Mental health expert talks prevention after recent shootings

Nationally, there is a shortage of mental health workers, and even if someone does want to seek therapy, lack of money for transportation and other issues.
Published: May. 8, 2023 at 7:01 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - From a Moultrie McDonalds to a Texas shopping mall, headlines locally and nationwide have two themes in common: shootings, and suspects with alleged mental health disorders.

Mental health counseling is one approach to prevention, but barriers to mental health access present a challenge.

Nationally, there is a shortage of mental health workers. And even if someone does want to seek therapy, lack of money for services or transportation to appointments can also make treatment difficult.

Things like medical issues, medication withdrawal, trauma, personality disorders and inability to control emotions are all factors that could trigger someone to become violent and need counseling.

Behavioral health expert Pam Smith says she believes court-mandated counseling does work for individuals already in the criminal justice system.

“A self-referred client will drop out of counseling and never achieve that change. But through court-ordered counseling, where I get the opportunity to work with individuals that are treatment resistant sometimes for two or three years, we achieve some great outcomes. And on top of that, I also become a partner with law enforcement or supervision teams to put a safety net in place to keep some of these bad things from happening,” Smith said.

Smith also says that physicians can help to diagnose personality disorders before someone becomes violent.

If you are referred to therapy or counseling, you should also research providers to determine which is right for you.

“I think if there was some education on what do all these letters mean behind any mental health provider, that could be of help because someone who was a social worker brings a different set of skills than a person with clinical or a counseling or educational experience background,” Smith said.

If you have feelings of aggression and don’t know where to start with getting help, you can always reach out to a police department, or a domestic violence shelter.

They can connect you with a mental health professional.