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President's gun violence plan stresses mental health treatment for at-risk youth

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Buffalo: President's gun violence plan stresses mental health treatment for at-risk youth
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In response to the Newtown Elementary School massacre, President Barack Obama's proposal for reducing gun violence includes strategies advocating mental health treatment for young people at risk. Cheryl Wills filed the following report.

When President Barack Obama announced his plans for reducing gun violence, mental health advocates were relieved when he addressed the need to expand mental health care access. Four of the 23 executive actions focus on issues related to mental health, including increased insurance coverage and launching a national dialogue.

Dr. Vilma Gabbay, the chief of Mount Sinai Medical Center's newly opened Pediatric Mood and Anxiety Program in Manhattan, says the president's focus on mental health as it relates to random acts of violence among children is long overdue.

"It's really a crisis with respect to public health, the lack of awareness and adequate treatment for psychiatric disorders," Gabbay says. "Unfortunately, there is a stigma, there is silence."

That silence can lead to tragic consequences, as the nation learned from a long history of school shootings from Columbine High School to Newtown Elementary School.

Gabbay says there are, however, many warning signs.

"Many times the teen will present with withdrawal, socially withdrawal, spending more time with themselves, internally preoccupied, and not seeking pleasurable activities," says Gabbay.

Other warning signs of mood and anxiety disorders include:
• Inability to concentrate.
• Irritability and anger.
• Disorganized Speech.
• Grandiosity or a belief in having super powers.

While these symptoms may be easy to detect, Gabbay says it is not easy to get psychiatric help and she says insurance reform for mental health is needed now more than ever.

For more information on the Pediatric Mood and Anxiety Program, visit www.mountsinai.org/pmap.

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