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Are mental health patients getting the help they need?

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, @CatherineH_WFMZ, chawley@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 05 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 07 2013 04:46:13 AM CST

Are Mental Health Patients getting the help they need?

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Almost immediately after the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the focus became the weapons used by gunman Adam Lanza to shoot and kill 26 students and teachers.

The debate over gun control has been heated, but experts say the role of mental illness in the tragedy was pushed to the edges.

"Mental illness is definitely something people are reluctant to talk about," explained Jodi Campbell, a psychologist at KidsPeace. "It may be a little taboo where people aren't sure, a little scared of it, and it's complex."

Although there is speculation of Lanza's mental health condition, there's been no confirmed diagnosis. Mental health professionals say social stigmas on mental illness need to be shattered.

"Everyone wants to point a finger at one particular reason, the guns, the security at the school, this young man and his mental health treatment, but it's never just one thing," said Campbell.

She says there's a lack of mental health treatment and access to existing treatment. Funding to programs continues to be cut, restrictions have been placed on who mental health centers can serve and for how long, and Campbell says people are falling through the cracks.

"With reductions in funding, they're going to try to move you to a less expensive service as quickly as possible even if there's still more work to be done and still more that we can do to help a person."

Campbell and others in the field advocate for mental health overhauls. Right now, they say many find the system hard to navigate and know what's covered.

"It's difficult and it's complex because mental illness is not simple, it's not cut and dry," added Campbell.

She says mental health patients are best served when there's a personal investment between them and the therapist. And she feels it's important we continue the conversation about mental health.