Psychiatrist: Mental illness misunderstood, ‘easy target’ for blame

Officials say Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz got treatment in the past, but hadn't in over a year

Dr. Joseph Farris, Belmont Pines, Hubbard

Editor’s note: The video refers to Dr. Farris as a child psychologist. He is actually a psychiatrist. WKBN regrets the error, and the web story has been corrected. 

HUBBARD, Ohio (WKBN) – Much of the discussion after Florida’s school shooting has focused on mental health. The suspect had been in treatment, but there are still several unknowns about Nikolas Cruz and his history.

Dr. Joseph Farris is a child psychiatrist with Belmont Pines. He said mental illness is often first blamed when events like this happen.

“Mental health is scary to a lot of people, misunderstood to a lot of people and, oftentimes, is an easy target.”

Farris said it’s extremely uncommon for people with mental illness to carry out violent acts.

“A vast number of people with mental health aren’t violent. They aren’t criminals. They’re often, unfortunately, targets of violence, targets of being taken advantage of.”

Broward County officials say Cruz got treatment from a mental health clinic in the past, but hadn’t gone in over a year.

Farris said some of his adolescent clients stop coming as soon as they’re old enough to make that decision.

“It’s almost looked at as a choice and so, oftentimes, kids view it as a nuisance.”

Officers say Cruz has a history of aggressive and violent behavior. Farris said everyone should watch out for those warning signs and report them.

“Being an advocate to tell somebody in authority. If you do have contact with that person, to seek some help, get them to seek help. Do whatever you can.”


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