Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor
Health treatment for the mentally ill
Posted by Letters editor
Story hits home
The headline “Dangerous, mentally ill, and difficult to detain” [page one, Feb. 21] immediately caught my eye because it described my stepson so well.
After a long battle with bipolar disorder, Joe’s life finally spiraled out of control in September 2007. In an act of extreme rage, he shot and killed his mother and then took his own life. Our family had feared for our safety numerous times following threats from Joe. We had tried unsuccessfully to get psychiatric help for him, but our hands were tied because he was over 18 years old and chose instead to self-medicate with street drugs.
I applaud the state House of Representatives in passing two bills that would make it easier to detain dangerous mentally-ill people. After our family suffered this tragedy, I began compiling a list of people whose lives had been taken by such people that includes the Skagit County gunman, among others.
I may soon be adding to my list the victims of Amy Bishop — the professor who shot six faculty members at the University of Alabama. Given what I have read in the paper about her mood swings and out-of-control rages, I would not be surprised if her psychiatric evaluation leads to a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
I urge the members of the state Senate to pass these bills to make it possible for families to get early help for their mentally ill and potentially violent relatives before tragedy strikes. Compassionate care for the mentally ill and the public’s safety are at stake.
— Anne Kollath, Gig Harbor
Other underlying issues
Sunday’s story about the Legislature’s proposed changes to our state’s Involuntary Treatment Act does not go far enough in examining this very complex issue.
While the proposed changes may help people to get help sooner rather than later, I remain struck by the words of Amnon Schoenfeld, director of mental health, chemical abuse and dependency services for King County, who warns that the current system lacks the bed capacity for the persons being detained now.
This is not the only area where lack of capacity is an issue. Once these persons have been detained and treated as inpatients, they will be discharged back to the community to a public mental-health system that has been underfunded and overutilized for quite some time. Overwhelming caseloads with reduced time to see and respond to clients means that people sometimes do not get the help they need when it is needed. It is not a pretty picture today and will not be better tomorrow as more people leave the hospital.
This shortsighted “solution” provides false assurances of treatment to those with mental illness and of enhanced safety to the community. A fully-funded mental-health system that would offer real care to those who need it and enhanced public safety to the community is a better solution. I encourage our Legislature to tackle this issue and not mislead the community.
— Jonathan R. Beard, Seattle
Mental illness and violence relationship exaggerated
Regardless of how one feels about the House’s unanimous vote to make it easier to detain people with mental illnesses who pose a harm to self or others, The Time’s headline in the Sunday edition is a disservice to your readers and makes the problem of untreated mental illness in our community even worse.
The Institute of Medicine has concluded that the stigmatization of mental illness has gotten worse during the past 50 years because the public greatly exaggerates the magnitude of the relationship between mental illness and violence. Is it any wonder with headlines such as this one? Notably, the online edition of The Times contained a much more accurate headline: “Bills would make it easier to force mentally ill persons into care.”
The stigma surrounding mental illnesses is among the barriers that discourages most people from seeking treatment. Thus, sensational and misleading headlines like this one make the problem of untreated mental illness in our community worse. The public is much less aware that recovery for mental illnesses happens even for people who at one time may have posed a risk of harm to themselves and others.
As a subscriber I seek local news coverage that helps to improve my community. This headline falls far short of the mark.
— Jennifer Stuber, Seattle
Feb 21 - 7:00 AM Sen. Patty Murray plans to reintroduce Wild Olympics bill
Feb 21 - 7:00 AM Gun bill allows for police inspection
Feb 21 - 7:00 AM President Obama's early childhood education expansion proposal
Feb 21 - 7:00 AM Don't restrict public's right to access information
Feb 20 - 4:00 PM Lake Burien: public, but private