DANDRIDGE (WATE) - The family of man who was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy is using the tragedy to raise awareness about the importance of treating mental illnesses.
Robert Lynn Human, Jr., 41, called 911 in December asking to be taken to a mental hospital.
According to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, when deputies arrived at his home in Dandridge Human charged the officers with a gun in each hand. Officers fired, killing Human on the scene.
Human's sister says her brother was diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder in 2009. She says the mental illness impacted her entire family.
Now she wants to shed some light on the mental illness and her family's ongoing struggle to find treatment for her brother.
Tammy Herndon says her younger brother, Robert Lynn Human, Jr., was energetic and happy growing up.
"He was a love life kind of guy. He was always into water sports and he was a whitewater rafting guide," said Herndon.
Then in 2000 the loss of a friend, his father and later his grandfather caused some of the first signs of a mental illness.
According to records, Human's moods went from extreme highs to lows. He was losing sleep and almost had a panic attack.
Herndon says Human went from hospital to hospital looking for help. She says her brother was diagnosed with everything from sleep apnea to depression and in 2009 bi-polar disorder.
"It just seems like there's no real help for these people and they are being dismissed with some medication. There's not a lot of follow up treatment," said Herndon.
Herndon says her brother had stopped taking his medication and the day after he was killed he had another appointment scheduled at a mental health facility. The appointment had taken six months to set up.
Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee Ben Harrington says there is a shortage in of mental health professionals in the public sector.
"Agencies that serve the Medicaid population and Medicare population, we have a shortage now. They can only see so many people in a day," said Harrington.
But with the closure of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute, Harrington says there's more money going toward community services, like new crisis stabilization units in Knoxville and Morristown, which offer three days of care in a crisis.
More outpatient services are also provided for the uninsured and more law enforcement have also been trained to identify and communicate with the mentally ill to de-escalate a situation.
Harrington says in East Tennessee alone there are more than 300,000 people who suffer from a mental illness. He says only one-third will receive treatment.
He hopes will an increase in awareness will help remove any stigma associated with the illness. Harrington says people should get insurance coverage for mental health.
For resources for the mentally ill, call the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee at (865) 684-9125 or visit their website.