On-air shooting prompts mental health conversations with Charlotte experts

The disturbing murders of the journalists live on-air have spawned several conversations about mental health issues.

Their killer Vester Lee Flanagan, a former WDBJ reporter who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound hours after the shooting even sparked debate. Doctors saying it's not clear yet if Flanagan was medically diagnosed with a mental illness. But that people should not take a chance if they see someone showing signs.

One in four adults show signs of a mental illness in any given year. Doctors want to give people the tools necessary to help identify those people fighting the battle and guide them towards professional help.

James Rachal with Carolinas HealthCare System says the terrifying news out of Virginia now shines a spotlight on a condition many people suffer from, whether they admit it or not.

Andrew Kaplan teaches a course designed to help regular community members identify someone who might be dealing with mental health issues from an early stage or a crisis stage.

"We really didn't know what to expect. We knew it was very important. We knew because of the stigma around mental illness, that it's something that really needed to be addressed. In all communities and certainly in our community," Kaplan said.

Doctors say early signs to identify are, when a person goes from being outgoing to quiet and closed off, sleeping  more often then they normally do and even talks of hurting themselves.

Doctors say people often suffer alone. The challenge is getting them to realize they have these issues in the first place and guiding them towards assistance.

"People don't seek help or even admit that they even have an issue because they're so afraid of the negative stigma around mental illness," Kaplan said.

Some people may think they can fight it on their own but doctors say that can end dangerously. Because they're often at a greater risk for violence to themselves than to others.

"A person with a mental illness is more likely to have harm done to them somehow than to harm done to somebody else," Rachal said.

Carolina HealthCare Systems encourages anyone who shows signs of a mental illness to seek professional help.