Battling the stigma of mental health treatment
Web Producer: Mekita Rivas
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Since 2008, nearly five billion dollars worth of funding has disappeared from national budgets for mental health treatment -- and the consequences for communities and families can be severe.
Neal Cash is the president and CEO of the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, which provides services to the mentally ill.
He said that he believes an unwillingness to talk about mental illness is one of the main reasons it's so tough to rally for financial aid.
"I think the biggest thing that keeps people from getting the help that they need is stigma," Cash said. "I think we don't treat mental illness the same as we do other illnesses."
While 94 percent of those with mental illnesses don't act out in violence, there are exceptions.
"Many of the people that we've identified in these shootings as purpetrators represent individuals who have, when you look into it, a fairly long history of behavior that evidences the need for mental health services."
Isolation and an inability to pay for care have the potential to cultivate a dangerous environment.
"We ignore those people and tend to ostracize them so they become more and more isolated, so at one point they may have a breakdown," Cash said.
Clark Romans is the executive director of Arizona's National Alliance for Mental Illness.
He says that more universal treatment would stop many incidents of violence before they happen.
"The more aware we are, the more alert we are and the more compassionate we are, I think these kind of cases would go way down," Romans said.
Cash and Romans both emphasize that while Arizona waits for funding, it's up to community volunteers to work with open minds and hearts to help find mental health treatment for those whose insurance doesn't cover it.