I am disgusted at how every atrocity is used by the press to demonize ordinary people “who cling to religion and guns”.
Ironically, it is the National Review who has the nerve to point fingers at the real culprit: not the liberals who passed laws making it impossible to hospitalize or to force the dangerously mentally ill to take treatment,Â because out patient treatment is possible and better for these people, but the Governors who were too cheap to make sure their treatment continued.
Over the past half century, we have emptied out the state psychiatric hospitals but then failed to provide treatment for half of those discharged. They have ended up, in increasing numbers, homeless on the streets, in jails and prisons, in emergency rooms, and committing violent acts, including homicides. Three studies suggest that individuals with untreated severe mental illnesses are responsible for approximately 10 percent of all homicides, and another study suggests they are responsible for more than 10 percent of rampage murders. We are now seeing about two such mass killings associated with mental illness each year.
Most doctors who work in Emergency rooms or those of us who refer psychotic, often dangerous patients, to Emergency roomsÂ know the problem: there are no beds.
So when I worked in one Emergency Room, a deeply psychotic hallucinating patient who was throwing stones at the neighbors, was brought in by the cops, but sent home after a shot of Haldol and given an appointment for follow up. A week later, he came back, and while waiting for the psychiatrist, started shouting, and threw a telephone at me, closely missing the kids waiting outside the adjoining room for their mother, who was having an intimate examination.
What would have happened if the patient had a knife with him? I don’t have to wonder: Six months later, a similar patient was not given a room inside to wait, but was left sitting n the crowded waiting room, where he lost control and stabbed several people, including a 12 year old who later died.
This is just one anecdote: I can tell of the deeply psychotic woman who almost starved at home because she refused medicines, and unlike three previous episodes, she was not hospitalized for her mental illness. We know of teenagers who stay in their room, descending into delusions, and yet unwilling to get help, and the parents are either unable to realize that the children are mentally ill, or are unable to get them treated. We know of elderly folks whose mild dementia means they have trouble caring for themselves, but the Alzheimer related paranoia makes them fire care taker after caretaker.Â And we also know of the harmless who walk our streets because forcing them into housing, bathing, and eating is against their civil rights.
One of the problems of the mentally ill–the true psychotics, not the mildly neurotic–is that they deny their illness.
The medicines they take have side effects, so they stop the medicines, only to descend into psychosis again, and in some cases this means into paranoia and violence.
Injectable forms of these medicines help, but even then, there is a need to make sure they come in for the injection, and too many families suffer from burn out from coping with their relatives.
Michael James Barton shows the absurdity of how the system now works:
Earlier this year I spent weeks in an evidentiary hearing in the U.S. District Court for the District of ColumbiaÂ as the U.S. Attorneysâ€™ office, an Article III judge, and a mental patientâ€™s attorneys debated whether to release a patient, attempted Reagan assassin John W. Hinckley, Jr…While one psychologist supports his release, the two psychiatrists who testified were adamantly opposed. Hinckleyâ€™s attorneys failed to explain to the court what guarantees there were that he would stay on his medication once away from the mental hospital.
I think that this is a barometer of where America is on handling mentally ill patients who are violent threats: A man who shoots four people on a crowded street is now being considered for release from the mental hospital with no guarantees or assurances that he will continue taking the medication required when living among the general public.
Hinckley will probably stay in the hospitals, but the more “harmless” schizophrenics and unstable psychotics will now, and later they will refuse their medicine and relapse.
Without a decent way to monitor and enforce outpatient treatment of the mentally ill, we are failing these patients, not just the very rare violent psychotic, but the ordinary ones who live miserably because no one recognizes their mental illness needs treatment or no one is there to care for them.
As for all the talk of “evil”: Psychosis is not evil, nor it is demon possession. It is not proof that no civilian should own a handgun for protection or a rifle for hunting. It is not something to destroy the reputation of a middle aged man so that you can label middle aged and non violent “tea party” attendees as violent. And it is not proof that America is a violent or evil place.
Attacks on innocent people, be it suicide bombings of Shiite processions in Iraq, bombing of Christian churches in Nigeria, or attacking a church camp in Mexico are evil.Â Â One can even argue that the “amok” attacks, where a quiet person under stress “snaps” and turns violent, is evil.
But this attack was the result of a slow descent into madness, that could have been prevented at many levels.
Using it to push your agenda and demonize your political opponants is merely contributing to the atmosphere of evil that makes such paranoid attacks more justified in the minds of the dangerous psychotics in our midst.