Bridging the Opportunity Divide

This App Hopes to Reduce Mass Shootings By Addressing Mental Illness

November 6, 2014
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This App Hopes to Reduce Mass Shootings By Addressing Mental Illness
The Mental Health & You app provides information on a range of mental health issues and features a "get help now" button to connect users with a local hotline. Mental Health & You (screen capture)
For those going untreated, this digital tool provides resources.

In the wake of tragedy, particularly the string of mass shootings across the country as of late, we often seek out answers as to why it happened.

More recently, the national conversation has focused on recognizing mental illness. While there is not a direct correlation between mass shootings and mental illness, educating the public on the subject is one step Americans are beginning to take to prevent tragedy from striking again.

The Center of Health Care Services is joining the movement with the release of Mental Health & You (MHU), a mobile app and crisis intervention tool providing resources on mental illness, according to Emergency Management.

“We know that one in four people will be diagnosed with a mental illness in this country, but most go untreated,” says Leon Evans, executive director of the center. “We know that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violent crime, rather than perpetrators of it.”

The app provides information on signs and symptoms of mental disorders including anxiety, depression, attention-deficit disorder, post-traumatic-stress-syndrome (PTSD) and schizophrenia. Users can also find direct links to local and national advocacy groups like the National Alliance for Mental Illness and the San Antonio Coalition for Veterans and Families, according to Allison Greer, vice president of external relations for the center.

More interestingly, Mental Health & You also includes a section devoted to debunking myths and “stigma-busters,” correcting misinformation that often is associated with the subject. It also mentions famous people who grapple with mental illness including Abraham Lincoln and actress Catherine Zeta Jones. To further dispel the taboo of mental illness, the app lists movies that illustrate the issue such as “Silver Linings Playbook.”

But most importantly, the app is a tool for individuals who may be concerned about a friend or loved one and for law enforcement looking for crisis training on how to respond to a situation with a person struggling with mental illness.

“For example, they know not to use their ‘command voice,’” Greer says.

The app features a “get help now” button that immediately connects a user with a local hotline, where trained staff available to provide advice or call in a mobile crisis intervention outreach team to help the situation. The app also has a button that can connect users with 911 as well.

MORE: After Newtown Shooting, This Critical Program Helps Police Deal with Mental Health Emergencies

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