Mental health awareness: Separating illness from criminal activity

Mental health awareness: Separating illness from criminal activity

The shooter in Uvalde had no known reported mental health history, but whenever something like this happens, it’s a question people find natural to ask.

Even though Dr. Mary Aitkin pointed out that this crime is out of the ordinary, mental illness is not.

“There are a lot of people with mental illnesses and the vast majority of them are more likely to be a victim of a crime than they are to commit a crime,” said Dr. Mary Aitken, Physician-in-Chief at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Jamie Freeny with Mental Health America said some behavioral problems are confused for a mental illness when in reality, they are a cry for help.

“They voice it, they show it on social media, and I think we could be better at proactively addressing some of these needs, proactively connecting them with resources, with therapists, proactively destigmatizing mental illness and emotional disturbance and helping parents, encouraging parents to reach out when they see signs and symptoms and encouraging those help-seeking behaviors among students,” Freeny said.


She added that families who have trouble getting food, clothing, and transportation might miss those signs and symptoms.

“They are trying to focus on just getting their everyday needs met that some of those other red flags and warnings go out the window,” Freeny said.

Dr. Aitken said discussing any and all concerns with your primary care doctor can open the door to getting more resources. It can also be the first step toward connecting with a counselor.

“Many of us will need counseling or help at some time in our lives,” Dr. Aitken said. “Make it okay to admit that and to seek help so that we can avoid, hopefully, long-term consequences.”

Secondary trauma

Just reading and watching the accounts of what’s happening in Uvalde puts people (including children) at risk for secondary trauma.

Dr. Aitken recommends to avoid that, you limit your children’s media intake. For very young kids, she said, that should be as little as possible or none.


For more mental health help, click here.

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