Leaders push for community support of mental health care

In the months since the Sandy Hook shooting, the heartbreaking images of tearful vigils have faded into a frightening look into the mind of the shooter who was by all accounts an unstable young man, bringing more attention to the need for mental health care.

"The reality is that mentally ill people are not any more violent than the normal population, but violence can occur if there is substance abuse, if they are not on their medications, if they are not stable on their medications," said the medical director of the Capital Area Human Services District Dr. Aniedi Udofa.

Here in Baton Rouge, experts say many people facing mental illness don't know about or don't have access to the resources they need.

The East Baton Rouge Sheriff says he sees firsthand the growing number of mentally ill people winding up in the system.

"We've got to do more as a society; we've got to do more as a government to address these issues before they get to these points.  Do these people really need to be incarcerated? No. But, there's no other place for them to go," said Sheriff Sid Gautreaux.

"74 percent of individuals that are incarcerated in a juvenile facility in our state have some sort of diagnosable mental illness, 74 percent.  36 percent have multiple mental illnesses," explained Baton Rouge Police Officer Sgt. Tweety Anny.

Those illnesses could be anything from depression or substance abuse - to more serious conditions.

To stem the tide, these leaders are calling on the community to get involved.

"The lack of positive role models, the negative things, that's what exists. That's what they hear on a daily basis," said Gautreaux.

"How can we solve this problem if families are not involved, if friends are not involved? It is very important to check with your child.  Try to talk to them, talk to them gently. If they see any type of behavior change it is a good thing to talk to your child, bring it to the attention of someone who can help the child," said Udofa.

For more information on the many services offered by the Capital Area Human Services District, click here.

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