Legal Issues in Mental Illness

It can be difficult to strike a balance between respecting a family member's right to confidentiality about their diagnosis and recognizing your own need to vent.
When we were little, I spoke on behalf of my brother a lot because he had a speech delay. He would regularly mix up or mispronounce his words, and I would find myself acting as some sort of amateur translator when he spoke to anyone outside our immediate family. My most commonly used phrase was, "What he's trying to say is . . ."
This past weekend, my brother and I were reunited after quarantine -- seeing each other in person for the first time since March. He drove over to my house and met my new puppy, and we spent the day walking, eating, and generally catching up.
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.