Is it necessary for people with serious mental issues to get psychiatric care?
After the last Friday spree in California, the question of whether the country needs to change its standard for civil commitment, which allows people to be hospitalized against their will rises again.
On Friday night a 22-year-old college student identified as Elliot Rodger stabbed three people to death at his flat in Santa Barbara before fatally shooting three more. A YouTube video and a lengthy “manifesto” Rodger left behind were filled with rage and plans for punishing all women for rejecting him sexually.
The victims were identified as Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, George Chen, 19, Weihan Wang, 20, and Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, 20 including two women Katherine Breann Cooper, 22, and Veronika Elizabeth Weiss, 19. Earlier Rodger’s family warned police about his conditions but the officers decided he wasn’t a threat and made no arrest.
Doris Fuller, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center, a mental health advocacy group says states should make it easier for families to petition for involuntary commitment when they are worried about a loved one’s health.
In one of the case Gus Deeds, another young man who was in mental health crisis but was denied extended inpatient care before he killed himself and stabbed his father.
“We cannot predict who will be violent, and we will never prevent all violence,” Fuller says. “But nobody knows better than family members when a loved one is unstable and dangerous.” “We use cops as mental health workers,” Fuller says. “That makes no sense.”
The facts are that mental illness is a brain disease, and of the 9.6m people in this country with a serious mental illness – like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major clinical depression – approximately 40% won’t even receive treatment this year.
“Once again, our mental health system has failed and more families have been destroyed because Washington hasn’t had the courage to fix it,” Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., a clinical psychologist, said hours after the news broke. “How many more people must lose their lives before we take action on addressing cases of serious mental illness?”
Tim Murphy has introduced legislation that would push states to change these criteria, permitting involuntary hospitalization based on a patient’s “need for treatment,” a standard now used by only 18 states.
Studies show that most people with mental illness are no more violent than anyone else, says Ron Honberg, national director of policy and legal affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Honberg added that some people are forcefully required to get admitted as they are not able to realize that they are ill. But Honberg says that states also need to protect patients’ rights. And just changing civil commitment laws won’t serve the real purpose.
Honberg demands for trained mental health workers who can accompany police officers called to psychiatric emergencies before we see other Elliot Rodger, whose instability was known, but was overlooked.