School shooting sparks mental health care debate in America - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

School shooting sparks mental health care debate in America

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GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Along with renewed debate about gun control, this latest school shooting has sparked a national discussion about mental health issues. The young man responsible for the tragedy in Connecticut reportedly suffered from a mental disorder.

And it's not just this latest school shooting that has a mental health connection. One survey found that of 61 mass shootings in America over the past three decades, in 38 of those cases, the shooter had some type of mental illness.

"I think it's always time to talk about mental illness. I think a lot of stigma is attached to mental illness. A lot of parents are afraid to get their kids help," said Dr. Brad Berger, who treats children and adolescents with mental health problems.

The doctor's biggest concern is the lack of available mental health care.

"The community mental health center here, I think the wait is six months to a year. So, it's really ridiculously long to get help," said the psychiatrist, who works for Memorial Behavioral Health.

He says parents must be the primary advocates for children needing treatment. Along with obvious signs like outward aggression or fighting, there are other signs of troubled kids.

"The three biggies I think are sleep problems, irritation or irritability everywhere, not just at school or home, but in all environments. And then also failing grades. If your kid usually is an average student and then is all of a sudden getting all "F's"," said Dr. Berger.

There's a column making the rounds in social media.   In it, a mother talks poignantly and pointedly about her ongoing struggles to control her son, who is diagnosed with a mental disorder, and who bounces between near genius intellect and temperamental outbursts of violent, often dangerous behavior.

Dr. Berger says improving access to mental health treatment is one step toward preventing such tragedies.

"I think it could prevent some of the tragedies. I don't think it could prevent all the tragedies. Because again, you can't always predict even when a mental health patient is going to become psychotic. Or just become so depressed that they give up hope or give up caring. You can't always predict that," said Dr. Berger.

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