Mental health advocate says sufferers typically are victims, not violent perpetrators
Many Americans have experienced some form of mental illness and getting the appropriate treatment is important, said Laurie Barnett Levine, director of Mental Health America of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
But there is a stigma associated with mental illness that may act as a barrier for some to get help.
“Mental health is an illness … it’s a true, physical illness,” she said. “There should be no shame in receiving services for mental health” in the same way a physical condition, such as cancer or diabetes, would be treated.
Family members of a Greensburg woman who was fatally shot by city police Wednesday said that Nina C. Adams, 47, struggled with mental illness. Police said she was seen firing a gun on Grant Street about 3:30 p.m. in the area of Harvey Avenue.
When four officers arrived, she was on her porch and refused to drop the weapon, police said. One officer hit her with a nonlethal beanbag. A second officer opened fire after Adams kept the gun in her hand, investigators said.
She later died at Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital.
“People that have a mental illness are no more likely to be violent than the general population,” Barnett Levine said. “They’re more likely to be victims.”
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One in four people worldwide will be affected by a mental health issue at some point in their life, according to World Health Organization statistics. One in five American adults experience a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
A free and confidential crisis hotline in Westmoreland County is available to assist those who may have a mental health issue. A mobile crisis management team can make a visit if the person is willing to speak with them, she said.
Team members can refer the person to community-based services or help them or family members secure a mental health commitment. Mental Health America’s Greensburg office offers a wide range of free services, including support groups, education and a drop-in center.
It’s important to treat a person’s entire well-being, and that includes mental health, Barnett Levine said.
“I think it’s important to get help,” she said.
Some celebrities and others in popular culture have chipped away at the stigma by speaking out about their own struggles. Those include actor Ryan Reynolds, comedian Sarah Silverman and singers Kesha and Mariah Carey.
Westmoreland County Crisis Hotline: 1-800-836-6010
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter .