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Psychologist: Stigma surrounding mental health must end

After Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, national attention has turned not only to questions about gun control, but questions about mental health.

Is there really any way to predict a mass casualty incident like a shooting?

Are there warning signs?

For many folks, mental health is a difficult subject to approach. There’s a stigma attached to treating mental illness.

An Idaho Falls psychologist said on Monday, curing that negative attitude may be the key to preventing tragedy.

“Most people who have physical health concerns go to get the help they need,” said Dr. John Landers. “If someone recognizes they’re depressed, or something isn’t quite right with the way they’re thinking or feeling, there’s an additional barrier.”

Landers said the additional barrier folks face when it comes to mental health treatment is often a nagging question:

“What are people going to think?”

Landers said it’s a barrier that must be broken.

“That is a barrier that can only be overcome by each one of us individually caring enough to, when we see someone’s hurting, to have compassion to open our mouth and say, ‘What’s going on?'” he said.

Little is known about whether Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza spoke to anyone with concerns about his own mental state.

But in May, 2012, Blackfoot man Jeremy Andrus told us he had tried to seek to help, and was ignored. Andrus ended up attempting to kidnap his ex-wife and led police on a high speed chase.

“I felt like I had nothing to live for, and I even called my bishop and all anybody could do for me was tell me to build a bridge and get over it,” said Andrus in a May 6th interview.

Landers said someone merely admitting concerns about their mental state should be treated seriously. The subject may be difficult to talk about, but it cannot be ignored.

“If what they do is say I’m not quite sure what to help, or it’s not a big deal, or they shut it down, the person is not going to reach out more,” said Landers.

Landers said throughout their lifetime, about 46-percent of Americans will experience some degree of mental illness.

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