WXTX Special Report: Mental Illness: Don't Look the Other Way

COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) – It's happened all over the country. Innocent lives taken by deranged gunmen.

What's been done locally to help fight violence and mental illness?

Mass shootings at the hands of deranged gunmen – is it becoming an epidemic in the US and abroad?

In this special report, Mental Illness: Don't Look the Other Way, Fox 54's Roslyn Giles takes an in-depth look at possible solutions to the problem.

Aurora, CO. Charleston, SC. LaFayette, LA.  Innocent lives lost, and the shooters all had a history of mental illness.

"When you see people who've committed mass shootings are you able to relate at all and say, 'I could possibly be that person?" said Army veteran Jamell NcNair Pratt. "That's the point of snapping. All these little things keep building up into a mountain and you're stuck in the mountain and the only way out, you think, is to kill yourself or hurt something."

Pratt, a mother of three, says she's been diagnosed with PTSD. Pratt says she too has been at the breaking point.

"I wanted to kill myself, I wanted to kill my children," Pratt said.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness or NAMI is a non-profit provides free mental health services to adults and says nearly 350,000 people in Georgia are living with a serious mental illness.

NAMI Columbus offers recovery and family support groups to adults regardless of their diagnosis.

There's also the Bradley Center, the Pastoral Institute and Mental Health Court, all working to helping to help those with mental health program live better lives.

By 2020, depression is slated to be the leading cause of disability in the world, second only to heart disease according to the Centers for Disease Control.

That's why we decided to bring key players together, like state lawmakers and NAMI representatives for a roundtable to hopefully come up with some answers to this problem.

We hosted State Representatives Calvin Smyre, Carolyn Hugley and Senator Ed Harbison along with representatives from the state department of behavioral health and NAMI.

Stephen Akinduro suffers with depression. He got help from NAMI and is now working with the organization to assist others.

"The biggest barrier for me was overcoming the stigma of getting help for mental illness because I had heard all the clichés – you're crazy, so I didn't want to receive any help but when I did, I realized okay, there's nothing wrong with this," Akinduro said.

Chris Newland with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health has a few ideas on identifying and helping people understand the need for treatment.

"I'd like to see more treatment start early in life," Newland said. "The trauma that we heard referenced is one of the best things we can do to protect against mental illness is to protect against trauma."

We suggested that perhaps some steps should be put in place so that if a child experiences trauma they are put into some type of treatment, which Newland said would be "ideal."

"I think it starts with the grassroots level with a show like this whereby people can be informed about what the need to do and even a deficit in getting a particular job done and it think this would go a long way in helping his get to a solution to this problem," said Sen. Harbison.

"There's a cost related to it and the state has to play a larger role in making it a priority in the state where most of our monies are spent on state hospitals rather than community based programs," said Rep. Smyre.

"We know the resources are limited and our challenge would be to try and look at how we can mostly spend the limited resources we have," said Rep. Carolyn Hugley.

The roundtable guests also suggested challenging community organizations to partner with NAMI so that the load is not on one entity.

To call for help, the Georgia Crisis Hotline number is 1-800-715-4225.

And join the conversation on social media by using #SilentStruggle.

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