make up an impressive group of business, education and government leaders who care about Penn State and want to see the university thrive.

But which ones have the best vision for making that happen?

That’s what voters have to decide.

State College businessman Joel Myers is the lone incumbent in the hunt. Trustee Marianne Alexander chose not to run for re-election, and Jesse Arnelle withdrew before voting started.

So, at least two seats will be filled by newcomers.

The options are varied, and include:

-Three university professors (Bird-Pollan, Alice Pope and Allen Soyster), a university president (Ricardo Azziz) and a retired schools administrator (George Weigand)

-Attorneys (Jason Kutulakis, Joshua Fulmer, Edward Kabala and John Graham Jr.) and a retired probation officer (Robert Hooper).

-A district attorney (Seth Williams), a former district judge and county commissioner (Keith Bierly), and an ex-state senator (Robert Jubelirer).

-Two Penn State football lettermen (Ted Sebastianelli and Rudy Glocker) who went on to successful careers.

-Media and marketing professionals (Amy Williams, Daniel Cocco and Ryan Bagwell) and defense/government specialists (Ned Rauch-Mannino, Vincent Tedesco III).

-An engineer (Robert Milnes III), an accountant (Robert Bowsher) and several corporate executives (Julie Harris McHugh, Matt Schuyler, Albert Lord and Brian Rutter).

-A dentist (Laurie Stanell) and writer/therapist (Art Greenwald), a 2010 Penn State graduate (Gavin Keirans) and a stay-at-home mom (Christine Rhoads).

Together, they are a collection of individuals suited for the challenge of helping take Penn State into the future.

But voters must choose three.

We urge alumni to get involved in the process, to research all of the candidates. And then vote.

-(State College) Centre Daily Times

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ON TARGET

For whatever reason, many Fayette County residents have never taken a liking to President Barack Obama.

It’s strange because Fayette County has been a Democratic Party stronghold since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the early 1930s. However, back in 2008 Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to lose Fayette County since George McGovern was topped here by Richard Nixon in 1972. In 2008, Republican John McCain topped Obama by 215 votes in Fayette County, winning by .04 percent.

That margin grew to 4,004 votes in 2012 as Republican presidential candidate George Romney beat Obama by 8 percentage points in Fayette County.

Still, Obama seemed to have Fayette County in the back of his mind this past week when he visited the West Hills Center of the Community College of Allegheny County to outline his plan to expand technical job training and apprenticeship programs throughout the country.

Over the years, particularly with the Marcellus shale industry, there has been talk of local workers needing to get trained for new jobs that are coming our way. Many business owners have complained that they’d like to hire local workers, but they lack the training necessary to do the new jobs that are vital to today’s manufacturing industries.

So, Obama’s plan could definitely help Fayette County residents looking to get the training crucial to obtain those new jobs.

In his address, Obama praised CCAC’s curriculum and training as something that the rest of the United States should be emulating.

He pointed out that CCAC has utilized both machines and motors to train students on-site in the arts of mechatronics, which has to do with building and repairing complex machinery.

He added that CCAC was training “new workers for new jobs and better jobs.”

Obama promised to allocate $500 million to schools like CCAC that are producing job-ready students with readily applicable skills.

The president noted that the programs, which will refocus funds already in the federal budget pipeline, did not depend on new action by Congress.

In addition, the president proclaimed a $100 million competition known as the American Apprenticeship Grant, which would allow apprentices and skilled workers to come together for training and job advancement.

It’s estimated that 87 percent of the people who go through apprenticeship programs end up with jobs.

As expected, Republican congressional leaders were less than thrilled with the proposal.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the president could better serve workers by persuading a Democratic Senate to pass the Skills Act, a jobs measure supported by House Republicans, which would eliminate and streamline 35 programs and create a Workforce Investment Fund to serve as a single source of support for workers, employers and job seekers.

While that sounds promising, so does Obama’s attempt to turn around the economy, especially in places like Fayette County, through job-training programs.

Local workers and businesses should try and get behind the president on this issue. It certainly can’t hurt, and it could end up lowering Fayette County’s 7.5 percent unemployment rate, which is the 58th highest among the state’s 67 counties.

If Obama’s proposal succeeds, local residents might end up liking the president more than they ever thought possible.

-(Uniontown) Herald-Standard

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