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Mental Illness in Spotlight after Conn. AMBER Alert


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — Last night, State Police in Connecticut say 47-year-old Debra Denison abducted and then killed her two grandsons, 6-month-old Ashton and 2-year-old Alton, then killed herself in an apparent double murder suicide.

Family members say Denison had a history of bipolar disorder and other mental health issues.

Dr. Stuart Anfang, Medical Director of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center says there are many misconceptions about mental illness.

“People don’t realize that there’s very good treatment out there, that treatment works, that people with these illnesses can function very well,” said Dr. Anfang. He added that, while it’s improved from a generation ago there is still a stigma attached to psychiatric illness.

Between the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and most recently the Connecticut abduction and killing of two young boys at the hand of their grandmother, mental health has taken a giant step into the lime light. But according to Dr. Anfang, just because someone is diagnosed with a mental disorder does not make them more likely to perpetrate a violent crime.

“As a group the psychically ill are no more violent then the community representative samples. So the notion that the mentally ill tend to be more violent is actually not born out by the facts,” says Anfang.

Dr. Anfang adds that substance abuse and a patients failure to comply with their treatments are risk factors and could increase the possibility for violence. But he says that those who suffer with mental illness are much more likely to be a victim than to carry out an act of violence.

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