Shooting Puts Focus on Mental Health

December 18, 2012 Updated Dec 18, 2012 at 12:19 AM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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December 18, 2012 Updated Dec 18, 2012 at 12:19 AM EDT

BUFFALO (WKBW) In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, more and more people are talking about issues that may have played a role in the tragedy. Gun control is one, the other is the importance of mental health, including seeing warning signs and getting help. But as more attention is paid to the issue of mental health, there is a disturbing trend here in Western New York: a lack of services for those who need help.

The shootings in Connecticut have now focused awareness on mental health; that of the shooter and of it's importance in the lives of countless others to potentially prevent a future tragedy.

Mary Kirkland of the National Alliance of Mental Illness has worked in the field of mental health for nearly 30 years.

"I would like to hope and pray that they would realize that more needs to be done," she said, "and we hoped by this time there would be an improvement in the services. Unfortunately that's not the case. In fact, it's worse than it ever was."

And it may not be getting any better. The same day as the shootings in Connecticut, New York State decided to cut funding for a local organization serving at-risk youth, the "court appointed special advocates for children" or CASA.

"These are high-risk, at-need children on the margin," Ken Houseknecht of CASA said.

"Very often these children don't have anyone to speak with and the can't speak for themselves," CASA Volunteer Donna Perna added.

But in the wake of tragedy, one expert says greater awareness could assist in helping more of those in need.

"I talked to one of the hospitals today and said they just have been inundated with requests for care," Mary Kirkland added.

Kirkland says the vast majority of those with mental illness or mental issues are not violent, and that only a small minority, when unmedicated, can have violent tendencies.