I-40 Over The Arkansas River Reopens After Runaway Barges Collide With Dam

Counselors Worry Gun Policy Could Deter Patients

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In the wake of the mass killings at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn., several plans have surfaced to curb gun violence.

President Barack Obama recently unveiled his proposal, which includes a component to treat mental illness at an earlier age.

A Fort Smith mental health professional says one downside is that people might avoid seeking treatment if they think they could lose their right to own a gun.

“We don’t know how they would go about determining which type of mental illness would be worthy of taking away that right, and we don’t want folks to stop seeking services cause they fear losing rights,” said Jim West, CEO of Western Arkansas Counseling and Guidance Center.

West says stress related to the rocky economy has caused more people to need mental health care, but their lack of money prevents them from seeking help.

“When you can’t afford the service and you feel like you need assistance, you may delay that for a significant period of time, and that problem continues to grow,” West said. “We certainly don’t want those individual to give up or feel threatened in any way and then turn to violence.”

Mental health professionals play an important part in helping patients cope with stress.

“The disposition of an individual can change from day-to-day, and with treatment people gain a lot of confidence in themselves and find that there are other ways to react to life and to life stress,” according to West.

The president plans to have the Center for Disease Control to research the causes of violence.

He’ll also ask congress to fund research into the impact of violent video games on young minds.

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