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Tragedies Bring Violence and Mental Illness into Perspective

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(Oct. 22, 2012) Last week in Louisiana, young mother Chelsea Thornton allegedly shot her three-year old son and drowned her four-year old daughter. Thornton is reported to have suffered from bipolar schizophrenia, and had a long history of mental illness. She had stopped taking her medication.

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 As unimaginable as the Louisiana tragedy is, it was in the news on the same day as stories about a young Colorado man accused of killing and dismembering his mother; a Texas man, 30, sentenced to 160 years for killing his mother and setting her house on fire, and Washington stories about a mother sentenced to prison for killing her baby and a son, 25, sentenced to 30-years for stabbing his father to death. Untreated mental illness was reported to be a factor in all four cases.

Sadly, approximately 1,600 homicides are committed each year by people with untreated schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. While most individuals with serious mental illness are not dangerous, when left untreated, they are at a higher risk of committing violent acts than people with mental illness who are receiving treatment.

Treatment saves lives and reduces violence. As long as this reality is ignored and the need for treatment unaddressed, people will continue to die, and the stigma that results from these tragedies will extend beyond the small subset of people who commit them to anyone with a mental illness.

Learn more from our backgrounder, "Violent behavior: One of the consequences of failing to treat individuals with severe mental illness."

Watch on video as city officials complain about mental health cuts after Gert Town killings in Louisiana on Fox8 in New Orleans (Oct. 19). 

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