Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mental Illness and the Virginia Tech Massacre

My commentary called, "Waiting until it is too late," is up on National Review. Here is the bottom line:
What would be constructive is an honest discussion about how a free society should face the reality of mental illness. It is not a protection of civil liberties to redefine the mentally ill as if they were rational and able to make informed decisions about their care and treatment, even when they are obviously not. As we can see from the Virginia Tech massacre, it is not consistent with public safety to wait until a mentally ill person has committed a crime. It is not “personal responsibility” to expect the families of mentally ill people to take care of them themselves. This means turning their homes into a 24-hours-a-day mental institution, staffed by relatives who never get training, help, or a day off.

Some smart radio talk-show host could do a real public service by inviting the relatives of mentally ill people to call in and describe the challenges they have faced in getting meaningful help. They will give you an earful. They will tell you about the legal institutions that protect the civil liberties of the ill, without providing protection for the well. They will tell you about being sent home from the hospital with medications they can’t make their relative take. They will tell you about the revolving door between the street, the hospital and the jail.

Let these relatives of the seriously mentally ill tell their stories. I promise you a much more interesting hour of talk radio than yet another hour of yammering about gun control.

Facing the reality of mental illness just might prevent another round of school-shooting victims.

I'm getting many reactions to this article, which I will post later today.

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