(NEW YORK) -- In the aftermath of the shooting rampage in Tucson Saturday that left six dead and 14 wounded, the fact that alleged shooter Jared Lee Loughner, 22, never received mental health counseling, despite the concerns of his friends and college administrators, looms large. Many who interacted with Loughner at Pima Community College were concerned that he was mentally unwell and potentially dangerous.
He was suspended after a violent outburst and told his return was contingent on clearance from a mental health professional. But Loughner apparently did not seek help and school officials were unable to force him to do so.
Like the acts of mass violence perpetrated by schizophrenic unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Loughner's case may spur debate over what should be done about people with undiagnosed, untreated mental illness who might pose a danger to society.
Mental health professionals worry that incidents like the Tucson massacre may only spur further stigma towards the mentally ill, falsely bolstering an association between violence and mental illness.
"People who are mentally ill are already exposed to a certain amount of stigma. These instances only extenuate that," says Dr. Anthony Lehman, professor and chairman of psychology at the University of Maryland.
"And the stigma often stands in the way of people receiving care," adds Dr. Carolyn Robinowitz, past president of the American Psychiatric Association. "Someone can be told to seek care and they or their families don't follow up because they are fearful of being labeled. This [incident] can be an opportunity to educate people because we know that the best prevention of violence for those with mental illness is proper treatment."
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