- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:


June 26

The LaGrange Daily News on addressing mental illness:

Recently a 29-year-old man pulled into the Summit gas station at Hogansville and Davis roads, doused himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire.

It’s shocking, and the first question out of most people’s mouths was “why?” At this point we don’t know for certain, but mental illness likely played a role.

The general public may often see these actions and struggle to understand how anyone could get to a point where they would take such an extreme measure. For those who have experience - either firsthand or with someone close - with certain mental illnesses, there is an understanding of the skewed rationale that can sometimes guide a person’s thoughts.

Mental illness - true mental illness - is not the symptom of society, a bad upbringing, selfishness or failure to fit in. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain, causing those with it to have an altered thought processes and sense of reality. And, sadly, it is too often an action like this that spurs the conversation - far too late.

That’s why it’s encouraging that the Troup County Mental Health Court has been successfully operating for three years and graduated its first class earlier this month. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center website, of the more than 92,600 inmates behind bars in Georgia in 2005, more than 14,800 of them suffered from some sort of severe mental crisis.

The court defers offenders with mental health problems to the program, where they must talk to counselors, take prescriptions and perform other tasks to show they are committed to getting better and on a better path.

Mental illness comes in many forms, and it’s not always obvious.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, gives the following as some signs of possible mental illness, though noting that different types of illnesses each have different symptoms:

. Excessive worrying or fear.

. Feeling excessively sad or low.

. Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning.

. Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria.

. Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger.

. Avoiding friends and social activities.

. Difficulties understanding or relating to other people.

. Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy.

. Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite.

. Changes in sex drive.

. Difficulty perceiving reality - delusions or hallucinations, in which a person experiences and senses things that don’t exist in objective reality.

. Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality - “lack of insight,” aka anosognosia.

. Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs.

. Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes - such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains.”

. Thinking about suicide.

. Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress.

. An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance - mostly in adolescents.

In children:

. Changes in school performance.

. Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance fighting to avoid bed or school.

. Hyperactive behavior.

. Frequent nightmares.

. Frequent disobedience or aggression.

. Frequent temper tantrums.

Mental health is also a top factor in people at risk of committing suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lists signs to look for in someone who may suicidal, which includes some of the same signs as the NAMI list:

If a person talks about:

. Being a burden to others.

. Feeling trapped.

. Experiencing unbearable pain.

. Having no reason to live.

. Killing themselves.

Specific things to look out for include:

. Increased use of alcohol or drugs.

. Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means.

. Acting recklessly.

. Withdrawing from activities.

. Isolating from family and friends.

. Sleeping too much or too little.

. Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.

. Giving away prized possessions.

. Aggression.

People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:

. Depression.

. Loss of interest.

. Rage.

. Irritability.

. Humiliation.

. Anxiety.

Often, we are too timid to step in if we see these types or behaviors, or dismiss them as temporary factors like stress or sadness. Though some of those can mirror mental illness signs - what’s the harm in asking?

Many may dismiss it, and trying too much may make the person defensive, but if you feel your concerns are valid, encourage them to talk to a psychiatrist, therapist or general practitioner, or reach out to a support group. Give them the resources and let them know they have support.

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson, in his address to the mental health court graduates, told them, “You are in control of your lives.”

“Find family and friends who can be a touchstone for you . who can help you . look around the room and remember the faces that are here today,” he said.

They may initially feel ashamed to admit their problems to family member or friend - especially given social stigmas - but encouragement and resources may spur them to take action. Continue to check with them and be their “touchstone.”

For pressing situations, people may call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or 911 in case of emergency.

For more information and resources, people may call the NAMI HelpLine 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email [email protected] The HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Also check out the NAMI website at https://www.nami.org and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at https://afsp.org .

Online: https://lagrangenews.com/


June 27

The Brunswick News on drinking responsibly while boating:

We all know of the annual push around holidays by police to crack down on driving under the influence.

Drunk driving is a huge problem that can have catastrophic and tragic consequences.

But this past weekend and especially this coming weekend, law enforcement of a different kind will be cracking down on a different kind of dangerous activity as well.

Department of Natural Resources rangers, with some help from the U.S. Coast Guard, will be cracking down on boating under the influence, a practice that can end just as tragically as getting behind the wheel of a car while drunk.

Consider the recent spate of boating mishaps that have plagued the Golden Isles in which seven people lost their lives during a roughly six week period.

So far, none of those have been attributed to alcohol, which only makes the DNR’s Operation Dry Water that much more important.

The creeks and ocean around the Golden Isles are uniquely beautiful and make for a sporting and recreational paradise.

But lurking beneath that beauty are a system of shoals, sandbars and other obstructions that can quickly turn a pleasant outing into a life-changing moment.

Drinking alcohol while navigating the area, for the experienced and novices alike, can only compound the dangers and the chances of something terrible happening.

Boating deaths locally come on the heels of several years worth of others in lakes and rivers around the state. Alcohol was found to be a factor in several of those and in the past couple of years, the person piloting a boat has become subject to the same .08 blood alcohol level limit as automobile drivers.

Additionally, the state made a law that requires anyone born after Jan. 1, 1998, to complete a boating safety course before operating a vessel in state waters.

These are two well-thought measures intended to make our waterways safer. They are rules that are logical steps toward hopefully preventing future tragedy.

As we have learned the hard way this year, a day on the water does not always go as planned.

Please stay safe out there as Independence Day draws thousands of visitors to our otherwise quiet seaside community.

Stay sober, pay attention, wear life vests and plan ahead.

Cracking another cold beer may sound nice on a hot summer holiday, but it is not worth risking yours or anyone else’s life over.

Online: https://www.thebrunswicknews.com/


June 27

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer on gang violence:

When the disintegration of the traditional street gang structure is actually viewed as a bad thing, well, that’s a decidedly ominous development.

But such seems to be the case, as detailed in staff writer Alva James-Johnson’s weekend report. Gang violence is becoming less organized, more diffuse, less bound by any semblance of moral limits even by the perverse standards of criminal “codes.”

In a sense, and on a more localized scale, it seems to present the same kinds of challenges as a nation fighting terror cells instead of armies or other organized and identifiable threats. The enemy is as deadly or deadlier, but harder to spot.

It’s relatively easy to be philosophical and detached about a social pathology like gang violence when you aren’t personally victimized by it, or in a life situation that leaves you constantly terrified of it. It’s also easy to “solve” the gang problem - just as it is to know exactly how to “fight” a war - from the comfort and safety of an armchair, or a chat board. The people actually dealing with it have none of those . luxuries, for want of a better word.

Of the dozen homicides recorded in Columbus as of this writing, most seem to have at least some connection to gang activity. Mayor and public safety chief Teresa Tomlinson said that while these killings aren’t officially designated as gang related, some of the people involved “self-identify themselves as being associated with a gang.”

A revealing picture of the problem is the fact that a suspect in the recent Double Churches killing was attacked in the Muscogee County Jail by 15 other inmates: “The reach of the people he’s involved with is pretty wide,” said Sheriff John Darr.

Sgt. Roderick Graham, who heads the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the Columbus PD, said the gang structure is “evolving and changing . no longer do you see 15 kids walking through the neighborhood with the same colors on like you did in the ‘80s.”

Antonio Carter, a minister, ex-convict and self-described former dabbler in Columbus gang culture, talked about the prevalence of violence in popular and media culture - an observation that, while unarguably accurate, might be viewed as an excuse if he didn’t take it to its inexorable conclusion: “I don’t think they really understand the ramifications; what’s actually going to happen after you commit this murder . murder is almost seen like a badge of honor in our community these days.”

Carter learned in time, as others have learned far too late - for themselves and their victims - that there never has been and never will be any “honor” in the reckless violence of armed goons whose indifference to human life, including the collateral casualties that are the inevitable consequence of that indifference and that recklessness, is a societal pestilence.

Whether popular culture provokes violence or just reflects it, or whether the two are mutually self-reinforcing, is perhaps a useful debate. But it’s not of much immediate help to those confronting the grisly reality of blood in the streets, and those desperately trying to prevent it.

Online: https://www.ledger-enquirer.com/

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