Roosevelt incident puts mental Illness in spotlight

Roosevelt incident puts mental Illness in spotlight

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The 17-year-old who was shot by police at Roosevelt High School suffered from mental illness, according to his mother in an exclusive interview with Hawaii News Now.

The incident at the school has put the topic of mental illness into the spotlight, and it's not an easy one to dissect.

"It's a complicated situation, there's no question about it".  That's the initial impression of Lou Erteschik, the Executive Director of the Hawaii Disability Rights Center.  The center advocates for persons with all manner of disabilities, from physical to mental.

"Mental illness is hard to treat, and it's a lot less clear than physical illnesses," he continued.

The juvenile who went to the school had been in and out of mental health treatment facilities.  Many may wonder how an individual can simply walk away from such a facility, but as another expert says, the system is limited by legal protections afforded to patients.

"The slipping between the cracks often is that the person isn't ill enough to be hospitalized against their will, but they're so ill that they aren't going to comply with appropriate care" said Dr. Martin Johnson, Director of the Hawaii Center for Psychology.  He added that mental illness is a malady that suffers from a great deal of misperceptions.

"When things like this hit the media, a lot of people get very concerned and very scared about the issue of mental illness and violence.  The fact is, people who have a mental illness are no more or less likely to be violent than anyone else".

Both experts agree that trying to pinpoint fault in this instance is a futile effort.

"There's really no easy place to point a finger or appropriate place to point a finger" said Dr. Johnson.

"While you cannot say it's absolutely their fault or their fault, there's a lot to be learned from this situation," said Erteschik.

For anyone who is in search of mental health advocacy or help, the Hawaii Disability Rights Center can be reached at 1-800-882-1057, or online at

The Hawaii Center for Psychology can be contacted at 808-538-7793, or at

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