Mental illness. Helping them is easier than what happens when we don’t


We’ve had a horrific example of what happens when mental illness and guns get mixed together. However, most mentally ill don’t hurt others.

From a friend on Facebook

This country needs to have a serious discussion about mental illness. Prior to living in southern Utah, I lived in Ocean Beach, a little burb in San Diego. Walk down to the bottom of its main drag, and you’ll see how the homeless mentally ill do. They hear voices, they treat the voices with drugs and alcohol, more drugs and alcohol, get arrested, sent to county mental health, then released. Then back to the seawall. Occasionally one might walk around with a stick, then he may get shot by the San Diego police department. This is how we treat the mentally ill in the good ol’ US of A.

I used to live in Venice CA and one day went out to the carport in the alley and saw several detectives standing around the lifeless body of the mentally ill homeless guy who hung out at the 7-11 asking to clean your windshields for spare change. He’d been shot, probably got on the wrong end of some crappy little drug deal.

My sister is bipolar, stopped taking her meds, and ended up homeless and clinically psychotic. My brother-in-law is a social worker, had been chronicling her disintegration, and went to the State and explained in clinical terms what was going on. They put her on a 72 hour psychiatric hold. It worked. My sister got back on her meds, and is now married and has a good job. She has recovered. Many others do too.

The homeless guy in Venice probably didn’t have a safety net to bounce off of like my sister did. He never got a chance to recover. Neither will the Newtown murder victims.

It seems to me that trying to help the mentally ill is a whole lot easier than dealing with what happens when we don’t.

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  • One minor quibble – I don’t think I would characterize trying to help the mentally ill as easier than the alternative. I just don’t think we can say that – treatment of mental illness is really, really hard. Harder, it seems to me, even than treating physical illness, which is difficult enough.

    Seeking to treat it is better than not treating it – outcomes are better all the way around, even if it entails sacrifices (both real and perceived).

    • I’m not sure that’s true if you count the people/children that just died and all parents/family members of this last tragedy. I think it would easier to help one person. Just saying.

      I lived in Calif. and when ronnie-ray-gunn closed state mental hospitals and local services so they could be taken over by private corp. It wasn’t fun if you lived next door to one the group homes and most left the home to move on to homeless, that was improvement;( A good friend mine had mental health problems for yrs, he moved to Wy. to be close to his sister then on ND for cheaper living conditions. It was there that a doctor took the time with him only to discover he was bi-polar, on meds now has a normal life. The doctors in Calli just blow him off over the yrs.

      The problem is we in this nation are told/trained we’re all individuals and to help others is a sign of weakness. All you have to do is turn on tv and spin through the channels. We are all on the little blue sphere hurling though space and hopefully we can become citizens of the planet that not only take other humans but the planet as well. I’m 64 and don’t believe it will happen in the yrs I have left.

      • The issue is, from a policy perspective, one isn’t just treating one person. One is treating tens of millions in the hopes of changing the outcome for the very, very small number of clinically mentally ill people that engage in spree killing. That, in my books, is what makes it very difficult.

        I don’t quite think that the driver down there is that helping others is a sign of weakness – me, I tend to think that it is primarily perceived resource scarcity and lack of belief that the help offered would be reciprocated (i.e., there is no trust that someone else would be there for those providing the help and that devoting the resources to it means that they are less prepared to deal with potential adversity). The other element is that this stuff costs and there seems to be far from universal belief that devoting resources to the issue actually addresses anything (i.e., that large scale treatment is both inefficient and ineffective). In that context, folks would rather devote the resources to other things or keep them in their pockets, so long as they can keep those in need of care pushed to a safe distance. (One of the things [many, many] that makes me rather [very] cynical about the good liberal mask that many wear is the foofera they spin up into if something like a group home ends up in their neighbourhood.)

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