Connecticut shooting shines light on mental health

by Terry Stevens, Cenpatico CEO

The tragic incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. has shaken our country and renewed conversations about what can be done to prevent something like that from ever happening again.  While it’s unknown if the person who committed this act had a serious mental illness, there needs to be a discussion about mental healthcare, which is often misunderstood and almost always underfunded.

Mental illness is no different than other common medical problems in society such as heart disease or cancer.  More than a quarter (26 percent) of all Americans age 18 and older suffer from a diagnosed mental disorder in any given year.

What happened in Connecticut is certainly the exception, and not the rule, when it comes to people who have a mental illness.  Most persons with a mental health challenge do not commit violent acts and with proper treatment can live healthy and productive lives.  The key is prevention, early intervention and providing adequate care and treatment.

One way to get involved is to learn more about mental health by attending a Mental Health First Aid training seminar. These 12-hour interactive courses will teach you about mental illness, risk factors and how to notice potential warning signs so that you can identify a potential issue and get proper care early.

If you need help or may know of someone who requires immediate assistance, call Cenpatico of Arizona’s 24-hour crisis hotline at (866) 495-6735.

Cenpatico of Arizona offers an anonymous online screening for mood and anxiety disorders to help determine if professional counseling is needed.

And for parents and educators helping children to cope with the shooting, there are multiple resources available:

Let’s use the tragedy in Connecticut as a teaching moment about mental healthcare – why it’s important and how, by having knowledge about it, you can help your loved ones and those in your community overcome challenges from mental illness.


Cenpatico is the Regional Behavioral Health Authority for Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, La Paz, Pinal, Santa Cruz and Yuma counties.  Cenpatico Behavioral Health of Arizona (Cenpatico) services are funded through a contract with the Arizona Department of Health Services/Division of Behavioral Health Services (ADHS/DBHS) and AHCCCS.  For more information, visit: