Digging Deeper: Mental health experts say there’s low correlation between mental illness and violence

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) — Mental Health officials stress violence is not the norm for patients dealing with mental health challenges.

They say the number of mental health patients committing violent crimes is very small, but they also say the stress of homelessness affects a person’s mental health severely.

There are lot of complexities that come with mental health issues and it’s something that many are still working to tackle. Several mental health professionals say there’s still a lack of resources available.

NAMI, Rochester
Southeastern Minnesota NAMI Executive Director, Sean Kinsella, works at his desk.

“Psychiatry, there is a shortage that is a huge problem nationally,” said Zumbro Valley Health Clinical Supervisor and Therapist, Jessie Meyer.

“The wait can be up to three months to try and get in to see a professional. It’s very hard to actually get mental health care,” added Sean Kinsella, Southeastern Minnesota NAMI Executive Director.

And that’s just one of the issues the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) wants to fix. In addition to that, some people who need help don’t know they need help, and sometimes they might not get help until a run in with law enforcement.

“A lot of times that is due to a lack of insight on their part. They don’t really understand how ill they are and so they don’t always reach out for help. So a lot of times them getting help ends up happening because of them getting in trouble with the law,” explained Meyer.

Another hurdle facing someone who needs help is homelessness.

“You have no shelter, you really have to take everything with you, so you’re very limited in what you can carry, so your clothing, food. If they need medication, you would have to be carrying your medication with you and it’s a moment to moment survival, especially here in Minnesota where weather is unpredictable,” said Kinsella.

Zumbro Valley Health, Rochester
Zumbro Valley Health Center Clinical Supervisor and Therapist, Jessie Meyer, works at her desk.

Getting people into stable living situations is a big goal for Zumbro Valley Health.

“Within Zumbro Valley we have a homeless services team. We have an outreach worker who goes out and tries to help people with finding housing on a daily basis,” continued Meyer.

While homelessness places a lot of stress on individuals Kinsella says there’s a misconception about the numbers involving mental health and violence.

“It’s less than 5% so it’s a very very low percentage of people who suffer through mental illness ever engage in any kind of violence. What I say is hate and intolerance are not mental illness and that’s usually what you see engaged in violence,” said Kinsella.

Meyer says the best thing to do when you see mentally unstable behavior to contact law enforcement and they can help the individual find treatment.

Holden Krusemark

Holden Krusemark

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