I saw this article the other day. Now I think it is time to post it. Not sure of American Health system. Is Medicare the answer?Yes, Of Course, Gun Control. But We Also Need More Crazy-Person Control
One consequence of mass killings like this week's horror in Newtown, according to reporting by Kristina Fiore, is this: Involuntary commitments of mentally ill men will increase for a while. To which I can only say: Terrific. I hope they triple. Yes, it's obvious that we need to reduce unstable men's access to guns (because guns greatly amplify the damage that a killer can inflict in a few seconds or minutes). But it's also obvious that we should be trying to reduce their access to people, and increase their access to serious help. Because even if we can get a handle on assault weapons and military pistols, there will still be knives, fertilizer and poison.
If you've ever had to deal with straight-up mental illness (not eccentricity or emotional outbursts, but the genuine crazy, which feels totally different), then you already know that it is extraordinarily difficult to force a troubled person into treatment in this country. This is a consequence of a 1975 Supreme Court decision, O'Connor v. Donaldson, which held that it's unconstitutional to confine a mentally ill person who presents no danger to himself or others. That decision was part of a great wave of "deinstitutionalization," in which people who had been warehoused in state-run mental hospitals were moved into society (supposedly into community mental health facilities, though sometimes into nothing). The Donaldson decision left states scrambling to write rules to define what constituted danger to self and to others, and to define who would decide. The practical consequence is that today people who are obviously in trouble, and obviously frightening, have been left untreated and unfettered.
The politically correct way to broach this topic is to speak about improving the American mental-health system, offering genuine treatment to all who need it (in fact, since 1971 American law has held that mental patients have a constitutional right to treatment). And nobody—not even people in favor of some form of "reinstitutionalization," like this guy—wants to return to the era when mentally disturbed people were warehoused and given little or no help. But maybe we could admit that our patient-centered language of rights and freedoms doesn't adequately protect the rest of society.
This week a lot of gun-control advocates have been asking about the cost in blood of our right to bear arms, noting, as Gregory Gibson put it the other day, that children have paid for their elders' freedom. Shouldn't we be asking this same question about the freedom to refuse treatment for severe mental disorders?