Valley mom speaks out about mental health system after Sandy Hook Elementary shooting

PHOENIX - Friday's tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn. has thrown the issue of mental health into the spotlight, and now experts and families who've dealt with it firsthand are speaking out.

Mental health experts say there needs to be an overhaul of the system that's in place to help those with mental illness, and one Valley mother agrees.

Lane Perdue says often times people who suffer from mental illness do not get the proper help they need until they either hurt themselves or others.

"He was a smart attractive kid. He would be everyone's friend. But then he would have these random outbursts of rage. We had no idea why he was acting out," said Perdue, mother and mental health counselor.

Perdue says she started taking her son to the doctor for help at age 4.  Doctors could not come up with an accurate diagnosis.  It wasn't until her son was 15 and he punched another child that he got the right help. 

Instead of taking her son to a juvenile detention facility, deputies took him to get evaluated. He was diagnosed with a type of bi-polar disorder.

"It was hard. At times, my oldest son would need to restrain him because I couldn't get his rage under control. As a mom I thought I could take care of him, but I knew he needed more," Perdue admits.

Perdue says it is important for parents to help their children understand what they have and help them learn to accept their mental illness.  Talking about the illness and developing a support system with the child's school will help someone who suffers from mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness,  a mistake parents often make is getting their child diagnosed by a pediatrician. That can often lead to the wrong diagnosis.  Parents need to take their child to a psychologist or the school therapist to make sure they are getting the proper medication.

Perdue says once her son turned 18, it was hard to force him to take his medication all the time.  She also says social workers are backlogged with cases and there needs to be more help for families who are dealing with mental illness.

Do you have questions about the state of Arizona's mental health system? Tune in Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. for an ABC15 special "Arizona's Search for Solutions". We'll be talking with local experts and answering viewer questions about mental illness and school safety.

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