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Learn some quick facts about depression and see how the signs can manifest differently in men, women and children.
Daniel Finney / The Register

 Whenever there is a mass shooting or act of violence, people tend to resort to the same, tired talking points: calls for “thoughts and prayers,” pros and cons of gun control, and, when the perpetrator turns out to have a history of mental illness, the need for improved mental health care.

Unfortunately, there’s an inherent stigma and inference that people with mental illnesses are prone to violence. This isn’t true. Those being treated for their mental illnesses are no more prone to violence than the general population. In addition, most people with severe mental illnesses weren’t violent or criminals prior to becoming ill.

I propose a change in the way we discuss this. I propose that we describe things more accurately, by saying that sometimes crimes are committed by a person with an untreated or under-treated severe mental illness.

The list of barriers to receiving mental healthcare consists of many factors: de-institutionalization, closures of mental health beds at all levels of care — from acute care in hospitals, to sub-acute care to long-term care in private and state-funded facilities. Add to that the reality that insurance companies limit stays and the constant push to provide fewer services once a person has stabilized, and this situation becomes more difficult. Too few psychiatrists and mental health professionals (in all settings) further compounds these difficulties.

Because these illnesses are brain disorders, those with a severe mental illness can also have a condition, called Anosognosia, in which their brain tells them they aren’t sick or that their medications are poison, and, therefore, they stop taking their medications. In the past, when atrocities were happening at some mental health facilities, the ACLU stepped in to help protect the rights of patients to refuse treatment. While the intentions were good, the consequences have proven to be tragic. Many patients are left untreated and suffering, resulting in repeated hospitalizations. Many end up homeless, in county jails, or state prisons. Sadly, many die.

When a family is…