Mental health experts say violence and mental illness not necessarily related

Published: Oct. 3, 2015 at 9:13 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2015 at 9:37 PM CDT
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(Source: KLTV Staff)
(Source: KLTV Staff)


As more details about the Oregon community college shooter are released, many speculate that he suffered from mental illness and behavior issues.

East Texas experts say these issues often go undiagnosed and untreated.

There is hope. That was the theme of this year's Peace of Mind Conference in Tyler. The goal was to educate and encourage the community on ways to handle mental health issues

"From anxiety and depression, to bipolar disorder, to schizophrenia and a number of things. There is just a lot of misconceptions and we want the world to learn more about it. So we're trying to bring that information to Tyler," said Executive Director, Samaritan Counseling Center, Fonda Latham.

Even though their goal is hope, speaker Dr. Fredrick Freese says the mass shooting at an Oregon community college has brought another discussion to the surface.

"The topic of criminalization of mentally ill folks is a very important one," Freese said.

Those who knew accused shooter Chris Mercer say he had surface mental health and behavioral issues.

Freese says there are two factors that increase the likelihood of violence among the mentally ill.

"One is the same thing that increases it for everybody else, and that is substance abuse. It increases the rate for mentally ill people even more than it does for regular folks. The other thing is not being in treatment," Freese said.

According to one expert, the amount of violence we're seeing across the nation isn't directly related to mental illness.

"Mass shootings are extremely rare, and the number of people with mental illness is extremely large. Even if some people [in] mass shootings have mental illness, it's such a small fraction of one percent that it's not related to that," said conference speaker, Dr. Susan Vogel-Scibilia.

But it's a factor nurses, city officials and law enforcement are working to understand.

"That's what we're striving for. So they can approach them in the most effective way possible," Latham said.

Dr. Freese says people with mental illness are 10 to 15 times more likely to be victim of violence than they are to perpetrate violence themselves.

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