Mental health expert Scott Burgess of the David Lawrence Center says tragedies like the mass shooting yesterday trigger the talk about addressing mental illness.
“I think it’s hard for us to say that things are going to be different and change if we don’t address those issues seriously, he said.
But the talk isn’t walking the walk and hasn’t been for a while.
Gunmen diagnosed with mental illnesses continue to claim innocent lives.
Burgess said, “It’s hard to believe but that Columbine Massacre happened in 1999, so this is now almost 20 years later and not a whole lot has changed.
Officials say Wednesday’s shooter, Nikolas Cruz, also had a mental illness.
He was getting treatment at a mental health clinic but stopped.
“If somebody stops treatment there is a potential that an individual could become violent but there’s also a great potential they would not become violent,” Burgess said.
We have to stop shying away from addressing mental illness. Even Collier County Commissioner Andy Solis is pushing for change.
“We don’t have as a community as a whole a strategic plan on how we’re going to deal with mental health as the county grows,” he said.
Experts say the public plays a huge role. We all need to learn how to recognize a child who might have a mental illness.
Burgess added, “some of the signs are really important to take look at are when children have extreme changes.”
Changes in sleep patterns, grades, appetite, and social life.
If you notice these behaviors as a parent or a peer you need to speak up.
“Ignoring it or feeling like its something that may just eventually go away can certainly have consequences for that individual child and also the community,” Burgess said.
He can’t say whether or not people missed some red flags from Cruz, but the main message… If you see something say something.
Burgess says observation is key, “Nobody wants to live with that guilt having knowing there was a potential and it wasn’t addressed.”