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LICH: Mental Illness Does Not Mean 'Emotionally Disturbed'

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the Chief of Psychiatry at Downstate Long Island College Hospital says people unknowingly increase the stigma attached to mental health issues.


Searching for answers in the wake of Friday's , people may confuse mental illness with being emotionally disturbed—but one does not necessarily lead to the other, says a Brooklyn mental health expert.

"As a nation, we are all struggling to understand what happened," says Dr. Jason Hershberger, Chief of Psychiatry at Downstate Long Island College Hospital. "But a severe emotional disturbance can happen to someone who is mentally ill and someone who isn’t. People often confuse that."

Those who are dealing with major mental illnesses respond to events like the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., the way everyone else does, continued the doctor. Hershberger urges using sensitivity when approaching conversations with a family member who has a mental health issue.

"Figure out what they know, speak plainly and listen to his or her thoughts or reactions to it," he says. "Let the conversation guide itself. Give them space to come to you or open the discussion if they want to." 

One point of difference that may exist in such a dialogue is that someone who self-identifies as having a mental illness wonders if the tragic event increases the stigma already attached to it, he points out.

To that, Hershberger reiterates, "this is not something that is caused by mental illness; this is something an individual decides to do for his or her own reasons."

If you think that a family member may be a risk himself or to others, there are psychiatric and clinical services available at LICH and other neighborhood locations for both the individual and caretakers.

"It's important to get the child or adult in treatment and participate in that treatment," says Hershberger, "because that in the end will reduce the risk of something happening."

PAW December 17, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Emotionally Disturbed or mentally illness the fact remains that mood altering drugs such as anti depressants some of which produce brutal side effects including violence are being over prescribed by primary care doctors. Its been estimated that some 26% of of people on anti depressants do not need them. Additionally, local clinics seem to advocated the use of certain drugs over other regardless of the document warning and proof of this drug's limited use. I have seen and witnesses this first hand and observed endless children being placed on these drugs. We need to address mental illness and emotional disturbance. There are drivers, factors and indicators that could impact someone's actions. we can not afford to over look anything at this time Gun Control and Mental Illness as well as emotional disturbances.
Hugh Jassols December 18, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I remember doing nuclear strike drills in school! I think these kids are too sheltered anyways and then when they go into the real world they don't have real world expectations. But if you read the article EDP is not the same as Mentally ill. These are mentally ill people who are committing these acts that need long term treatment and drugs. EDP is one thing you don't need drugs to treat an EDP hell we are all EDP's if you think about it unless you walk around oblivious to your surroundings. In fact we are all acting like EDP's after this tragedy.
Maggie Galvin December 18, 2012 at 09:13 PM
This is definitely an important article and point. They really are two different things. Maybe someone has a mental illness where they think they can talk to trees, and that's it. Pretty sure that person isn't dangerous (and who knows, maybe the trees like it). The key is to be able to discern between peaceful people who have a mental illness and violent people who have it. it seems like everyone has *something*, be it OCD or ADHD or depression or anxiety or bipolar or autism-spectrum...and most people with those problems don't hurt anyone. Let's not lump everyone in with the dangerous people out of fear and laziness.
BRADY December 20, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Dios, spelling mistakes are one thing, especially when typing,but not a whole paragraph .SPELLCHECK SON, SPELLCHECK
BRADY December 20, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Yes,unless that person is threatening to kill the trees (and who knows, maybe the trees don't like it).Pretty sure that person is dangerous.What exactly is the key to discern who is peaceful and who is not ,and who makes that decision.And MOST PEOPLE with these problems don't hurt anyone.......MOST PEOPLE, NOT ALL ...MOST...Lets not lump everyone in with the dangerous people out of fear and laziness remember the KEY is to be able to discern between the two.What the Key is I don't know, Maggie Galvin she knows ,maybe she could enlighten us before someone else gets murdered

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