Arizona Tragedy: What People Need to Know About Mental Illness

by Rebecca Farley on January 11, 2011

Statement from Linda Rosenberg, President and CEO
National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare

Media inquiries to Meena Dayak at or 301.602.8474

Washington, DC (Jan 11, 2011)—We want to express our heartfelt sympathies to Rep. Giffords, her staff, and the citizens of Arizona who were killed or injured in the senseless tragedy on January 8.

While much has been made about the mental state of the accused killer, no one yet knows what drove the young man to engage in such a violent act. Even so, it should be stressed that a person with a mental health condition is no more likely to be violent than any other person.

Often after incidents like this, people who knew the accused ask themselves what they could have done to prevent the tragedy. No one knows what, if anything, could have been done to change the course of events, but now there is a way for people to take action and possibly prevent such tragedies from happening.

Mental Health First Aid is a novel, evidence-based public education program that teaches average people how to assess a situation, select and implement appropriate interventions, and help a person in crisis or developing the signs and symptoms of mental illness. This groundbreaking training equips people to provide initial help until appropriate professional, peer, or family support can be engaged. Participants also learn about the risk factors and warning signs of specific illnesses such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, and addiction.

The training has also done much to expand people’s knowledge of mental illnesses and their treatments, and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness by helping people understand and accept mental illness as a medical condition. Trainings are offered around the country  — visit for dates and locations.

We also know that after highly publicized tragedies like this, people may be seeking mental health counseling. We suggest they use the “Find the Provider” search tool at

We, of course, understand that no amount of training can guarantee these horrific acts won’t recur, but we do encourage people get trained and be better informed in the hope that they may be able to help and intervene early.

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