Mental health in America: it's a topic that is dominating discussion across the country following the tragedies in Newtown, Connecticut and aurora, Colorado. The Florida Panhandle is no exception.
Mental illness is more prevalent than some might think. The statistics speak for themselves.1 in 4 American adults have some form of diagnosable mental disorder, ranging from anxiety to bipolar disorders.
With mental health back in the spotlight, many feel the time is now to better understand and help.
"There's so much misconception, so much stigma around the country. Maybe it's time for people to have a better understanding of mental health problems," said Ned Ailes, CEO of Panama City's Life Management Center.
In the wake of shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, Ailes is trying to educate while the world is listening. It's a task made more difficult while some are grouping the Adam Lanza's of the world with the rest of the mental illness population.
"The vast majority of persons with mental illness do not show a propensity towards violence whatsoever. In fact statistics show that persons with mental illness are less dangerous than the general population," said Ailes.
He does not discount the need for greater resources for mental health illnesses here at home. The state of Florida ranks 49th in per capita funding for mental health illnesses.
"We're virtually at the bottom of the list," Ailes added.
With the nation trying to heal from the gun violence at Sandy Hook, some law makers are crying for harsher gun laws; yet, State Representative Jimmy Patronis is in line with Ailes.
"Could we look at mental health or could we maybe do more about mental health preparedness in our state? I think that's the better way to go," said Patronis.
Potential new mental health legislation could be on the horizon for the state; yet, 2012 already brought changes in Northwest Florida through ‘F.A.C.T' funding, or Florida Assertive Community Treatment
"It's a fast action response team right here in Northwest Florida in the 14th judicial circuit for help to help deal with mental health illnesses," said Patronis.
"Literally these are services that are taken to the streets. 75 percent of the services are delivered by a team of mental health experts within the community," said Ailes.
In 2011, Life Management brought service to 12000 people, through its 24/7/365 crisis availability.