Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

January 31, 2014

Drawing a distinction between mental illness and violence

GOSHEN — Mental illness doesn’t always equate to violence.

“99.9 percent of the patients we treat aren’t violent,” said Matthew Lentsch, Executive Director of Marketing and Development at Oaklawn Psychiatric Center. “When someone needs help and the earlier they get intervention, the better. Mental illness is a brain disorder and when patients get the treatment they need, they are compliant and do very well.”

Lentsch says a person can be troubled or unstable but not have a mental disorder and that everybody has free will to make a choice.

The gunman who killed two people in an Elkhart Martin’s supermarket Jan. 15 before being shot dead by police had a criminal history in Elkhart County.

Shawn W. Bair, 22, pleaded guilty to a Class D felony charge of theft May 17, 2010, in Elkhart Superior Court 4. He was sentenced June 15 that year.

Bair received an 18-month sentence in that case, with all but six months suspended. He was ordered to serve that sentence with the Elkhart Community Corrections program, and also serve a year of probation. As a term of his probation, Bair was to enroll in the outreach program at the Oaklawn mental health facility, attend individual therapy and obtain a primary doctor or nurse practitioner. Bair was also ordered to obtain an addictions assessment at Oaklawn and follow-up.

“Without a doubt, the person was troubled, but mentally ill, I don’t know,” Lentsch said. “Just because someone in the community did something that was totally unthinkable and awful. That is irresponsible. It’s a wake-up call but lumping mental illness and violence together is a stigma. Mental illness is a brain disorder and we can provide treatment for someone troubled or unstable.”

There are warning signs that indicate a person might have a mental illness and need help, said Darrin Miller, Director of Risk and Residential Services at Oaklawn Psychiatric Center.

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