If anything good can come out of what happened in Virginia, perhaps it will be that our government will stop being so incredibly shortsighted about the mentally ill.
A paranoid schizophrenic who drifted in and out of reality, in and out of hospitals, in and out of compliance with his medication regime, walked into the Capitol a year ago and killed two security officers.
Rusty Weston is now in a federal corrections unit in North Carolina. He awaits a court decision on whether corrections officials can force him to take his medication…
…What kind of system waits to invoke mandatory medication until a man so severely ill has killed two people? The kind that insists on presuming that an irrational man makes rational decisions about his mental-health care. The kind that then fails both the incompetent and the innocent.
“‘Rights’ leave mentally ill families in legal limbo” by Beth Barber
If correction officials can’t force a mentally ill person—who is IN PRISON and who has KILLED two people—to take medication, then how does anybody believe that the administration at Virginia Tech could’ve done anything about Cho Seung-Hui?
As it stands right now, the PARENTS of an adult with schizophrenia can do absolutely nothing to help him when he goes out of control—except watch.
You can’t force your son to take his medication, you can’t force him to accept psychiatric help, and you can’t institutionalize him against his will. And our law works this way because?
Because our society was brainwashed into thinking that all mental institutions are run by Nurse Ratched.
Yes, it is true that in the past there were abuses; people institutionalized not because they were mentally ill but because they were inconvenient. My great uncle, for instance, had polio. When he became an adult he could no longer be cared for and he was committed to a mental institution. It was a disgusting travesty of justice and medicine.
God forbid that this ever happen again. It won’t, either, because now we have tough laws that prevent such abuses. But we have literally thrown the mentally ill patient out with that bathwater.
Modern drug therapies are much more successful than the treatments of the past, but sometimes in order to stabilize a patient you need to place him with an inpatient facility until the proper drug therapy can be determined and administered.
Translation: you have to commit them to a mental institution, because they are so far gone that they will not cooperate unless they are forced to do so.
And as you can see in the case of Rusty Weston, even if someone has killed two people as a result of delusions, the law does not allow anyone to force that person to take medication without a court order!
This hits very close to home for me. I know two families who were/are prevented from forcing their sons into treatment for schizophrenia, with disastrous results.
One of these young men was brutally murdered less than a day after the police detained and then released him—because he was “no threat to anyone.” He was a diagnosed schizophrenic and obviously very ill, but our current laws and lack of resources to treat the mentally ill prevented him from receiving the treatment he needed. Institutionalizing him would have saved his life.
The other young man is my nephew. What his family is going through is hell. He is suffering, they are suffering, and yet the law prevents them from helping him. Medication can stabilize him; in fact, he took his medication for years and lived a good, productive life, but the only way now to get him back on his meds would be to institutionalize him, because he is deep in the throes of his illness and will not voluntarily cooperate.
Virginia Tech is an aberration, a statistical anomaly. The mentally ill are much more likely to become victims of violent crime than to perpetrate it, and yet when they do, it becomes news.
Therefore it is the most painful of ironies that a larger majority of mentally ill is less likely to get what little help is available because they are of no threat to others. And that little bit of help still available is constantly being whittled away by proposed cuts and other bureaucratic stupidities.
We could have prevented the deaths of 33 people by forcing Cho to receive treatment, and yet we allowed our fear of resurrecting Nurse Ratched prevent us from doing so. It is another travesty of justice and medicine, but for some reason we are just too blind see it.