Mental health experts call for greater awareness, understanding of mental illness

Experts call for informed discussion

INDIANAPOLIS - Gun control and mental health awareness are two issues brought to the forefront in the wake of the Connecticut school tragedy.

The motive for the shooting is still unclear, but talk of the shooter's possible mental state has stirred a greater discussion about mental illness and how to improve care and treatment.

"The thing that we can do most within our communities is just to talk about mental illness and what it is and to educate those who may not have that knowledge about mental illness warning signs and things to look for," said Nakaisha Tolbert-Banks, director of education with Mental Health America of Greater Indianapolis.

Mental Health America of Greater Indianapolis offers crisis and suicide intervention services and educational outreach programs, and is dedicated to removing the stigma of mental illness.

Tolbert-Banks said sharing information is key to making people more comfortable talking about mental health issues.

"I think the more our agency puts out, I think people are more receptive because they begin to know us," she said. "And, they become comfortable asking the hard questions."

Mental health experts say when it comes to improving mental health awareness, education and programs are essential. Unfortunately, they say there have been way too many legislative cuts in recent years.

"We don't really get much support in doing prevention work like a lot things in the medical field," said Jim Bush, a clinical psychologist with Midtown Wishard Health.

Bush said in order to help more people lead mentally healthier lives, there needs to be ongoing funding, not just year to year.

"I think there is some education going on, but I think there's a lot more that would be useful," he said.

Bush said IMPD has a crisis intervention team composed of specially trained officers who act as liaisons to the mental health system, essentially helping to get treatment for those who need it.

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