Legal Issues in Mental Illness

I was on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR last week, discussing Congressman Murphy’s “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” Bill HR 3717, along with Congressman Murphy and Dr. Fuller Torrey of the Treatment Advocacy Center. I was booked as the opponent of the bill, which isn’t quite accurate. There are many parts of the bill I think are valuable.
Recently, Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds spoke to Anderson Cooper at CNN and to 60 minutes about a family tragedy that, sadly, could have been avoided. In Deeds' words "the system failed my son." I know how he feels - except that, luckily, my son is still alive. So far. The truth is that, despite the fact that Ben has "case management" from the state, they have to do very little to help Ben, or us. They are overworked, underfunded, and all too glad to have us take the "burden" from their shoulders. But - what would happen to Ben if anything were to happen to us? How Does the Mental Health System Fail? Those with mental illness, and their families, need more support. Much more. Let's go back to Senator Deeds. According to CNN,
Let me be clear, I love my son Ben with all my heart. That will never change. If you've followed this blog or read my book, you already know that about me. If you, too, love someone who has a mental illness, you share that feeling or you wouldn't be here on this site looking for support. But, let's admit it. These illnesses suck. Love my son, hate his schizophrenia.
Knowing how to help a family member with mental illness requires knowledge about the mental illness, the mental health system, and insight into your family member's personal situation. Last night, I received another e-mail cry for help from a reader. "I began reading "Ben Behind his Voices" last night and have barely put it down. Our son seems to be following Ben's track. We don't know what to do. Any suggestions?" I wish I had all the answers.
I am doing an on-air shift at a radio station today - so have access to the NewsWire from the Associated Press. This just in: NEW YORK (AP) _ The mother of the man who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard says she is ``so, so very sorry that this has happened.'' Cathleen Alexis said Wednesday in New York City that she does not know why her son, Aaron, did what he did and she will never be able to ask him.
Today, nearly two months since my last post about Amanda Bynes, she has finally been admitted for psychiatric evaluation. What took so long? This much I have personally experienced: until someone you love is of “harm to self or others”, it’s next to impossible to get him or her placed for evaluation. Unfortunately, sometimes by then it is too late. Yesterday, Amanda’s parents were finally able to apply for conservatorship – a decision that was delayed, as it looks like Amanda will stay under psychiatric care for at least two weeks. For this time, as I know all to well, her family will have a time to regroup a bit, breathe a sigh of relief that Amanda is safe for the moment, and gather strength for the fight that lies ahead.
Latest from Perez Hilton, the National Enquirer and other gossip (oh, excuse me, entertainment news) sites: "Is Amanda Bynes Schizophrenic?" Ignoring for the moment how much we hate that term "schizophrenic", let's get to the heart of the reported issue. Amanda is not doing well, and her parents are worried. How well I know the feeling.
to: Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Connecticut Dear Governor Malloy, Thank you for taking a stand this weekend for mental health treatment. According to the Connecticut Post, you received a "rousing ovation" at the U.S. Conference of Mayors for demanding that we remove the stigma from mental health issues, rather than destigmatizing violence as we do in many video games. You said: "If we spent as much time and energy on destigmatizing mental health treatment as we do in the proliferation of these video games that destigmatize violence, we as a society would make great gains." Governor, I couldn't agree with you more. Now it's time to put the money (budget) where your statement is.
A Cause of Sandy Hook School Shooting? The obituaries in my local paper still contain too many heartbreaking attempts to sum up the life of a six-year-old. My friends continue to tearfully share personal connections to the heartbroken families in Newtown, where less than one week ago lives were tragically ended - and countless more changed - forever. As we continue to cry out: Why? how?  And how we prevent this from happening again? The voices of reason speak out: Better Gun Control. Fewer violent video games. A shift in media coverage to stop sensationalizing violence. More enforcement of mandated treatment for those who need it. And - a cause we have felt personally ever since Ben's diagnosis of schizophrenia - more help and services for those with mental health issues, and for their families. Who will listen? Who will act? We must. All of us. Pick a cause and advocate. Fight back. Speak out. Insist upon change. And don't let these issues fade.
I write this just a few hours after having spoken at a legislative breakfast in Connecticut, where looming budget cuts seem aimed at "saving money" by cutting funding to non-profit agencies that provide needed services to people who have disabilities or disadvantages ranging from poverty to down's syndrome to mental illness...people who, with these services, have a chance to rebuild their dignity, their potential, their futures. Without these services? The costs are astronomical - financially as well as emotionally. Homelessness, hopelessness, aimlessness, illness relapse, even crime. And here we are, moments later, hearing the news that another shooting has occured - this time in our own backyard, in Newtown  CT. A shooter has opened fire in an elementary school. An elementary school. Does this have anything to do with untreated mental illness? I have no idea, yet - but it is one of the first things that comes to my mind.