Mass Shootings and Mental Illness

By KBJR News 1

December 16, 2012 Updated Dec 16, 2012 at 11:56 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - In the days following the Newtown shooting, much has been debated about gun control laws. However, not as much has been heard about the mental health issues that likely played a role in this shooting and the others that have become all too common in this country.

During an interview on NBC's 'Meet the Press' Sunday, Connecticut Governor, Dannel Malloy expressed his concern for the problem.

"I think that there are certain problems that we have in our society that have to be addressed," he said, "We don't treat the mentally ill well, we don't reach out to families that are in trouble."

According to a survey by Mother Jones, of the 61 mass shootings in the past three decades, 38 of the shooters displayed signs of mental health problems before the shooting occurred. This includes the killers in the Aurora theater massacre this summer and the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, which stands as the deadliest in U.S. history.

"What was it that they needed? What was it that could have been provided, so that we can really start learning how something this horrible is happening and has been happening fairly consistently in the United States," said mental health expert, Rick Gertsema.

Gertsema is a licensed psychologist who works at Amberwing, a mental health center in Duluth treating young people with mental illness and their families. He says that programs like Amberwing help bring mental health issues into the open, removing the stigma that so often lies with having a mental condition.

"We'll talk about obesity, but we have a hard time talking about mental health," said Gertsema.

Gertsema says that removing that stigma and being proactive when treating mental illness could go a long way in preventing massacres from happening.

"I think they [the mass shootings] could be preventable," he said, "I think it's going to go back to what are we doing to really work with mental health issue from day one."

Click here for more information on Amberwing.