A closer look at mental health - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

A closer look at mental health

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Shootings in Connecticut sparked national discussion on gun control and the second amendment. Vermonters rushed to gun shops this week and sales on semi-automatic weapons ski-rocketed as President Obama called for a crack-down. "Each one of these Americans was a victim of everyday gun violence that takes the lives of more than 10,000 Americans every year.  Violence that we cannot accept as routine" the President said.

He also called on Americans to start another conversation. "We're going to need to work on making access to mental healthcare at least as easy as access to a gun" Obama said.

The shooter, 20 year old Adam Lanza is probably the last person anyone in this country wants to feel sorry for, but Medical Director Terry Rabinowitz of Fletcher Allen says seeing him as someone who needed our help, someone who may have been sick, is the first step to preventing future massacres. "People are going to be more sensitive about mental health issues in this country" Rabinowitz said.

No current evidence concretely proves Lanza was mentally ill, but so often these crimes are associated with so called psychopaths, a word dripping with disdain. "A mental illness is no different from any other illness someone may have it just affects thoughts and feelings rather than the heart or the lungs or some other organ system" Rabinowitz said.

He says we need to normalize mental health issues to remove the stigma attached to them. Many times just telling someone they're schizophrenic or clinically depressed can be taboo. "Imagine if you had to tell somebody, you hear voices or you see things other people don't see or everyday when you wake up you feel like you'd rather be dead" he said.

"We have to address the very serious crisis of lack of mental healthcare for a whole lot of people who need it and they don't need it next year, they need it today" Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said. He argues mental healthcare policy is likely more important today than any gun control policy ever could be. "I don't think there's one simple solution, I think you have to look at this thing comprehensively. Congress is going to have to step up to the plate and have the courage to do that" Sanders said.

Rabinowitz says it starts with parents teaching kids new social norms. "You wouldn't let a child get away with poking fun at someone who is in a wheelchair or who is blind, you shouldn't let a kid get away with poking fun at someone who is on the bus talking to him or herself" he said.

As the President told the country Wednesday, the task at hand is not a simple one, but as the saying goes nothing worth doing is ever easy.

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