Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Since the mass shooting that took 20 children and six adults’ lives at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, there has been quite a bit of discussion about mental illness and how to recognize the symptoms before someone becomes a danger to themselves and to others.
Many of our viewers have emailed or called our newsroom saying mental illness doesn’t get the attention it needs or deserves compared to other illnesses.
One viewer said, “Though there are pink ribbon campaigns and clinics to screen for diabetes, no one talks about mental illness. It seems to be considered shameful when it’s the brain that’s the part of the body that needs treatment.”
NewsChannel 9’s Leigh Isaacson spoke with one woman who says she experienced mental illnesses her entire life before she was able to get the proper help.
“I was emotionally disturbed, but nobody ever picked up on it,” said Diane Cuppernull, who suffers from mental illness.
Before Cuppernull was admitted to psychiatric care, she said people classified her as a just a problem child and says she was tormented in school.
“I was like a time bomb. All the abuse in my whole life since I was five built up,” Cuppernull said.
Cupperneull says she suffers from depression, hears voices and has even tried to commit suicide.
“Something told me in my head to burn down the house, burn down the house,” she continued.
Eventually, Cuppernull gave in and nearly killed her own mother.
“I just lost control. I couldn't control myself. It's scary when you lose control. But thank God nothing bad happened to my mother,” Cuppernull said.
As far as we know, Lanza was never diagnosed with a mental illness. But some experts believe that may be the problem, that there's no clear system in place to recognize those with mental illness early on.
Dr. Don Brady was a clinical therapist in schools. He says it's clear the stigma surrounding mental illness keeps some kids from getting treatment.
“Parents sometimes are very embarrassed that their child may have an emotional issue and they tend to blame themselves, so we have to take some of that blame off the parent so they can be encouraged to reach out for services,” Dr. Brady said.
And proper care can make all the difference.
Diane Cuppernull was admitted to a mental hospital for years and now lives independently, taking medication and seeing a therapist regularly to control her emotional outbursts.
“I nip it in the bud. I know exactly what's going on now, know when I'm getting sick, so I call my therapist right away,” Cuppernull explained.
Cuppernull says she’s extremely shy and being isolated could be a warning sign.
Experts say that it’s not a healthy sign when someone is retreating away from family and friends.
It’s important to remember, it’s never just one thing. Being shy is also a symptom of Aspergers, which the gunman reportedly had and experts say there’s no link between the mild form of autism and violence.