Local expert says there is help for those with mental illnesses

Compass Family & Community Services said local police officers are trained in situations involving those with mental illnesses

Police apprehended a suspect who held four children hostage for nearly four and a half hours.
Police rescued four children and arrested Sean Dixson, who they say has a history of mental illness, after they said he held the children hostage in the house while he had a gun.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Experts say if you suspect someone has a mental illness, it’s important to ask for professional help.

After spending the last several days in the hospital, Sean Dixson still looked like he was in pain as he was wheeled out of a Struthers court on Friday morning. Even though he had trouble moving, and his hands were chained to his waist, there were nearly a dozen officers watching over him as a precaution.

Bessie Ryan, charged with vandalism and disrupting public service
Bessie Ryan was charged with vandalism and disrupting public service after police said she appeared to suffer some sort of mental breakdown and slammed her head into a WRTA bus window.

Investigators say Dixson, who police said has a history of mental illness, caused a nearly five-hour standoff at a Struthers home with four children inside. The children had to be rescued from the home after police said Dixson refused to come out and waved a gun toward officers from the doorway of the home.

Eric Ritz, residential program director for Compass Family and Community Services, said there are things that you can do if a loved one has a mental illness.

“There are lots of things you can do. I mean, there are local mental health agencies you can contact directly,” he said. “Also, in our area, we have a local, we call ‘211 service,’ which is our help hotline.”

Dixson’s case isn’t unique.

On Wednesday morning, a woman who police said had some sort of a mental breakdown broke an WRTA bus window.

Police were called Wednesday afternoon after 36-year-old Bessie Ryan, a passenger on a WRTA bus, slammed her head into a window and cracked it, according to a police report. Witnesses said Ryan seemed “out of it” and was talking to herself.

She was taken to St. Elizabeth Hospital for treatment and later charged with vandalism and disrupting public service.

Sean Dixson, involved in the Struthers standoff
Sean Dixon is facing several charges after police said he caused a nearly five-hour standoff in Struthers.

Ritz said sometimes loved ones will be in denial of problems that exist or fear they will lose someone if they’re reported, but there is a concern with not reporting these type of incidents. He said police are becoming more aware of the impact mental illness can have and how to handle it safely for everyone.

“Fortunately, in our area that I’m aware of, all of our police departments have specially-trained officers now that can be available to respond. These officers know how to, they understand mental illness,” he said.

He warns that if something does happen, loved ones should never try to deescalate potentially dangerous situations by themselves.

You can find more information on services provided by Compass Community and Family Services on the agency’s website. Resources are also available through Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board and Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board.

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