Sue Abderholden on gun control, mental health, and meeting the President

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Longfellow resident and NAMI-MN (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Executive Director Sue Abderholden was in attendance during President Obama’s recent meeting in Minneapolis. We took a moment to talk with her about meeting with the President and her take on gun control and mental health.

MB: First off, can you give us a snapshot of what it was like at the meeting with President Obama?

SA: It was quite an honor. He went around the room shaking everyone’s hand putting everyone at ease. He listened carefully to what we all had to say and was very thoughtful in his responses.

MB: What was most interesting about the whole experience?

SA: Just being able to not only meet but talk with the President, was an incredible experience. It was also interesting to see how everything was orchestrated and how well planned it was.

MB: Were there any surprising moments?

SA: They took all our cell phones away.

MB: What kind of take-aways do you have from the event?

SA: That the President, although in the highest office of our country, still wants to learn from those of us “on the ground.”

MB: As the director of an organization focused on mental illness, what was your take on Obama’s talking points on gun control?

SA: He, and Attorney General Holter, were quick to point out that we need to be careful not to further stigmatize people with mental illnesses by linking them to violence. His plan does address increasing funds to the mental health system and increasing the number of mental health professionals, but it doesn’t go far enough.

MB: Were there issues that you wish he would have addressed in his visit?

SA: I wish he had spoken more about the need to shore up our mental health system. I said to him that in 1961 President Kennedy challenged our nation to go to the moon. Eight years later we did. On February 5, 1963 he challenged our nation to develop a community mental health system and fifty years later, we’re still waiting.