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How Would Better Mental Health Care Reduce Gun Violence?

President Obama's plan to reduce gun violence includes provisions aimed at shoring up access to mental health care but is that practical? Host Michel Martin discusses the plan's mental health goals with Michael Fitzpatrick of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Dr. Carl Bell of the University of Illinois.

MARTIN: So we decided today to focus on some of the mental health proposals that the president is advancing. To do this we've called once again on Dr. Carl Bell. He is a psychiatrist. He's currently serving as acting director of the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois School of Public Health. He worked in community mental health for many years and has been involved in study and treating issues related to violence for many years.

Dr. Bell, welcome back. Thanks so much for joining us once again.

CARL BELL: Thank you.

MARTIN: Also joining us is Michael Fitzpatrick. He is the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. That's a grassroots organization that aims to improve the lives of persons living with serious mental illness. He's also trained in social work.

Welcome to you also. Thank you so much for joining us as well.


MARTIN: And Michael Fitzpatrick, I'm going to start with you because the first thing that occurred to me is - I was wondering about your reaction to the attention being paid to the role of mental illness in these shootings - not just the Newtown shootings, but there have been others related to that that have gotten a lot of attention, like the one in Aurora, Colorado. And I was wondering, you know, in a way is your group like any other mental - any other minority group, in the sense that, you know, on the one hand you're relieved of the attention. On the other hand, I could see where one might be very worried that the attention is actually not all positive.

FITZPATRICK: Well, I think, Michel, there's a pervasive stigma surrounding mental illness and mythology surrounding mental illness, and for some people a connection between violence - or some commentators use the word evil - so it is, for us, three steps forward as we talk about mental illness in the community - and organizations like mine have done that for years - but it's four steps backwards when these tragedies happen.

They do create a sense for America to have an opportunity to have a dialog about this very broken, long broken mental health system, and to have the White House involved in that dialog is a tremendous change.


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