Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dealing with mental illness

This is something interesting that I came across which puts a bit of a different perspective on why something wasn't done about the shooter's mental state before it got to this point. From The Washington Post:
Mental health experts say that, unlike many other states - where little can be done to force an unstable person into treatment until he or she becomes violent and poses a danger to themself or others - Arizona is different.

Any person in Arizona can petition the court for a psychiatric evaluation solely because a person appears to be mentally ill and doesn't know it.

"When people appear mentally ill or show some instability, how do you get them to [mental health] resources if the system doesn't know those people are out there?" Cash said. "Our crisis line is manned 24/7. Anyone concerned about his behavior could have called at any time."

Cash added that he had no information on whether Loughner sought out private treatment covered by private insurance. "If he was interfacing with other mental health officials, I don't know about that," Cash said.

To me this puts the onus back on us. The college, the military, people who had been around him and felt concern, any of them could have reported him if what is said above is true. People are understandably reluctant to do this fearing the person or possibly that they will hurt that person's life if they are wrong. Still if someone had, possibly he would have gotten the treatment he didn't think he needed.

That, of course, runs smack up against this:
WASHINGTON -- In the past year alone, Pima County, Arizona, the site of the tragic shooting of 20 individuals including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) has forced more than 45 percent of mental health service recipients off the government rolls, a service advocate tells the Huffington Post.

The drop enrollment was protested strongly at the time, with opponents warning that the reductions would result in a spike in suicide attempts, public disturbances, hospitalizations and law enforcement encounters. But according Clarke Romans, Executive Direct of The National Alliance on Mental Illness’s (NAMI) Southern Arizona Division, the state ignored requests for relief, citing the need to implement strict budget cuts.

Now, in the wake of this past weekend’s horrific shootings, along with subsequent reporting about the seemingly crazed mental state of the shooter, politicians, reporters and activists alike are taking a fresh look at the funding of mental health care
This is another of those things that people want but never want to pay for. It is highly unlikely that these cuts made any difference to a young man who was in denial of having a problem. If his parents were either afraid of him or unwilling to face the truth, he was unlikely to have been seeking help. Still if we want to incarcerate people to determine if they are safe to be out in public, it costs money.


Paul said...

I am myself Bipolar and people with mental illnesses do need help or else they cannot function and often put society at risk .

Rain said...

What we really need to do is stop stigmatizing mental illness and treat it as what it is-- a chemical imbalance that can be treated. I have known two friends with schizophrenia and while they are in a episode, it's very difficult to communicate with them, one was never dangerous and the other never had been although I might wonder more about the possibility with him.

It should not considered be a disgrace to a family to have a family member who has a mental illness; and if it wasn't treated as something unclean, maybe more would get help right away.

In the case of this young man, it sounds like as his family began to realize what was happening, the became secluded and hid from the world. They really didn't know what to do probably.

Rain said...

That doesn't mean I excuse someone like Chapman or Hinkley or now this guy. Once they have gone to this level of committing a violent crime, I think they should stay incarcerated period. We could never be sure they'd not repeat. The thing is catch it before it gets here.

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

Our new governor made severe budget cut proposals yesterday which will deeply affect every facet of services in the state. But it was Ronald Reagan who got rid of most of the State Mental hospitals during his term as governor and those in the mental health community, or at least most of them, do not have fond memories of Reagan because of it. We have so many homeless in our state and there simply is nowhere to keep them anymore. I wish I knew the answers.