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Mental Illness Stigmatized After Sandy Hook Shootings

Health-BrainSPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — People all around the world are still trying to find a reason why Adam Lanza  slaughtered 20 first graders, and six adults at Newtown, Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, and killed his own mother, Nancy, before taking his own life Friday.

Neighbors and former classmates describe Lanza as “Socially Awkward” and “Isolated”.

Characteristics of what many believe are some sort of mental illness or disorder.  “What we do know, is that when you look statistically at all individuals with psychiatric illness, people with psychiatric illness usually have a lower likelihood of violence in the general population. They are much more likely to be victims of violence than they are to be perpetrators of violence,” said Dr.Stuart Anfang, Medical Director of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry Baystate Medical Center.

There is no official word on Lanza’s diagnosis, or medical history.

However, Dr. Anfang, says that after Friday’s traumatic events it’s no surprise that people are stigmatizing mental illness. “Of course when these types of things happen and it involves somebody who may have a psychiatric history, that raises everybody’s concern and alarm, and appropriately so. People have to understand however troubling these are, and these are senseless, tragic events, these are very rare events.”

While those with similar traits might not have a history of violence, there are other warning signs of psychiatric illness to look out for. “Signs of depression. Nerve agitated symptoms. They might have problems sleeping. They may withdraw. They may have a loss of appetite. They may have a sleep disturbance. They might start to talk about suicide, or have a preoccupation with death, or hurting people, those would be things that you’d be alarmed about, Dr. Anfang warned.

Dr. Anfang also notes that there are almost 30 million people nationwide who suffer from some sort of mental illness. While he doesn’t think this type of event leads to copycats, people are usually just looking for the attention that comes with it.

He hopes this will spark a serious conversation about mental healthcare & improving resources. Between 2009 and 2012, more than $1.6 billion was cut from state funds for mental health services.

That number could rise if Congress doesn’t come to a decision on the Fiscal Cliff by December 31st.


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