Hernando County group vows to fight mental illness

BROOKSVILLE, Fla. - A group in Hernando County announced some startling statistics in mental illness for the county, and formed a coalition to help fight the issue.

Mike Welch with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) announced that, together with commissioners, they were going to tackle the problem by trying to get as much government funding for programs as possible.

The resolution formed with commissioners will seek all available federal funds to kick-start mental health programs in Hernando, money the group NAMI says was previously passed over by Governor Rick Scott.

According to NAMI statistics, Hernando County has the third-highest rate of mental illness in Florida, 45% more cases than average.

Florida ranks 49th on their scale on spending for mental health issues.

"And it's true, when a child is in distress, we have no child psychiatrists at all.  We're down to just two adult psychiatrists.  We need to bring in more people to help our people," Welch said.

Over the weekend, the community laid to rest 12 year-old Miguel Rodriguez, who took his own life after his mother said he was the victim of constant bullying.

"The kids would just pick on him because he's so short and they would smack him around.  He wasn't a fighter," she told ABC Action News.

She told us the family later found a tape recorder left behind by Miguel, where he can be heard asking for help and his last message.

Hernando commissioner Diane Rowden said while he wasn't mentally ill in the typical sense, the teasing contributed to a form of mental anguish, one that county officials should be able to help.

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