Washington Post Story on Mental Illness Laws

The RidgesUnfortunately, the rather detailed story that appeared in the Washington Post is all too familiar to anyone who’s been paying attention. Man is suffering from mental illness, possibly delusional, but refuses to get treatment. What is a family to do? The law says you can’t have someone involuntarily committed until they prove to be “a danger to themselves or others”, but how can we sit and wait for someone to prove their dangerous? Usually the proof comes when it’s too late to avoid some sort of violent act.

The story lays out a pretty good case for a change in those laws, but looking at it from the other side, and if you read any of the comments you’ll see that laid out as well, there were reasons we changed the laws regarding involuntary commitment back in the 70s. Families using mental institutions to “treat” family members who weren’t truly sick, or leaving family members in horrible conditions, institutional mistreatment, or simply abusing the “power” to commit family members to manipulate the behavior of innocent adults. Those are all, obviously, dangers to allowing any sort of involuntary commitment.

Still, when you stop to consider the number of homeless who are suffering from untreated mental illness, or stories like this one, where a family has to wait for someone to get worse before they can get them help, it’s hard not to think that we need a different standard that the current one. I don’t know what that standard is, but I’m glad to see someone having the conversation.

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  1. I suffer from complex PTSD. At the age of 21 I told about the incest that i experienced in the home from 5 to 17. I had many other sex abusers who were not related to me. When I informed everybody of the incest back in 1977 my father did everything he could to have me committed. The only thing that saved me was a very rare and loving psychiatrist who took interest in me out of the kindness of my heart. If it were not for him fighting so hard I would still be institutionalized. I came very close to be committed to a state psychiatric facility for the rest of my life. Being able to commit people will lead to locking up people who speak out about child sexual abuse. My family did not want the secret of abuse made public and by committing me they could shut me up. I am so grateful to Dr, Nash that I named my first born after him.

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