Entries in Mental Health (7)


Poll Finds 1 in 5 Americans Know a Victim of Gun Violence

David De Lossy/Thinkstock(MENLO PARK, Calif.) -- One in five Americans personally know a victim of gun violence, and 42 percent of Americans say that they are at least somewhat worried about becoming victims themselves, according to a new Kaiser Health Tracking Survey.

The poll comes out as gun-control has reestablished itself as a major political issue in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Of the 20 percent of Americans who know a victim of gun violence, a majority indicated that it was someone close to them; a good friend, family member, or even the respondent themselves.

Certain demographics are more likely to be exposed to gun violence than others.

“That number actually rises quite a bit when you talk about African-Americans or young people,” said Kaiser’s Mollyann Brodie. “So about four in ten blacks and about 28 percent of young people say that they know a victim of gun violence.”

While 30 percent of whites responded said that they were worried about becoming victims themselves, the numbers are again higher with certain groups. “Fully three quarters of Hispanics and six in 10 Blacks are very worried about being a victim of gun violence,” said Brodie.

The poll also surveyed attitudes and perceived discrimination towards those with mental health issues. Nearly half of the public said they would feel at least somewhat uncomfortable living next to a person with mental health issues, and two-thirds of parents objected to having “a person with a serious mental illness” work at their child’s school.

Three-quarters of Americans believed that individuals with mental health issues experience “a lot” or “some” discrimination. Only immigrants were more likely to be perceived as facing discrimination.

The study suggests that these numbers have gone up in the wake of Newtown.

“People believe that people with mental health illnesses do actually face considerable prejudice and discrimination,” said Brodie.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Mental Health Reform Push in Colorado After Shootings

World Economic Forum(DENVER) -- Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will ask the state general assembly on Tuesday for $18.5 million to help “redesign and strengthen” the state’s mental health services and support system.

The announcement comes just days after police say a gunman murdered his own mother, then killed six adults and 20 children at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school before committing suicide.  The shooter, Adam Lanza, has been described as deeply troubled.

A Hickenlooper aide, however, tells ABC News the Colorado reforms have been in the works ever since a mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater in July.  Twelve people were killed and 58 wounded when police say James Holmes opened fire during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises.

Holmes sought treatment from a psychiatrist while a graduate student at the University of Colorado, and his defense attorneys have said they believe their client is mentally ill.  Holmes has not yet entered a plea.

Hickenlooper’s plan would include changes to state law allowing the judicial system to instantly transmit mental health commitment records to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation so the information would be immediately available for firearm background checks. 

The plan would also establish a statewide mental health crisis hotline and would open five 24/7 walk-in mental health crisis centers.  Services for “seriously mentally ill” people would be expanded, including help with housing as patients transition from mental health hospitals back into the community.

Colorado most recently dealt with a mentally ill school shooter in February 2010, when Bruco Eastwood was accused of shooting and seriously wounding two students outside Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton.  A jury found Eastwood not guilty by reason of insanity of attempted first-degree murder and he was committed to a state mental hospital.

Deer Creek Middle School is a short drive from Columbine High School, where two students murdered a teacher and 12 other students in 1999 before killing themselves.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Psych Patient Charged with Murder After Roommate Dies

Comstock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Charges against a psychiatric patient who allegedly stabbed his hospital roommate have been upgraded to murder after the victim died of his injuries.

Robert King, 53, died Saturday, a week after he was found bloody at the County of San Diego Hospital. His body was found at about 2 p.m. March 17 when Bart Schafer, 32, told hospital staff that King had fallen and hurt himself. Staff called paramedics, but while EMS staff treated him, King went into cardiac arrest, said Lt. Kevin Rooney of the San Diego Police Department.

“They got him to the trauma center as fast as they could,” said Rooney. “Shortly after, the psychiatric hospital staff called police and requested officers evaluate Mr. King’s injuries, and we realized that it wasn’t an accident and it was more likely that he had been assaulted.”

Police arrested Schafer the same day King was brought to the hospital, Rooney said. He was initially charged with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, but King died Saturday of his injuries. Schafer’s charge was bumped up to murder.

Rooney said the two patients were roommates, but likely did not know each other well. The average time a patient stays in the hospital is two weeks, according to county officials.  It is unclear how long either man was in the hospital.

“Police have requested a search warrant to access King’s medical records,” said Rooney. “We know very little about King or Schafer.”

Hospital staff and the county of San Diego declined to comment because the case is pending investigation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Judge: Alleged Tucson Shooter Can Be Mentally Fit to Stand Trial

Pima County Sheriff's Department(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- After getting feedback from doctors, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that alleged Tucson shooter Jared Lee Loughner can be made mentally competent enough to stand trial with further treatment.

Loughner, who has been in a prison mental health facility since May, is accused of killing six people and wounding 13 others -- including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords -- in Tucson on Jan. 8.  If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

A psychologist who has visited Loughner nearly every day since March said on Wednesday that Loughner has clearly responded well to the forced medication -- especially over the last two months -- and believes Loughner will be restored to competency in the coming months.

The doctor said Loughner's thoughts are more organized, his memory has improved and that he is taking better care of himself.  But, the doctor added, Loughner is still very despressed.  A suicide note was found on his bed recently, and he remains on suicide watch.

As a result, Judge Larry Burns ordered further evaluations and updates on Loughner.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jared Lee Loughner Ordered Back to Tucson

Pima County Sheriff's Department(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Federal Judge Larry Alan Burns has ordered that Jared Lee Loughner return to Tucson, Ariz., to attend a hearing on his competency to stand trial for killing six people and wounding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Loughner has been in a treatment facility in Springfield, Missouri, since May, when he was found incompetent to stand trial.

The government is asking the court to extend Loughner’s commitment at the facility for the purposes of restoring him to competency to stand trial.

Loughner’s lawyers oppose the extension and are asking the court to find that the government has “failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that there is a substantial probability that Mr. Loughner’s mental condition can be improved such that the trial might proceed.”

The Bureau of Prisons has said in court papers that Loughner remains incompetent, but that he has “slowly responded to medication.”

Loughner’s lawyers say the forced medicine has made him worse.

“He is on a host of psychotropic medications,” they write in court papers, “all administered against his will."  The lawyers note that the side effects of the medication include restlessness, agitation, pacing, dizziness, thick tongue and constipation.

The hearing is set for Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 1:30 in Tucson.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jared Loughner's Defense Team Examining Family's Mental Health

Pima County Sheriff's Department(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Jared Lee Loughner's defense team is delving into his family's medical history, possibly looking for evidence of mental illness.

Loughner, who faces 49 charges stemming from the Tucson, Arizona shooting spree that killed six people and injured 13 others, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia -- a chronic, severe disabling brain disorder that has a significant genetic component.  And in a move that could bolster his defense, Loughner's lawyers have subpoenaed public health records from 22 of his maternal relatives dating back to 1893, The New York Times reported.

"If there are a lot of people who have a schizophrenia diagnosis in his family, that does sort of add weight to the issue that this kid was at a huge genetic risk," said Dr. Charles Raison, associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.  "It could have emotional effect on a jury.  It could heighten the sense that this was not his fault."

Loughner's mental health has been the subject of much attention since his arrest in the Jan. 8 shootout at a constituent meet-and-greet with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who sustained a gunshot wound to the head, but miraculously survived.  A court-ordered psychiatric evaluation concluded that 22-year-old Loughner has delusions and hallucinations -- psychotic symptoms that can distort a person's perception of reality.

"We know that psychotic illnesses run in families," said Raison, adding that the genetic contribution to mental illness can be as high as 70 percent, depending on the diagnosis.  "People with schizophrenia are often related to other people with schizophrenia and to people who are odd or isolative...It's not a specific disease state that's inherited; it's this vulnerability to have this sort of odd behavior or odd way of thinking."

In May, a federal judge deemed Loughner mentally unfit to stand trial.  But it's his mental state at the time of the attack that will determine his sentence.

"The only way to really assess what role psychosis played in his actions is for him to be able to explain what he thought he was doing," said Raison, adding that psychotic people tend to have a logical rationale for their delusional thought process.  "No matter how bizarre the reasoning is, it makes sense.  We don't believe it, but it makes sense."

Loughner has been forced to take antipsychotic drugs during his stay at a federal psychiatric facility in Springfield, Missouri, and a hearing scheduled for Sept. 21 will determine whether his mental state has improved enough for him to participate in his defense.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Casey Anthony to Seek Treatment for Mental Health Issues: Report

Red Huber-Pool/Getty Images(ORANGE COUNTY, Fla.) -- Casey Anthony, the Florida woman acquitted of murdering her daughter Caylee, is seeking professional help for mental health issues, according to a TMZ report.

Anthony has been in hiding since she was released from Orange County Jail on July 17. Since her release, offers to tell her story have poured in along with other proposed business deals like Larry Flint's $500,000 offer to pose in Hustler Magazine.

According to TMZ, Anthony realizes her behavior when 2-year-old Caylee first disappeared in June 2008 was wrong and that she suffers from mental health issues. She also has told those close to her that she still has not properly coped with the loss of Caylee who was found dead in December 2008 in a wooded area near the Anthony family home.

Some experts aren't sure Anthony can be helped. Judy Kuriansky, better known as "Dr. Judy," said that it's sometimes difficult to treat someone with a history of lying.

"It would be exceptionally difficult for anybody to treat her. There is no magic pill that's a truth serum for a person who's a pathological liar," Kuriansky, a psychologist from Columbia University, told last month.

Anthony, while acquitted of murder, was found guilty of four counts of lying to law enforcement and was previously convicted of check fraud for stealing money from her best friend's checking account while Caylee was missing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio