The shooting deaths of the 17 students and adults last week has thrust conversation about mental health issues into the headlines and how it is plaguing our society, but some experts say having a mental health diagnosis does not mean that person would become violent.


KTVA's Cassie Schirm spoke with a mental health professional on the rising topic of mental health after the tragic school shooting in Florida. Steve Williams, chief operating officer of the Alaska Mental Health Trust said there are many factors that can lead to that kind of violence.

The trust is a state corporation that advocates on behalf of Alaskans who experience medical conditions involving mental illness addictions, developmental disabilities, dementia and traumatic brain injuries.

With the topic of mental health and violence on the rise after the Parkland high school shooting in Florida, Williams says it is important to not stigmatize all people who are diagnosed with mental illness. 

"It’s very important, in fact, it’s something the trust works hard to do to try to destigmatize medical conditions so that the folks in the general public understand that their medical conditions are just like cancer," said Williams. "They can be treated and folks can function in varying functions in our communities experiencing different conditions."

Williams says that is why lawmakers and politicians should be careful framing this discussion.

"I think it is important to recognize sort of the complexity of the situation," said William. "First of all, it was a very tragic situation in [Parkland]. Obviously, no one ever wants that type of occurrence to take place in our community, but when you start to take a look at what are the conditions that contributed to what happened down there, we have to be careful with jumping to conclusions without the full picture of what happened and to understand why someone would engage in violent behavior such as that."

Willaims says there are many different elements, other than mental health, that can contribute to this type of tragedy.

"I think a person who experiences a mental illness, first of all, is not going to be violent," said Williams. "A majority of those individuals there is a small percentage of folks who may be violent, but that is not the only element that contributes to that type of behavior. There can be other elements such as substance abuse, age gender, previous victimization, precious traumatic experiences that all contribute to someone engaging in that behavior. It’s a very complex situation and to just simply jump to the label and focus on mental illness I think is premature and further stigmatizes the millions of Americans who experience mental illness on a daily basis who aren’t violent."

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