View Full Version : Locking up the mentally ill
01-27-2003, 09:10 AM
Just this weekend, in my old neighborhood of Lakewood Ohio a schizophrenic went off his meds and stranged a neighbor in the laundry room.(he died)
I have read many of these stories, all the same.
If schizophrenics cannot be counted on to take their meds, and i don't see how this could be accomplished unless they went to a clinic and were administered them, why should they be walking the streets and not locked up somewhere for the safety of the public?
01-27-2003, 09:18 AM
Because the public refuses to bear the cost of anything but the most inhumane inpatient treatment centers ?
01-27-2003, 09:33 AM
Because Americans generally don't like to lock up people be they "might" commit a crime.
Not all schizophrenics off their meds are dangerious to the general public and not all commit crimes. Not all schizophrenics go off their medication.
It is hard to justify putting a large number of people in prision or a mental institution because they might go off their meds and then might commit a violent crime. People should be judged by their actions not by what actions they might have.
01-27-2003, 09:34 AM
I gotta say, I read stories about people without psychiatric disorders killing people all the time too. I'd have to say more than people with psychiatric disorders in fact.
Non-schizophrenics can't be trusted to "take their meds" either.
But yeah, squink is right. We don't want to pay to have the least of us taken care of.
01-27-2003, 09:53 AM
Because no matter what stories you read, schizophrenics are less likely than the general population to commit violent crimes.
01-27-2003, 10:13 AM
Vanilla - Determining whether an individual needs to be locked up to protect others in society needs to be determined on a case by case basis.
The reason you have read many of these stories is because their sensational nature makes good news. You aren't going to hear many positive stories of how the mentally ill have managed to overcome their illness and lead reasonably normal productive lives because that's boring. These kind of disparity in reporting is a cause for people like yourself to develop prejudices against certain groups because of the actions of a few individuals.
You are making a very broad generalization and a blanket statement that basically says all schizophrenics are irresponsible and should not be allowed to be members of society. I can give you many examples of schizophrenics who are functioning members of society as I have been one of the people responsible to teach them the skills and provide the supports they require to be functional members of society.
If your logic were to be carried farther we would end up re-opening institutions and filling them with people who suffer from schizophrenia other mental illnesses or mental disabilities because of a perception that all mentally ill or disabled persons pose a threat.
Our society has come a long way in treating these people as human beings and following through on your suggestion would take us back to a much darker age.
Up until very recently, many of the individuals I work with would have spent their lives in secure institutions with very little, if any contact with members of normal society. They would have been "warehoused" or put away to protect society and the irony in this is that in most cases, they are the ones needing the most protection. The history and track record of institutional care in North America is not a good one and we still see some individuals who have been permanently damaged by their time spent in institutions.
The clients I work with are presently supported in a residential setting by a skilled and caring staff and this has enabled them to develop positive relationships, gain employment in the community, and have satisying lives. None of them pose a risk to individuals in the society they live in and those clients that do have more intensive supports and restrictions to their daily activities and interactions.
I work with a large population of developmentally delayed individuals as well as individuals with mental illnesses, sometimes these individuals suffer from both. In some cases my recomendation has been that certain individuals be relocated into secure facilities as they do pose a risk to the people around them and this is often due to non-compliance on their part to follow treatment plans designed to manage their illness.
Squink - Your point is a good one, I am not sure what the situation is where you live but here in Canada, the services that treat the mentally ill or developmentally delayed are woefully inadequate and we are presently looking at having to deal with reductions in funding for the upcoming year.
It is a bad situation as we're already making due with much too little and having a great deal of difficulty attracting new employees to the field.
I live by the creed that a society is measured by how it treats the least of it's citizens and on that basis, our society does not measure up very well at all.
C K Dexter Haven
01-27-2003, 04:23 PM
"Locking people up" doesn't necessarily mean jail. Hospitals and institutions that provide care -- medical and sociological -- would be a reasonable solution as well. But U.S. society believes that medical costs and medical treatment are the responsibility of the individual, and so the poor patient is left having to treat him/herself (take her/his own meds, and pay for them.)
Then we can tsk-tsk and be all morally indignant when some indigent crazo murders folks.
01-27-2003, 05:09 PM
ah yes, and we should lock up everybody who has a complaint of spousal abuse made against them?
because the most common murder type is the domestic situation that gets "out of hand".
it was estimated in the UK that keeping ALL schizophrenics in institutions would cost millions, and save, on average 5 lives a year. (sorry, no cite, if i'm wrong, please pull me up on this)
and by the way, most murders committed by people with a mental illness are committed by those with personality disorders such as sociopaths and psychopaths.
and since there is no treatment for these conditions, they cannot be held in mental health facilities.
i'd rather have people who havn't committed crimes YET free on the streets, and keep the convicted (at a fair trial, of course)criminals locked up.
call me crazy.
Here are a few of the people who would probably have been locked up:
Mary Todd Lincoln
Vincent Van Gogh
John Nash (Nobel Prize winner)
Lionel Aldridge (football player)
Peter Green (Guitarist for the band Fleetwood Mac)
Syd Barrett (of the band Pink Floyd)
Vaclav Nijinsky (Famous Russian Dancer)
Some of these were in mental hospitals. That's where they need to be when they need help.
Just locking them away would have been incredibly inhumane.
01-27-2003, 05:41 PM
Last week, I spent a couple of hours working with a woman who's schizophrenic. There's also a fellow in the local branch of Mensa who's schizophrenic and who sometimes does forget to take his medication. According to a friend of his, he gets a bit spacey and he can tell when he's off it, but he's not dangerous and he does take it shortly afterwards.
I've also spent 24 hours in the locked ward of a mental hospital after a near suicide attempt. What worries me about the prospect of locking up people who are mentally ill is where exactly do we draw the line? There was a time a few months ago when I was feeling suicidal and I did not call my therapist because I was afraid I would be involutarily hospitalized. We talked about it afterward, and I have her assurance that she wouldn't do so, but the thought of being institutionalized still frightens me a bit.
Most crimes are not committed by people with mental illnesses. In fact, I'd like to see what the numbers are for the percentage of crimes committed by people who suffer from a mental illness versus what percentage of the general population is made up of people who suffer from that illness. Even if that number is significantly higher, should a depressive like me be locked up because I might commit a crime?
I'll also point out that here in the U.S., prescription drugs are notoriously expensive. I know there are resources such as the free clinic I went to in Hawaii which will provide anti-psychotic drugs for free as part of a treatment plan, but they aren't always easy to find. It's also been my experience that it's much easier to get treatment for drug or alcohol abuse than it is for mental illness.
Sorry, but I can't support locking up people who suffer from mental illnesses. How would I get on the Straight Dope if they did? ;)
01-27-2003, 06:17 PM
As a former psychiatric nurse in the days when major institutions were the crux of mental health I can vouch for the harm done by those institutions. However this was offset by the good that was done - I see people who belong in institutions every day - they are not criminals or murderers, they are the homeless. Routinely when I was nursing the police would bring in people suffering psychotic episodes who could not care for themselves. Although they would be forcibly committed, usually they would be stabilised and returned to the community. I think with the new model of mental health "care" psychotics are just left to their own devices until they cause trouble. Living a life of grinding misery, discomfort and poverty just doesn't cause trouble. Psychotics will do far more harm to themselves than they will do to others.
01-27-2003, 09:53 PM
As a manic depressive, I can say from years of experience that folks off their meds tend to only be dangerous to themselves. Sometimes, this means suicide or self mutilation. More often it means the inability to earn a living, get out of bed, have an organized thought, eat on a regular basis, bathe or change clothes.
A few years ago, an unmedicated schizophrenic had an armed confrontration with the police at 30th Street Station(huge, major railway terminal). The man was shot and killed. But what else could the police do when was threatening them with a chair? That's correct. He was killed for yelling aggressively and brandishing a chair. Locking him up would have benefitted the police. It would have prevented the embarassing investigation, and the wrongful death suit by the man's relatives.
01-28-2003, 05:43 AM
Sometimes the stable environment offered by a hospital is the right place to be. Richard Dadd was sent to New Bedlem Hospital and produced the majority of his art work while there.
Speeking for my self, I suffer from Clinical depression and have made a couple of suicide attempts (no medication BTW) I don't want to be hospitalized with other people.
The system doesn't work. I read an artical the other day that said most employers would rather employ a convicted felon than somebody who suffered from mental illness. Is this what we are, underground creatures? I don't declare my illness on application forms for that reason.
01-28-2003, 07:24 AM
don't ask, the same has occurred here.
Australia, sadly, has followed the US's path in this area. Deinstitutionalisation has led to an increase in mentally ill homeless people, because, for all the rhetoric, no suitable community based care was ever made available, which was the promised alternative.
As far as forcing a paranoid schizpophrenic to remain on medication, it is very difficult as my ex's family found recently when they were in this position with a family member. It can be done, but only by court order, apparently. Which of course is fair enough, given the possible repercussions of forcing someone to take medication. The person in question ended up in such a mess they were willing to resume treatment in the end to stop the delusions and hallucinations which were becoming very scary for everyone. Not all people suffering from psychotic disorders have families who are willing and able to pursue treatment for the person.
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