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Stemming from the massacre in Newtown CT: What do you think should be done about the issue of the severely mentally ill receiving treatment for their illness, both for their own sake and for the benefit of society?

Asked by jca (28219 points ) December 18th, 2012

Yesterday I asked a question about the necessity of people needing semi automatic weapons, based upon the recent tragedy in Newtown CT where an entire kindergarten class was killed by an apparently mentally ill man with a semi automatic weapon. What is being investigated is the mental state of the murderer and whether or not he received any kind of treatment. I see on the news right now they said he was assigned a psychologist at Newtown High School but when he left school, his treatment was ended and he did not receive any treatment after that.

In addition to current debates about gun control which stem from this massacre, the other side of the coin is the issue of mental health treatment for severe mental illness. How could we ensure that someone who needs mental health treatment receives it? Many people do not have any health insurance or Medicaid. In the municipality that I work for (a County government), the current administration is popular with some for keeping taxes down (in a county that already pays very high taxes). Workers are facing layoffs as we speak. In order to “ensure” that someone receives mental health treatment, it would be very time consuming and expensive to keep track of them. There are no guarantees that someone is taking their prescribed medications. If people need to go elsewhere for treatment, they may have transportation issues, they may simply not want to go or may not feel they need treatment, and they wouldn’t pursue it, and to ensure that they pursue it is the hard part. Should each person with severe mental illness (I am referring to diagnoses such as schizophrenia) be assigned a caseworker in the community? Even with someone tracking a patient, it would be impossible to ensure that the person is receiving psychiatric help and taking their medications. Patients can’t be forced to take medications if they choose not to.

In discussing this with a friend last night, he suggested that if people don’t go for their treatment, “we should just lock them up in mental hospitals.” Citizens have rights, and unless it’s determined by a professional that someone is a danger to themselves or others, we can’t just round people up and lock them up. “Locking people up in mental hospitals” is very expensive and impractical. With modern psychiatric medications that have been introduced and improved since the 1960’s, the goal has been to close mental institutions and have people living in their communities, not to be institutionalized.

Any suggestions?

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