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People in the mental health field share their concerns about new gun control law

Posted at: 01/15/2013 10:16 PM
Updated at: 01/15/2013 11:20 PM
By: Lynette Adams

Will this new gun control law make it difficult for people with mental illness to own guns and who will ultimately make the decision about that?

People in the mental health field are nervous about this new law. One of the biggest fears: people with mental illness could become the new scapegoats.

Patricia Woods says one in four Americans have a mental illness at any given time. Woods is the President of the Mental Health Association in Rochester. She says mental illness can range from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia. However, it is not the same as violent.

Patricia Woods, Mental Health Association, said, “Society has a need to blame somebody because the behavior is not what everyone considers normal behavior. It's gotta be because they're crazy.”

Woods says mental illness is highly treatable today, while people may not ever be cured of their mental illness, they can manage their symptoms and live normal lives.

Woods said, “My gut is that people who are doing these things, these violent shootings and crimes, that's not the average person you see who has a mental health issue.”

Woods says this law will make people who need help hesitant to seek it out.

Greg Soehner, President and CEO of East House, said, “At East House we don't allow any people to have a firearm in their apartments so I think it's a good precaution.”

East House has grown from a single home for people with mental illness to now a $10 million program which provides housing, career counseling and a host of other services to help people with mental illness live independently. Greg Soehner is the president and CEO. He says the new law may serve its purpose.

Soehner said, “Generally if a person is deemed to be in a crisis or unstable at the time because of their mental illness, it certainly doesn't do you harm to prohibit them from having firearms until such time they demonstrate their capability of responsibly owning a firearm.”

Soehner says coming up with laws after a single, irrational incident is not the answer. He says approaching mental illness as public health issue, working to understand it and come up with better treatment programs is the long term answer.