Mayor Autry Announces Partnership to Fight Mental Illness Among Students

April 23, 2008 8:03:22 AM PDT
A week after a Roosevelt High student was shot and killed on campus, Fresno Mayor Alan Autry has announced a new mental health and school safety plan. The challenge is to identify mentally ill students and get them help. Brenda Leue of the National Alliance of Mental Illness says it's a difficult process. Leue said "Its more common than we realize and another thing, it's hard to see mental illness for what it really is because in a school setting it often looks like misbehavior." Police Chief Jerry Dyer says last year his officers responded to 108 calls on high school campuses to check on students with mental health issues. Dyer said "Our officers also committed 90 students under welfare and institution code 5150 as a result of a mental illness that caused those individuals that caused them to be a danger to themselves or others."

Fresno Mayor Alan Autry says the recent shooting death of Roosevelt High student Jessie Carrizales by a campus police officer spurred him to take action. The family says Carrizales was on medication for depression. Autry said "With this heart-breaking tragedy we as a community are going to stop cursing the darkness and turn on the light regarding mental health and mental illness in our society and in our schools."

Autry seeks a partnership with the county, school districts, police and faith-based organizations to assist young people with mental health issues. A plan is not yet in place but Brenda Leue believes schools should add counselors who specialize in child psychology. Leue said "I hope whatever they do they don't make the students feel ostracized from the others and that they're able to put it on the campus."

Leue also says its important counseling and education is made available for families so they understand what is happening. The coalition is looking into how it could fund such a program.


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