As the shooting of Gabriell Giffords in Tuscon shows, a mentally disturbed person who is left to fall between the cracks can end up going totally insane and in some cases harm other people. Futhermore, the afflicted person also suffers from the mental illness since their thinking becomes tortured by obsessions, fears, and delusions. They are left untreated. They suffer. And sometimes society suffers.
In the case of Jared Loughner, his mental illness was evident to many yet that mental illness was given the right to rule his mind and degenerate. An article in the Washington Post, January 9, 2011, by David A. Fahrenthold, Sari Horwitz and Amy Gardner illustrates this point. According to that article, Loughner was attending classes at Tucson’s Pima Community College. School administrators ignored warnings of his fellow students and his teachers that his behavior was threatening. According the article, the administrators were reported to have said, “He hasn’t taken any action to hurt anyone. He hasn’t provoked anybody. He hasn’t brought any weapons to class…. We’ll just wait until he takes that next step.”.
But what can a school do? Should school administrators reject a student just because he manifests quirky behavior or some fellow student makes a complaint? To answer that question, we needto realize the the issue is much larger than what happens in schools. Consider the case of the Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007 . Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people, had been diagnosed with mental illness long before enrolling at Virginia Tech. Yet, due to federal privacy laws, Virginia Tech was not informed of Seung-Hui Cho’s diagnosis at the time he enrolled!
On a daily basis, in Los Angeles, police officers do not detain or transport mentally ill people to a hosptial even when they have been reported to be making threats unless they are deemed “a danger to themselves or others or severely disabled”. The bar for arresting disturbed people or for placing them in treatment is very high. Often, after being reported to police, a mentally ill person who was harassing someone will simply be taken to some other part of town and dropped off. Or taken to an emergency room where they will be given some pills then turned loose.
It goes from bad to absurd. Some scientologists have been known to try to convince mentally ill people to not take antipsychotic medicine.
In my opinion, when a mentally ill person has gotten to the the point they are delusional and making threats, there needs to be a fair judicial process, with due process, that requires the afflicted person to take medication, involuntarily if necessary. That may sound harsh. But, in fact, it is more humane than letting the mental illness dominate the life of the afflicted person and people the afflicted person comes in contact with on a daily basis.