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| Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Jason Miller | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Cindy A. Rose |


As Long as We Remember...

April 11, 2018

Mentally Ill People and Common Sense

Patricia A. Kelly

It’s happening often enough for us to get used to it. How horrifying. Every time it happens, there is the same response. People run around screaming about guns.


We get to see pictures of people running, people dead, police and emergency responses. We put cameras in the faces of unimaginable pain. We pile flowers and photos into mounds and hold memorial services.


People mumble about mental health and inadequate care. Then they ask what is wrong in our society that leads to such violence. Every time.


And, every time, we learn about the perpetrator, and all the signals he gave before he acted. Then we go over his history, finding the overlooked and ignored clues that could have prevented his actions.


Almost immediately, politicians jump back onto their bandwagons. Those who have always supported gun control, talk about gun control. The Second Amendment people get back to their refrains that guns don’t shoot people, and criminals always get them, laws or no laws. And then we talk about arming guards and teachers, and maybe even students.


As for mental health concerns, the talk is always vague – just that we need more support and care for people suffering from mental illness.


So many deaths, so much time, and so little change. I’m sick of it.


Recently, a heroic father and a heroic grandmother turned in their children who were planning attacks, possibly saving many lives. Such a difficult thing to do, although forestalling their children’s plans benefitted both potential victims and the potential perpetrators, who can go on living, even with prison time, and get the help they need to have a chance at life.


May all parents keep an eye on their troubled children’s activities and do the hard, but right thing. “Protecting” then doesn’t protect them.


FBI and police so often say that, even if they found them, there is a law that allows for mentally ill people, those very few who present a danger to themselves or others, to be admitted to a hospital for emergency, involuntary psychiatric evaluation.


Health care providers know that threats of committing violence, whether against oneself or others, must always be taken seriously. Even though they are inundated with reckless talk and false reports, law enforcement must always do the same. And they must all understand the possibility of having someone held for emergency evaluation, not just spoken with.


Lay people as well must observe and report. Simple common sense will tell you that, if a person’s classmates and teacher are afraid to be in the classroom with a student, as in the Virginia Tech case, there is something wrong.


In the Florida case, the students in the high school said to each other that, if there were ever a shooting, it would be the perpetrator who actually did it. In so many other cases, people knew something was wrong, but did nothing, either from misguided privacy concerns, fear, lack of a sense of responsibility, or failure to notice. That must stop. It is a kindness to get help for those suffering from mental illness.


Mentally ill people must be integrated into their communities, so we are aware if their behavior changes. Their illness is a no-fault thing, just like heart disease, the flu or any other illness. Let’s accept and support them.


As for laws, at present, under HIPPA, a psychotic person, that is, a person out of touch with reality, can prevent his doctor from telling his caregivers how he is. This is insanity. This must be changed.


There are Good Samaritan laws for those who provide first aid to injured people. These laws should protect those who report signs of danger in mentally ill people, too.


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