Therapists on mental health: 'People starting to care now' - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Therapists on mental health: 'People starting to care now'

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As investigators in Connecticut begin to examine the psychological history of the gunman, Adam Lanza, a conversation has developed with a focus on mental health awareness in America.

Las Vegas psychologist Louis Mortillaro believes that in Nevada especially, people need to wake up to mental health concerns.

"People don't really care about mental health issues," said Mortillaro. "But, they're starting to care now, because we're seeing this senseless violence."

Las Vegas mother Kushica Sanders doesn't know where she or her 17-year-old son would be right now if she hadn't sought help for him.

"He was getting in trouble in school. He was not following the rules. He was stealing," Sanders said of her son, whom FOX5 is not identifying.

"He would take things and he would destruct his face. He would always draw on himself," she added.

The warning signs started appearing around the fifth grade. Sanders never feared her son had malicious intentions to harm other people, but did want to seek counseling to address the behavioral changes she witnessed.

She admits that at first she was in denial.

"I kept fixing it," Sanders explained. "I kept going in and making excuses and I kept enabling his behavior. Any time there was something he should've been reprimanded for, I went in and rescued."

Her story is not uncommon. Therapists see people of all ages and all walks of life, and parents who may not want to admit they need help.

"Don't be afraid to bring it to somebody's attention, because you could save a life," Mortillaro said.

He argues that in this state, and nationwide, there needs to be a stronger voice in political circles and more outreach to students in our schools.

"In Nevada, what's the first thing that gets cut? Mental health funding," Mortillaro said. "So, we are woefully unprepared in Nevada really, to meet the mental health needs of our populous."

Some therapists go so far as to call the lack of mental health awareness a crisis.

"I hope people look at that avenue as something we need to pay attention to prevent these things from happening," said Donna Wilburn, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Las Vegas, as she talked about the school shooting in Newtown, CT.

A big drawback for families is often the cost of counseling and therapy. At UNLV's School of Education, students and faculty operate a low-cost clinic called "The UNLV Practice." It is open to the public for psychological issues including anxiety, depression, grief and loss.

For Sanders, she got her son into a counseling program four years ago, and said he's doing a lot better.

But, it almost never happened.

"I may have prevented my son from doing something crazy, because he hated me. But now, he loves me," Sanders said.

For more information on The UNLV Practice, call 702-895-1530.

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