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Guest opinion

Barber reacts to D.C. shootings with call for mental health treatment

U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, who has introduced the bipartisan Mental Health First Aid Act to increase public awareness of mental illness symptoms and services available by training teachers, students, firefighters, police officers, emergency services workers and others, released this statement on the shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.:

As a survivor of the January 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, I am determined that no one else should have to endure such grief and loss. While there is no single answer to preventing mass shootings, we know that untreated or undiagnosed serious mental illness has been a factor in a number of the recent tragedies. Mental illness may well have played a role in Monday's tragedy that left 12 innocent people and the shooter dead at the Navy Yard in Washington.

We must do more to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. And we must invest in the early identification of mental illness and in treatment programs. It is important to remember that more than 95 percent of individuals living with a mental illness are not violent. They are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators. The small number of people with a serious mental illness that makes them dangerous to others requires our urgent attention. They can respond to treatment, but only if we intervene early with diagnosis and services when the symptoms are observed.

Ron Barber is the U.S. representative from Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District.

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