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Mentally ill people must be treated, like it or not

Posted: June 3, 2014 - 7:40pm  |  Updated: June 4, 2014 - 8:28am

Mentally ill people must be treated, like it or not

Our intent is not to demonize the mentally ill; we must not assume they are violent.

But study after study and incident after incident has shown that, left untreated, people with certain forms of mental illness are more dangerous to themselves and to society than others.

Elliot Rodger provides the most recent, heart-wrenching example. He was being treated for mental illness, according to what is known about the 22-year-old man who massacred six students in Isla Vista and wounded 13 others before killing himself Friday.

Whatever care he was getting, it was insufficient.

It’s an all too common story with a predictable end.

Some civil libertarians contend, wrongly, that people have a right to be left alone — no matter how ill. That makes it too easy for government to abdicate its responsibility to treat people who often are so sick they don’t realize the danger they represent until it’s too late. Far too often, there are warning signs — just as there were with Rodger.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Rodger’s mother repeatedly called authorities after seeing a dark video her son had posted on YouTube. Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies visited his apartment and concluded they could not hold him. Maybe the visit would have turned out differently if a mental health professional had come along. The Hollywood Reporter said in the hours before the massacre his parents were frantically searching for their son, fearing he would harm himself or others. There are more examples.

In October 2010, Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz., suspended Jared Loughner after five run-ins with campus officers. College administrators urged him to get mental health care.

Loughner instead withdrew from college and three months later shot six people to death and seriously wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

In February 2001, UC Santa Barbara student David Attias used his car to kill four people. His father had urged his adult son to take his anti-psychotic medication. His son refused, as was his right. Attias was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and spent 10 years at Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County.

In January 2001, Scott Thorpe shot and killed three people in Nevada County, including college sophomore Laura Wilcox. Thorpe’s psychiatrist concluded Thorpe did not meet the criteria for being held for treatment, despite pleas from Thorpe’s brother, then a police sergeant.

The Legislature responded by passing Laura’s Law, which allows counties to establish courts that can order outpatient treatment for severely mentally ill people. Only Nevada, Yolo and Orange counties have fully implemented the law.

A multitude of studies have shown that people suffering from schizophrenia and, to a lesser extent, bipolar disorder are more likely to commit violent crimes. Mixed with alcohol, the propensity is far greater.

The Treatment Advocacy Center cites a Canadian study that said there was “no doubt” about the relation “between psychosis and violence” and noted that those in the “immediate social circle” of the mentally ill person are “most at risk.”

Rodger started by killing his roommates.

Laura’s Law should be implemented and enforced across the state — including Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties. Its tenets must include “assisted outpatient” and court-ordered treatment. When implemented and monitored, treatment reduces hospitalization and homelessness, but also allows a much more effective response by law enforcement if a problem develops. In the weeks ahead, much will be revealed about Rodger’s warped sense of entitlement, misogyny and ability to legally buy guns.

All or part of that might be relevant. But this state and nation must confront its unwillingness to more aggressively treat people who are severely mentally ill. We can start here by fully implementing Laura’s Law.


Merced (California) Sun-Star

May 27

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RaySouthwell 06/04/14 - 10:01 am
Who determines mental illness?

Most of us are capable of the most horrendous acts of violence. But lets just focus on the mentally ill. Here is another thought I also read today.

"Can you defeat the monster" written by a man named James Altucher

"Someone I knew drove to the middle of a bridge yesterday, got out of her car, and jumped 200 feet off the bridge. She was pregnant.

A few months ago, a friend of mine who is CEO of a Silicon Valley company left the car running in his garage while he was in it. He was fortunately found, taken to the hospital, and survived, after he passed out.

Nobody wants to kill themselves. But we all have a monster inside. Sometimes the monster takes over. We can't control it at that point.

It's never the fault of the business failing. It's never the fault of a partner or spouse breaking up with you.

It's never the fault of parents who abused. Or of life feeling like a mountain too large to climb.

It's not your fault either. The monster is in everyone. We often medicate to keep the monster down. Or drown ourselves in addictions that don't help us but numb the monster.

In January 2006 I woke up at 3am on the intersection of 49th and Lexington after having too much to drink and cars swerving around me in the rain. One example of many in the past 20 years. I'm lucky.

There's no way to kill the monster. It's there inside of you right now. We all feel it.

Our unhappiness feeds it. Keeping physically emotionally mentally and spiritually healthy starves it but won't kill it. It waits.

Claudia just told me: imagine you have a spoon but the spoon is too heavy to feed yourself with. You can only hold it out and feed someone else with it. Everyone has to feed each other with these spoons else we won't eat and we won't live.

Evolution favored the generations of our species that learned to feed each other with these too-heavy spoons.

Often you can't feed yourself. The monster is out of your control. But you can always feed another. Find someone today to feed.

Not by talking to them. Not by teaching. Not by demanding or blaming or yelling or advising. The monster feeds off of all of that.

But by listening. Listening is power. Listening teaches you, feeds another, makes their story more beautiful, builds connections, starves the monster inside both, expresses love.

Saves lives.

Raoulduke 06/04/14 - 08:23 pm

Like most everything else.I believe.The law determines.Who is mentally competent,or mentally ill.The Letter writer stated mentally ill people must get treatment.Whether we like it,or not.My understanding of the letter is .The mentally ill ARE getting treatment,but some patients. Their treatment is not enough to prevent them from doing violent things.

RaySouthwell 06/05/14 - 07:33 am
The magic pill

Throughout history, it is the majority who decides the definition of mental illness and the professionals follow their lead. The idea of finding the right magic pill to keep violent people from being violent does not work for all or they become zombies. In some cases the medication made violent behavior worse. I would suggest we look and understand how we treat each other. Changing our behavior towards each other would be far more effective than believing pharmaceuticals are all the answer.

People are fragile and must be handled with care, respect and justice.

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