Greenwood police shooting shines light on need for expanded mental health resources
GREENWOOD — A group of siblings are using their mother’s obituary to call for an end to the stigma of health health issues.
Monica Vaught, 49, was killed in March during an encounter with Greenwood police. Police say she drove her car towards an officer after a lengthy exchange. She had methamphetamine in her system at the time of her death, per police.
Her family says she was struggling with her mental health and substance use disorder for years before she died. She was high school valedictorian and a perfectionist.
“She always had a smile on her face. She was just a kind person overall,” Jill Harris, friend of Vaught’s said. “You can’t always judge someone by one action or one incident in their life.”
In her obituary, Vaught’s children paid tribute to their mother, but also wrote about the pain for watching their mother suffer in silence.
“We live in a cruel world where mental health issues are stigmatized and swept under the rug. This obituary we pray, instills hope in someone, if only one person. Hope that more people will accept help and be open about their demons. It is to tell people that there is nothing to be ashamed of. There are people who love you with every ounce of their being and want nothing more than for you to just be happy. To lose our mother this way is gut wrenching and unfathomable.”
Obituary for Monica Vaught
“The stigma around substance use disorder and mental health concerns can be suffocating,” Brandon George, vice president of recovery, advocacy, and programs at Mental Health America of Indiana said.
He says substance use disorder and other mental health concerns often go hand-in-hand, and the stigma associate with these issues makes it harder for people to seek treatment.
“Oftentimes people would rather deal with the consequences of their mental health issue than the effects of the stigma that’s going to be given to them through organizations, community and individuals,” George said.
Experts believe that after two years of COVID-19, we could be on the verge of a large mental health crisis, and it’s a matter of public safety to provide more support to people in crisis.
“Just because someone had substance use disorder or has a mental health concern, does not automatically make them a public safety risk,” George said. “Sometimes situations do occur when there is a public safety component to it. And I think we need to be honest about that conversation. How do you get someone help they need while keeping everyone safe?”
But he says there is hope. The National Suicide Hotline, 9-8-8, will be launching this summer, and work is already underway to expand it with other services.
“Indiana is really trying hard to come up with a better system for this kind of situation,” George said.
“I just really hope that this incident helps awaken people to the need for more mental health awareness, and just overall support for people in crisis situations,” Harris said.
Monica Vaught had three children. Her funeral was in April, and the family asked that donations be made to the National Alliance on Mental Health.
Read the full obituary at Swartz Family Community Mortuary and Memorial Center’s website.