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What should a society do about the mentally unstable?

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

What should a society do about the mentally unstable?

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue December 18th, 2012, 11:18 pm

Every time some massacre happens, people start discussing gun control. But oddly, nobody seems to talk about the real issue: mental illness. I suppose that is because people want a simple answer, and guns are easier to control than people.

In the mid-70's California closed Agnew State Hospital, which was an inpatient facility (one of many) for the mentally ill. It wasn't the best plce, and some people were there who shouldn't have been. The wages were nowhere near high enough to compensate staff for dealing with the danger/ discomfort that the mentally ill can dish out, and the main method of handling the understaffed facility was to keep inmates drugged.

I saw it as a psychology student, and it was awful. Now my husband works in that very same campus, a beautiful and gleaming Oracle complex. And the mentally ill who would have been housed there are living on the streets and under bridges.

The idea, back in the 70's, was that all these mental patients would get SSI (supplemental security) and group homes would spring up all over the place, where they could live more dignified lives and get better treatment.

That's a nice idea, isn't it? But even if there were people interested in opening /running such homes, SSI is such a mountain of paperwork that you have to be extremely mentally competent just to navigate the forms. And there are many appointments, all over the place, that a person who was incompetent could never get to -- even if they remembered the date or were willing at the moment. And then, (I know this from my extensive experience running a transition home for women and children, as well as a relative) usually the first application is turned down. On average, it takes 3 appeals to get that check, even if you have a plain and obvious disability (like my neighbor who has just had his foot amputated from diabetes -- he's on appeal #2).

So much for the government help. And the dirty secret is, they don't have enough funding anyway, so they compensate by making access impossible while passing yet more laws that make the politicians look good. This is crazy-making behavior.

So you have lonely, struggling parents like Loughner's father, or Nancy Lanza, trying to cope with somebody who outweighed them. I bet she bought the guns for her safety against her son, and I also bet she kept them locked up. And I bet Adam waited until he could get access to them, which, eventually, he did.

And with the media helping cement the ideas in already disturbed minds, bombs, guns, and other means of causing mass deaths (don't forgen the Sarin nerve gas that was used on a Tokyo subway) are going to become more and more a fantasy of the deranged.

What is the answer?
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Tue December 18th, 2012, 11:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Madeleine
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Currently reading: A Trail through Time by Jodi Taylor & Angel by L J Ross
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Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Wed December 19th, 2012, 9:47 am

It's similar in the UK - many so-called mental hospitals were closed down several years ago, with a view to a "Care in the Community" scheme similar to the one MLE describes, and with a similar outcome. And now more centres are threatened with the seemingly never-ending austerity budget cuts; not just residential centres but day centres too. So more people will slip through the cracks.
Currently reading "A Trail through Time" by Jodi Taylor & "Angel" by L J Ross

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Mythica
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Postby Mythica » Wed December 19th, 2012, 4:14 pm

You know, the first thing I think when I hear about these shootings in rural or small towns, is that if the shooter is a resident, SOMEONE must have had SOME kind of inkling that this person might be capable of such violence. But what do you do if you know someone likely has homicidal tendencies?

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed December 19th, 2012, 4:42 pm

"Mythica" wrote:You know, the first thing I think when I hear about these shootings in rural or small towns, is that if the shooter is a resident, SOMEONE must have had SOME kind of inkling that this person might be capable of such violence. But what do you do if you know someone likely has homicidal tendencies?

Look at the interviews. Almost nobody has anything to do with them -- theyare always described as 'loners'. They will mention school acquaintances--usually the only social contact mentally disturbed people have had. And then, as adults, everyone avoids them, leaving them to be shaped by the influences of whatever media they select -- video games, magazines, books, movies, books. And the one or two caregivers who can't get away with a good conscience.

Not that I'm one to talk -- with 5 mentally ill cousins, two who were regularly in my circuit, once I had the option I had as little to do with them as possible. Although I did at least manage Thanksgiving dinners.

Maybe if we all had a little more patience and compassion, we could steer the ones near us in a better direction?
Last edited by MLE (Emily Cotton) on Wed December 19th, 2012, 4:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Misfit
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Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Wed December 19th, 2012, 6:36 pm

This is a difficult subject, and while I agree that something needs to be done to improve mental health, that isn't the only answer to stopping these tragedies from occurring again. It isn't always obvious how mentally ill a person is on the surface. Look at Ted Bundy, who was an active participant in Washington state political scenes at the same time he was kidnapping and murdering young local women. I don't recall that Gary Ridgway (the Green River Killer) ever set off any alarms, and was married at the time. IIRC when he was finally arrested his then ex-wife was pretty floored that he could have comitted those murders. Interesting readingof experience with grandparents with a disturbed child and trying to get him the help he needed.
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Helen_Davis
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Postby Helen_Davis » Thu December 20th, 2012, 12:49 am

Hmmm-- I think mental illness needs to stop being stigmatized. And I think psych drugs harm more than help. I've lost twenty years of my life to them because since I was seven my parents just drugged me and I was too tired to have a normal social life--all I did was sleep. I'm aware they help some people, but some psychs put their patients on way too many drugs. I was on nine at one time, and they did nothing except shock my memory to bits. These people need a strong support network, good nutrition, and LOVE.
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princess garnet
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Location: Maryland

Postby princess garnet » Thu December 20th, 2012, 2:52 am

I across this blog post from a priest whose family was affected by mental illness. Comments remain open if you wish to post there.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu December 20th, 2012, 5:13 am

Wow, he hit the nail on the head. I forgot it was the ACLU that emptied the mental hospitals.

But even if I didn't have several near relatives who struggle at times, my work with the homeless has shown me that most of them are not better off on the streets. One major part of the tragedy is that they die needlessly. The mentally ill on the streets are frequent victims of violent acts.

But I do not think that serial killers of the type that Misfit cited fit into the category of mental illness, at least not the out-of-control sort that requires social help and support. (OCD, Autism Spectrum disorders, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, etc.)

Individuals of that stripe are more likely to be sociopaths (people with the self-centered lack of conscience -- and EEG patterns -- of a toddler, but with the intellectual abilities of an adult).

Although the monsignor's sister was clearly a threat to society at times, I think that as a society we should put extra emphasis on treating / containing young males. Statistically, those are the ones most likely to engage in really violent acts (whether they are impaired or sane). It's simple biology.

But the ACLU would probably sue for 'profiling'.

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sweetpotatoboy
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Location: London, UK

Postby sweetpotatoboy » Thu December 20th, 2012, 10:47 am

"Helen_Davis" wrote:Hmmm-- I think mental illness needs to stop being stigmatized. And I think psych drugs harm more than help. I've lost twenty years of my life to them because since I was seven my parents just drugged me and I was too tired to have a normal social life--all I did was sleep. I'm aware they help some people, but some psychs put their patients on way too many drugs. I was on nine at one time, and they did nothing except shock my memory to bits. These people need a strong support network, good nutrition, and LOVE.


From my experience, I don't think the problem is putting people on drugs such as anti-depressants per se. Some drugs are of real benefit to some people (and therefore their families and society at large) for certain lengths of time.

The real problem is the ease with which doctors write such prescriptions and then keep patients on the drugs without regular monitoring and reassessment with a view to taking the patient off the drug if no longer needed or no longer appropriate and/or switching to another drug.

Almost 50 million prescriptions for antidepressants were handed out by doctors in the UK last year. There's no way all or even a significant proportion of these patients are monitored regularly.

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Mythica
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Postby Mythica » Thu December 20th, 2012, 3:22 pm

"MLE" wrote:Look at the interviews. Almost nobody has anything to do with them -- theyare always described as 'loners'. They will mention school acquaintances--usually the only social contact mentally disturbed people have had. And then, as adults, everyone avoids them, leaving them to be shaped by the influences of whatever media they select -- video games, magazines, books, movies, books. And the one or two caregivers who can't get away with a good conscience.


Yes but at least in this case the guy had living parent(s), right? He killed his own mother last I heard. Hard to believe someone could be capable of killing their mother and the mother had no idea he was mentally disturbed. I don't know, I haven't read too many details about the guy's background so maybe she did know and did make an effort to get him help. But obviously somewhere, the system failed.


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