Mental Illness - Moving Past The Stigma (Part 1) - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Mental Illness - Moving Past The Stigma (Part 1)

WMDT 47 NEWS - The recent mass shootings across our nation spurred a national debate over gun control. But many Americans, law enforcement officials, and mental health professionals are calling for attention to another issue at the heart of the recent violence...Mental Illness.

Which is why WMDT decided to help open the dialogue over Mental Health to find out what needs to change to keep us all safe.

During our interview, Wicomico County Sheriff, Mike Lewis, admits in light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, legislators do have to make tough decisions, "Mental illness by far outweighs gun control in my opinion."

"We need to act now," warns Dr. Kathryn Seifert, CEO of Eastern Shore Psychological Services, "and there are some very important issues people don't like to talk about."

But addressing Mental Health & Illness can be tricky territory, not just for law makers, but for our local communities. Which is why in Wicomico County the health department is in the midst of a new awareness campaign, set on helping everyone do away with the stigma attached to mental illness.

But Heather Brown, Director of Core Services at the Wicomico County Health Department admits all the recent mass shootings, make it more difficult for people to come forward and admit they might have a problem, "If they keep having these issues or thoughts or judgements or attitudes towards them, it then continues to isolate. It makes it more difficult for individuals to seek help."

But in the hopes of convincing people that it's okay to reach out for help, Dr. Seifert revealed during our conversation that she herself suffers from mental illness, something she admits was not easy, "I have depression. I have had depression my whole life! And do you know, I thought twice and I said, 'do I want the whole world to know I have depression?'  I have depression folks! And I take a pill, and I'm perfectly fine."

Seifert says our society needs to start looking at Mental Illness like any other illness if it's going to be treated effectively.  "You've got the measles? Of course you go to the doctor. You got a flu? Of course you go to the doctor. You've got depression? Of course you got to the doctor."

And contrary to what people might think, statistics show mental illness and violence do not come hand in hand.  According to recent data, those suffering from Mental Illness are more likely to be victims of violence than they are to be perpetrators of violence. 

The WCHD tells WMDT only about 5-8% of people diagnosed with Mental Illness have violent tendencies.

Dr. Seifert specializes in identifying violent behavior in children, and says this is often the result of abuse, neglect, or exposure to domestic violence within the home.

"If we're going to stop this," explains Seifert, "we have to identify people who need to have the resources built up and the problems reduced. And then they won't get to the point where they explode."

Which is why, right now, a great collaboration is going on between local law enforcement, health care providers, schools, and law makers to pool resources and ideas.

"We've had lot of discussion already," admits Sheriff Lewis on his interaction with the school district, administration at Peninsula Regional Medical Center, and allied law enforcement agencies, like the City of Salisbury Police Department. "We've met more in the last 3 weeks than we have in the last 4 or 5 years."

But acknowledging we, or someone we know, may have a problem is just skimming the surface of this discussion. What if someone you know, or love, is showing signs that something might be wrong? Also what are the "red flags" which indicate intervention is needed immediately?

In part 2 of this special report, we outline those details, as well as "how" and "when" to ask for help.

Mental Illness & Guns - Making Changes (Part 6)

WMDT 47 NEWS - Wicomico County Sheriff, Mike Lewis, admits he and his deputies handle mental illness cases quite often.

Mental Illness - Safety In Colleges & Universities (Part 5)

WMDT 47 NEWS - Local colleges and universities are closely following the debate over gun control and mental health.

Mental Illness And Schools (Part 4)

WMDT 47 NEWS - February 14th marks two months since the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. And now, there are a number of proposals on the table, both locally and nationally, on how to prevent this type of mass violence.

Mental Illness - How & When To Seek Help (Part 3)

WMDT 47 NEWS - Mental Illness can be a very sensitive subject. And trying to get a loved one, a friend, or a co-worker help might be an uncomfortable situation.

Mental Illness - Know The Warning Signs (Part 2)

WMDT 47 NEWS - In Part 1 of WMDT's Special Report on Mental Illness, we heard from mental health experts and the Wicomico County Sheriff about the need to be more open about the topic of Mental Health.

Mental Illness Web Links

Helpful links to different Mental Illness resources around Delmarva.

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