Some mental health advocates wary of Obama's proposals - Tucson News Now

Some mental health advocates wary of Obama's proposals

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

President Barack Obama's plan to curb gun violence includes provisions for mental health awareness. But advocates are concerned some measures will actually have a negative impact on how we view mental disorders.

Advocates at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, are always trying to change the public perception on mental health.

So people feel better about getting help without fear of criticism. Advocates say it's unfair to lump gun violence with mental health.

"I believe this was her wedding photo when she was 18," said Heather Aguiar. She loves to look at a picture of her mother, Valerie, before she showed symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.

"Always thinking that someone was after her, the people on tv were talking to her," Heather says those who believe all diagnosed individuals should not have weapons are misinformed.

"My mother was never violent, she never was violent whatsoever.  She thought that there would be harm against her," she said.

"So would that be the criteria to say anybody who hears voices, no guns."

Clark Romans is head of NAMI of Southern Arizona, he says President Barack Obama's plan unfairly ties gun violence to mental disorders.

"I don't think there's enough definition around what aspects of a mental illness would cause someone to be violent," he said.

Romans is also concerned about patient rights. Obama's plan addresses the release of health-related information. Romans says that right now the plan is too vague.

"What's going to happen to that information?  Is it going to be used for things other than just gun control?"

As details about the President's plan become clearer, Heather hopes provisions are carried out with sensitivity.

"My mother's a loving person, I love her, she loves me, her life does have value, and she was afflicted with this brain disorder that ravaged her life," she said.

According to NAMI, only 10 percent of the population has a serious mental illness. And only one percent of the people who fall into that category are violent.

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