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Antioch Theater Shooting Brings Focus To Mentally Ill

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Posted at 6:44 PM, Aug 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-07 16:49:25-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There are still so many unanswered questions surrounding why Vincente Montano wielded an air soft gun and pepper spray to terrify movie goers and police at the Carmike Hickory 8 movie theater last Wednesday.

Many also question what needs to be done to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Social worker Jeff Fladen, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Tennessee was watching, with everyone else, as the details emerged about Montano.

“That's the story. Not that this tragedy happened but it's a mentally ill person,” Fladen said.

From a Charleston church, to a Chattanooga military recruitment center and now a Nashville movie theater the suspects share a common characteristic.

“In talking with Rutherford County authorities it appears this individual has had significant psychiatric or psychological issues,” Metro Police spokesman Don Aaron told reporters last Wednesday.

Fladen is concerned about generalizations being made about mental illness in light of such tragic events.

“It gives the impression that mentally ill people are more dangerous than other people and we should be afraid of them,” Fladen said.

He said that culture of fear could keep those who need the help from getting it.

“They're going to deny they have a problem and just try to hold it in because what comes with that label so we need to reduce stigma, not increase it.”

According to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health, last year nearly 340,000 people across the state received mental health services at the state's agencies and non-profit partners. In fact data shows one in four adults will experience a mental illness, which includes depression and anxiety, in a given year according to NAMI.

“That's three to five percent of the violent acts are people with mental illness,” Fladen explained. “So what about the other 95 percent. If we're concerned about violence we have to look at violence as a whole and understand it and not just point the finger at one thing.”

That doesn't help when trying to comfort a nation seemingly over exposed to such pain and left to wonder how to keep it from happening again.

“Identifying the future criminal is not an exact science,” Fladen said. “We're not there yet.”

Fladen stresses early detection of mental illness is key. However it can be hard to get help especially if you don't have insurance. While those programs exist, the system is under-funded.