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Mental illness: A common family problem

11:49 PM, Dec 19, 2012   |    comments
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GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) -- Mental health is something that Adam Lanza, the gunman in the Connecticut school shootings, apparently struggled with long before Friday's rampage.

The executive director of the Mental Health Foundation in Grand Rapids says mental illness is a surprisingly common issue.  Kristy Buck says one in four families is affected by mental illness, and one in five teenagers struggles with it.

Josiah Curtis is part of the statistics of mental health struggle. Police say, last month, Curtis, 25, broke into a Wyoming school garage and took one of the busses across the state. He was arrested arrested in Washtenaw County.

Curtis' parents say he has suffered with mental illness for years. They say it was difficult for them to identify the signs of the illness because of the changes adolescence brings.

"He was such a good drawer," says Diane Curtis, Josiah's mother. "But when he got into high school, his drawings changed. I didn't know that might have been a sign, too. Someone told me that they knew right away there was something wrong when they saw his changing of drawings and I thought, 'Why didn't you tell us?'

"People don't seem to want to say anything. I don't know why mental illness is such a hush hush kind of illness."

"A mental illness is also a physical illness because it is your brain," says Buck. "We need to start decreasing the stigma and start understanding that there is treatment, there is recovery, there is hope. There is even hope for Josiah.

"It starts with asking questions to your doctors and your providers. You need to understand your illness and take control of it before it takes control of you.

"People are walking around and functioning every day with mental illnesses, working side by side with all of us,"says Buck.

Buck says self-medicating with drugs and alcohol can be a sign of mental illness among teenagers. Children who are bullied may also struggle with mental disorders.

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