Mental health workers react to peer's killing

WICHITA, Kan. It’s been a tough 24 hours for people working in the mental health field.

“I think most of us had difficulty with sleep last night when we found out what happened,” said Andrea Holt, a clinical social worker who frequently collaborated with Dr. Achutha Reddy to come up with the best treatments for shared clients.

“He was very well respected,” Holt said. “It's just a horrible, horrible tragedy that we will all come together to heal from. And find a way to make sure his patients are taken care of, which is what he would have wanted us to do.”

In grief, she and her peers will lean on each other.

“We have an incredibly supportive mental health community,” Holt said.

While we don't know the motive behind Dr. Reddy's killing, One local psychiatrist, and researcher in the field warns of potentially harmful misinformation.

“As a psychiatrist, there is concern that people will generalize this, and say that all people with mental illness have a risk of violent crime,” said Dr. Matthew Macaluso, a Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences Associate Professor at the KU School of Medicine. “If we look at the data that's available to us, that's just not true.”

Dr. Macaluso says the accused killer being a patient is an outlier.

“Most data suggests individuals with mental illness are not at greater risk of committing violent crimes than the general population,” Macaluso explained. “Of all the violent crimes that are committed, individuals with mental illness are responsible for very few. In other words, the majority of violent crimes are committed by people without mental illness.”

Holt says she has seen other violent situations prior to Wednesday night, but she and others know the risks of the job.

“It's just a reality that all of us in the mental health world know that we are going to face, and could face on any given day.”

Asked how she thinks Dr. Reddy would advise her in dealing with this tragedy.

“Dr. Reddy was a unique man,” Holt smiled. “He would advise me to do what he did. Which is to try and meet somebody with compassion and give them every opportunity to be their best and to do your best with them and hope that worked out.”