Reporter - Danielle Lerner

Jan 5, 2012 9:58 AM

January 8 anniversary brings renewed focus on mental health community

It's been nearly one year since the January 8 shooting and while it is an horrific, dark day in Tucson's history, those in the mental health community say it has shed some light on mental illness, and the importance of community awareness. Community Partnership of Southern Arizona, or CPSA, works to connect Pima County adults, kids and their families with publicly-funded behavioral health programs. Things like mental health, substance use and prevention services. Since January 8 it's made big strides in supporting and treating those with mental illness.

"No doubt people became more aware of mental illness, they became more aware that mental illness affects an entire community," said Neal Cash, president and CEO of CPSA.

That is why in the past year CPSA opened a Crisis Response Center, which has already served more than 4,000 people since August. It has also trained more than 600 people in Mental Health First Aid, so those without mental illness can help seek treatment for others.

"People who are in fact having a mental health crisis, often times that crisis could be mediated pretty quickly and hopefully they get back out into the community with the right kind of support," said Cash.

People like Scott Whitley, he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in early 1989 and experienced a psychotic break later that year.

"I was hallucinating, I was having delusions, I was insane," said Whitley.

So he sought help from Pima County's public health system. After years of therapy and medication trials he has learned to live with his illness. He now helps others as a resource specialist with the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"Maybe what happened January 8 could have been prevented if someone had taken the step to say, this person's behavior is so strange, this is a symptom of an illness," said Whitley. "When somebody's mind is not right, it scares people away and you shouldn't be scared away you should seek help for the person."

You can find more information on mental health services throughout Pima County here.

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