Shooting raises mental health awareness

Shooting raises mental health awareness

CREATED Jul. 20, 2012

Reporter:  Jessica Chapin

TUCSON (KGUN9- TV) - ABC News reports accused Colorado shooter James Holmes' mother did not seem surprised when she heard the news about her son, telling reporters, "You have the right person."  It leaves many wondering what warning signs, if any, she could have seen in her son.

It's the same question Tucsonans had about accused January 8th shooter Jared Loughner.  It's also the reason several groups are working to keep tragedies like that from happening, through mental health awareness.

"The grief and the sadness that that raises in us we've known first-hand here," said Interfaith Community Services spokesperson Karen MacDonald, "and so when you hear it again it's a little bit unbelievable and yet not at the same time."

ICS boosted its efforts to educate the public on mental illness after the Tucson shooting.  Now, MacDonald and others suspect the Colorado shooter's story could be similar.

MacDonald says often times people don't get the help they need because of the stigma surrounding mental illness.

"It's a matter of continuing to raise awareness, widen our education and erase the stigma so that people are able to access those resources," she says.

Since the Tucson shooting, ICS has held conferences, helped pay for mental health medications, and worked with other groups to get patients the help they need.

"I like to think that one of the things that has changed is a widening of our awareness and I hope a widening of our hearts," she said.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness in Southern Arizona has noticed a difference.  Spokesperson H. Clarke Romans says they've seen a 50 percent boost in calls.

He says it's up to family members and friends to recognize changes in behavior and speak up.

"The sad sad thing is most of these behaviors and most of these beliefs based on these irrational thoughts," he said, "are treatable illnesses."

In Arizona, a resident can also have someone involuntarily committed under the Title 36 law, but they must be able to prove that person is a danger to themselves or others.

There are several ways anyone can voluntarily get help for mental illness, or donate or volunteer to help others.  Here is a list of crisis hot-line in Southern Arizona:

Community-wide Crisis Line (24/7) (520) 622-6000
Community information & Referral: (800) 352-3792
Warm Line: (520) 770-9909
CPSA (800) 771-9889