This is not progress – mental illness today in the USA

New York Daily News

Today’s mentally ill have all but returned to the preinstitutional conditions of the 1850s and before: When not sleeping on the streets, many are again consigned to drift among a custodial system of prisons, welfare hotels and outpatient facilities.

In 1880, the severely mentally ill made up less than 1% of the U.S. prison population. A hundred years later, the percentage was 10 times greater.

The Los Angeles County Jail has become the largest de facto psychiatric inpatient facility in the U.S.; New York City’s Rikers Island is second.
 
For half a century, the states have closed their asylums in an effort to save money, while lawyers have routinely put up obstacles to care. 
More than fifty years ago, most of our psychiatric hospitals closed, and most of their patients released to the public. There were more than 600,000 patients in such hospitals in 1955; now there are fewer than 50,000 beds available for psychiatric patients.

Changes in the laws placed a heavier emphasis on the rights of the patient than the safety of society, to be blunt about it. There are huge legal barriers against commitment of the mentally ill. In order to be committed, the patient must be a threat to himself or others. This often means that an attempted suicide or an attack on others must occur before the mentally ill person can be restrained.

This is not a kindness to society, and it certainly isn’t kind to the mentally ill. Without care and separation from normal society, a small but significant percentage of the severely mentally ill now pose a danger to the general public. Many of America’s mass homicides have been committed by mentally sick persons whose mental illness is ignored. In many cases, families attempt to force treatment of mentally ill relations, but are unable to do so because their civil liberties trump the perceived need for their incarceration.

Mental institutions were funded and built because society had been dealing with the mentally ill in a way similar to what we see now – instead of treatment, they are thrown in jail, or live on the streets. Many are addicted to drugs or alcoholics. Some are violent, and innocent citizens are attacked or killed. The mental institutions were built by the states, dedicating funds to care for mental patients in a more caring and moral way. Were mistakes made, or patients mistreated? Sometimes, yes. But, in the long run, it was a kinder and more effective way to deal with the mentally ill in our society.

I believe that if we had a system that allowed for the mentally ill to be incarcerated in facilities that are safe, and helped them to regain their mental health if it is possible, several of the terrible mass killings we have recently seen would not have happened. I believe that people like Jared Loughner, James Holmes, Adam Lanza, and Nikolas Cruz probably would have been stopped before they perpetrated such crimes. As it is, the hands of families, doctors, and police are tied.

Police were called to the home of Nikolas Cruz 39 times in the years leading up to the massacre at his former high school.  According to a local television station, administrators at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School recommended back in January 2017 that the school board conduct a “threat assessment” on Nikolas Cruz to determine if he was a danger to the school and its students. A copy of Cruz’s discipline summary shows that Cruz was involved in an assault at the school on Jan. 19, 2017, less than three weeks before he was transferred out of the school. It was on that date that the school put in a referral for the threat assessment on Cruz. Even though the Superintendent is quoted as saying they had no warning, many students stated that they were not surprised. A typical statement by a student was, “He’s mentioned plenty of times that he wanted to shoot people and, like, that’s why he would want to go to the military.”

To understand what a parent with a mentally ill child faces every day, read the blog post written by a mother after Adam Lanza shot up the school in Newtown. Her son was 13 years old:

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

Here is the link to her blog post:  I am Adam Lanza’s Mother

NOTE: Her son, Michael, was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and is now doing fine on medication, lithium. Unfortunately, she is blaming Republicans for supporting gun rights, and the NRA, and for not spending enough on mental health (I agree with her there). Her latest blog post: http://anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.com/2018/02/dear-congress-if-mental-illness-causes.html

Something must be done about mental illness in this country. The laws need to be changed.
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37 Responses to This is not progress – mental illness today in the USA

  1. auscitizenmom says:

    I was watching Outnumbered and another call to the FBI was evidently ignored. The caller was familiar with the killer and gave the FBI his name, address, and a list of reasons he should be looked into. This was the second contact. So, it appears almost EVERYONE had a chance to stop this from happening. The police were called to his home 39 times. Who wouldn’t think this guy was dangerous?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. G-d&Country says:

    Jeff Kuhner is now talking about big pharma’s role in these mass shootings. A number of shooters were either on or coming off of psych meds. WND has an article about it.

    Like

    • auscitizenmom says:

      I have felt for a long time that the drugs were involved.

      Like

    • stella says:

      If he was bipolar, as I suspect he was, he needed meds. It’s easy to blame “big pharma”, and sometimes they are not blameless, but the pharmaceutical companies have contributed much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • G-d&Country says:

        Agreed that they have contributed much. These drugs work very well for some. NO argument from me there 🙂 See my comment about my mom’s dementia.
        That said, there are doctors that hand out drugs as a first response, and if they don’t work, they add more drugs. I personally know of multiple situations where doctors have given drugs to people who really had physical problems – and the doctor never checked them for a physical problem first. When the person had the physical problem fixed they did not need the drugs.
        [1] Maybe it is more the doctors fault, but that is how doctors are trained now.

        Like

        • auscitizenmom says:

          That has been my experience. If I have a problem (anything short of broken bones, etc) I don’t go to the doctor unless it becomes obvious I need to. Right now, my leg is hurting. A doctor would have given me a pain med. I needed a chiro adjustment and to put ice on it. It is getting better. I know meds can be very helpful, but now they are just being highly overused.

          Like

          • G-d&Country says:

            Yes.
            In NH there are ads on the local radio station about using physical therapy for pain management rather than drugs. How many people got hooked on drugs after a doctor prescribed opiods. I have had multiple surgeries, and as I described on today’s section, was hit by a car. I never took pain killers after being hit – and God did I hurt and at times continue to hurt, but I have seen the destruction for drugs – even prescription drugs. I ask the doctors before surgery why do you give me 30 pills with sometimes refills? I do NOT want them. They don’t answer me. WHY? Why do they INSIST on giving patients more drugs than needed? Why don’t they try physical therapy or check for other physical problems before prescribing opiods and anti-depressant etc type drugs???

            Like

            • stella says:

              My own daughter suggested I ask the doctor for an anti-depressant drug when I was feeling down (for good reason). I would rather work things out without drugs. Emotions (at least mine) are normal.

              Like

              • G-d&Country says:

                “I would rather work things out without drugs. Emotions (at least mine) are normal.” Exactly!
                Cutting down 200 trees, and turning on all the lights made a difference for me this winter.
                As for being depressed when tragedy strikes – I think it’s NORMAL for someone to be sad. I would worry about someone who was not upset if, for instance, their husband of many years died. I have found reading the bible and getting out with friends is helpful.
                I also wonder if younger people in general who are used to more instant gratification, and have not lived through something like the depression or were very poor, because of that they are more likely to think taking a pill is an easy, quick answer. Our grandparents and parents realized everyone had tragedy in their lives. Out of necessity they moved on[1], and depended on a close knit family and God. I also think families being spread way far apart (because of need a lot of times) makes life more difficult at times.
                [1] It just dawned on me. I wonder how many people, parents and their children, are able to sit around on government benefits thinking how awful their lives are (navel gazing as my dad says) versus having to get out and work for their benefits? If people had to work for their benefits I bet there would be less depression and violence among them.
                Please note, I am NOT talking about the truly disabled who can not work. I remember to this day about a news story of a man in a coma having a notice above his bed saying he was being kicked out when Dukakis stupidly emptied the hospitals.

                Liked by 1 person

                • auscitizenmom says:

                  I believe we are going to be seeing more and more serious problems with these children who have been raised having been given a tylenol for every pain, something medicinal to take care of every physical problem, a trophy for participation, then when they are supposedly supposed to be grown, safe spaces, protection from free speech, etc. They aren’t ready for the real world.

                  Liked by 1 person

              • G-d&Country says:

                {{{hugs}}} Hope whatever it was is resolved 🙂

                Like

              • auscitizenmom says:

                After my mom died, the doctor wanted to prescribe an antidepressant for my dad. They kept after him and finally he took one. He was walking down the hallway and got dizzy, then fell in a chair and passed out, came to, threw up, then had diarrhea. The dr tried to tell me it wasn’t that pill, but when I talked to the nurse who came, she finally admitted it probably was. He had never had anything like that happen to him before. The thing was, my mom had just died a few months earlier, his wife of about 65 years. He should have been depressed.

                Liked by 1 person

                • G-d&Country says:

                  So sorry for your and your dad’s loss.
                  Shake my head. It seems obvious it was a bad reaction to the meds, but doctors, like many others, want to CYA. I’ve seen it 1st hand when I worked in a hospital.

                  Like

                  • auscitizenmom says:

                    When I was 20, I married and was put on the new oral contraceptive that had just come out. It turned me inside out and I put on 20 lbs in a matter of weeks. Six months later I went back to the doctor, and since my husband was going overseas, I had stopped the pill and lost 10 lbs the first week. I told him the problems I had on the pill and he told me it didn’t cause them. LOL I read the paperwork that came with the pill. I had every side effect that was listed. I never took them again. Of course, after that, they adjusted the strength of the pill. I guess other women had problems, too.

                    Liked by 1 person

              • First of all, sorry for the long post, I guess I got on a bit of a roll. So I’m leaving the below “as is” & hope that I haven’t crossed any lines or offended anyone. Most of this comment is based on first or second hand experience, for what it’s worth…

                Years ago a psychologist did an assessment on me & said I was “severely depressed”. Some time later, at a doctor’s visit, I mentioned to the physician that I May be “severely depressed”, assuming the assessment was accurate. He offered immediately to prescribe anti-depressants for me. I declined & he actually said “good”. I told him my “depression” (assuming it’s “real”) was likely due in large part to having a severely disabled son, being overwhelmed with the care of four young children, financial stressors, & a lack of relational support systems. I said that I needed to learn how to live within the confines of the life God has given me & didn’t want some type of drug to mask the pain (treat just the symptom). Learning to live with grace in a less-than-perfect-reality (the only kind there is) is basically the essence of the human condition.

                By the way, we’ve used psych meds on almost all of my ADHD family members at one time or another. There have been some benefits from the Ritalin style meds several of them used to take. However, 3 of the 4 family members with ADHD prefer Not to use meds to mediate their symptoms. All are gainfully employed & were reasonably successful students (though each hated school to some degree historically), though this condition still impacts their communication & relationships to varying degrees.

                My much more complex son was/is a more difficult case. We were pressured to put him on “Ritalin” by the school system (ilegally)–while he was still in Special Ed Pre-School. I was extremely reluctant “to drug my kid up to get some peace of mind”. Several years after the initial pressure based on psych testing & input from a physician familiar with complex special needs kids, we put him on a trial of ADHD medicine–Welbutrin. That worked for him for about a year but he began to develop strange facial tics so we switched him to Strattera. He was on that for several years & it helped his attention, but after Welbutrin was removed (an anti-depressant) his behavioral/emotional control was markedly diminished (probably more of what he was like w/out psych meds but a Huge contrast to the relative “calm” on Welbutrin). Anyway that lead to the doc prescribing Paxil for his Autism cocktail of “depression, anxiety, & obsessive compulsive disorder”.

                He functioned relatively well on Strattera & Paxil for years. However Neuropsychological Testing revealed significant attentional/processing issues that might be better addressed with an additional med, Metadate (a form of Ritalin). When the combo of S, P, & M was used for him he had some significant academic gains. He worked more slowly (took his time & thought things through a bit?) but his accuracy improved practically exponentially.

                This was my son who needed a Liver Transplant, and as that surgery approached, we began to discuss his entire medication regimen from the standpoint of what would be best from his liver needs as well as what could appropriately address his other medical conditions with needed meds. Ultimately it was decided that Strattera would have to go as it was notoriously hard on the liver. Ironically once that med was removed he began having some of those facial tics again, though not as severely nor as noticeably as when he was younger.

                I’d been “short dosing” his Paxil for years. He’d been prescribed 5mls & we’d usually use about 3mls. When he got used to the 3mls (& the doc adjusted her script to how much we were actually using, which was much less than the “therapeutic dose”) we continued to lower his typical dose to about 1.2mls. Even with that very small dose our whole family Really Noticed his behavioral issues when he’d forgotten to take Paxil.

                Eventually after the Liver Transplant my son basically self-weaned off of Paxil all together. He still struggles with his emotional control & his anxiety & OCD issues have come a bit more to the forefront without Paxil. However, even when he’s in a place of diminished emotional control he still typically chooses not to “use” Paxil as an emotional crutch. We have supported him in his choices (he’s 22 & “his own guardian” who still needs much guidance & support) but remind him that that medication is available as a tool to assist him in managing his emotional needs, if he so chooses.

                Also, since taking him off Strattera his communication has gone Way Up…Since the Liver Transplant it’s almost like he’s become a different person, much more interactive, more hyper verbally, sharing thoughts & feelings more freely, etc. This is likely due to more than just the med change but does make me wonder if the Strattera was rather slowing him down, not the way Metadate did to help him do more accurate work, but like putting him more in a stupor or a fog, for years. Given the complexities of his birth liver function & the buildup of toxins system-wide prior to transplant there’s really no way to know. I just wanted to mention it because the changes we observe(d) were likely due to multiple factors….

                We are a Christian family, & this son, even more than all the rest of us “normal” family members, has an extremely vibrant relationship with the Lord. When he is facing intense emotional turmoil we encourage him to spend focused time with the Lord, reading Scripture, praying, & worshiping. This he does quite frequently. I remind him that one of the Fruits of the Spirit (according to Scripture) is Self-Control. Even though he is “wired” in his natural state to have less self-control, given the nature of most of his medical conditions, the Power of God is greater than his diagnoses & the Lord can help him come to a place of managing his emotional/behavioral challenges.

                When he’s in an overblown state he’s often irrational in the heat of the moment, perhaps for a couple of minutes. However, we encourage him to step back (take a time out), use breathing techniques (& other skills gained via years of therapy, trial & error, or “professional input” from me–I’m a non-practicing Licensed Professional Counselor), engage the Lord directly, let us pray for/with him, etc. Anyway, usually these things work pretty quickly for him though due to “perseveration” (where he gets stuck in a mental or emotional groove) he may need A Lot of Processing Time, retreading the same ground over memories, hurts, confusion, & communication techniques & challenges…

                This is all a Very Long Haul Process…

                Years back I wondered if he would grab a weapon & do me bodily harm. As a grade schooler up through the junior high years he used to ball his fist & raise it over his head & his whole body/soul would shake as he wrestled with his extreme desire to punch me in the face. He never did such a punch. However he used to shove, hit, & claw at all family members but his dad (unless he was in an Extreme out of control rage) & appeared to deliberately enjoy inflicting physical &/or emotional harm when he was past the point of caring. He has come An Extremely Long Way since those more difficult days. He still seems to enjoy pushing other people’s buttons, just a little bit, & also throwing others under the bus…but then again, who doesn’t???! He still has his struggles & sometimes still “acts out” verbally or physically, but he de-escalates quickly & is usually truly sorry & repentant pretty quickly. I’d love to see the seas calmed before the storm hits, when the clouds are dark & heavy the the swells on the increase but apparently Jesus still sleeps in the boat well of my son’s soul until the storm has hit & his overwhelmed follower rouses Him so that even “the wind & the waves obey Him”…

                Anyway, the bottom line is that I believe that mental/emotional illness is real & it is not automatically evidence of “demonic” oppression as many Believers have suggested over the generations. As a Christian I believe that God is the Creator of All Things, including mankind. As such it’s important to read the manual (Bible) in order to find out the best way for the human creation to function. Our personal experiences of living with complex mental/emotional “illnesses” have shown that the Power of God is able heal our wounded hearts & minds. He can enable us to “rise above” our “nature” & submit ourselves to His Lordship. Medication, Therapy, Supportive Relationships, Practice, & Consistent Reinforcement can all play a BIG ROLE in how well one might “overcome” or learn reasonably successful coping strategies to wrestle our own personal “demons”.

                However, society at large, especially one steeped in secularism, political correctness, & lefty thinking is wholly inadequate to address the real and abiding needs of the mentally ill, chemically dependent, & certain types of severe disabilities. As such a modern rendition of some type of institutional system (NOT Prison) should be investigated, implemented, & evaluated and this is a need of crisis proportions. As this is a social problem it needs attention from society. Balancing the needs of the client/patient with those of society at large will possibly take a degree of wisdom not seen since Solomon. Having Federal Support/Oversight with Local Control seems like the most reasonable approach. Using faith-based systems in place might be a good starting place.

                There probably will never be any type of complete solution to this problem. It seems akin to what Jesus said “the poor you will have with you always”…but it must also be tempered with another of the Lord’s sayings: “whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done unto Me!”. The final guidance should be “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” (or your parent/spouse/child/friend/co-worker)…

                Just my 2 cents…for free!

                May God Guide & Direct Us as we seek to address these glaring needs…

                Liked by 2 people

                • lovely says:

                  Thank you Valerie for sharing your and Josiah’s story with us. Mental illness is complicated, and ever case is unique, Josiah is blessed to have you on a perpetual quest to make his life more manageable and full of opportunity.

                  Liked by 1 person

            • auscitizenmom says:

              About 20 years ago, I had a problem with my leg (hm, sounds familiar) and I was visiting my parents in FL at the time. They connected me with my aunt’s doctor who was willing to see me. After the exam, she gave me a prescription for 30 pills. I asked if she could make it for less. I only needed it to sleep for 4 nights. I could take the pain during the day. She looked surprised and said she would just give me four samples then. I had told her what I needed in the beginning.

              Liked by 2 people

              • G-d&Country says:

                Samples – that’s it. When they have samples they will give you them. I’m guessing if she did not have samples, she would have given you the full amount. The only other reason she might not have given you 30 was that you were visiting and leaving – then you’re someone else’s “problem”.
                I hope the chiropractor makes your leg better – so go make that appointment! 🙂

                Like

                • auscitizenmom says:

                  I went Thursday and it made a world of difference. In fact, I noticed that I am even better tonight. I shouldn’t complain because I know this is pretty minor compared to a lot of people here. Plus, it is something I will get over very soon.

                  Like

        • stella says:

          I think doctors rely on the expertise of drug salesmen, sometimes. Many don’t seem to know much about drugs, or diet either.

          Like

          • G-d&Country says:

            Yes – especially about diet, which seems ridiculous they would not be trained in diet.

            I was actually offered a job as a pharmaceutical saleswoman when i graduated from college. I was shocked at the fact the company would give me a brochure and the drugs, I’d bring them to the doctor, give him the brochure and free samples, smile, and that’s it! The doctors prescribe drugs they really know nothing about, but they hand it out. I did not take the job. I did not believe it was right to give away drugs with so little information.
            I read the insert on a drug I was prescribed for my stomach – too bad the doctor did not (she admitted it), she would have known I should not continuously take it. My niece is a RN, and she says nope – nobody (meaning doctors, nurses patients) reads the drug inserts.

            Liked by 2 people

          • lovely says:

            A doctor once told me to always ask the pharmacist about drugs and drugs interacting with each other. He said a doctor is not a drug expert he just knows what works for most people with an illness or symptoms similar to the one he is going to prescribe a drug for.

            A pharmacist knows drugs. A pharmacists is also the one who will be sued if there is a bad reaction from dugs that he dispenses.

            I thought it was good advice.

            Liked by 1 person

      • lovely says:

        I’m thinking that Cruz is more likely schizophrenic and the symptoms were manifesting themselves for years.

        I haven’t read or heard anything about him having mood swings or being manic. It is all negative energy from him, all threats, violence, anger at others and self loathing. Apparently he cut himself on purpose and posted it on social media.

        His attorneys describe him as autistic, depressed and suffering from other mental disorders.

        I’m guessing he is already being put on some type of psychotropic drugs.

        Florida gunman says ‘demon voices’ told him how to pull off school shooting and police reveal they were called out 39 TIMES to his family home before his mother died last year

        http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5398625/Demon-voices-school-gunman-attack-cops-called-39-times.html

        I don’t know if Cruz was hearing voices or not, I don’t know when he said he killed because of voices. His demeanor and past behavior seems to be that of someone who is having difficulty distinguishing reality from other things that are going on just in his brain. When his mom was alive he had a safe retreat, with her death Cruz was forced to interact with the world. Something it appears he was incapable of doing.

        Florida State Insanity Law is simple, did the defendant know the difference between right and wrong. It appears that Cruz did know that what he was doing was wrong as he ditched his gun when the police arrived and left with the students as if he was one of them.

        Attorney Melissa McNeil;

        He’s sad. He’s mournful. He’s remorseful. He is fully aware of what is going on, and he’s just a broken human being,’ she said.    

        Another member of the defense team, Gordon Weeks, was brought to tears as he addressed reporters, telling them that Cruz ‘recognizes’ what he has done and is ‘deeply sad’.

        ‘He is dealing with the shock of all this that’s going on,’ Weeks said.

        The defense team is obviously going to go for an insanity plea or diminished capacity. Either Melissa McNeil is terrible at her job or tremendously good. I lean toward tremendously good, in the courtroom she was comforting Cruz by rubbing his back, humanizing him, this defense as presented so far is going to point to an actual psychotic break. That’s going to be near impossible to prove.

        I’m in no way defending Cruz because of a possible mental illness just thinking things over in my head as I type. A confession is not an admission of guilt. From what I read Cruz simply wants to avoid the death penalty.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. stella says:

    The photo at the top is the old mental hospital near where I used to work. Two of my great aunts actually worked there (and lived there too) in 1900. I found that out when I was doing genealogy research, and they showed up in the census living at the hospital! Great aunt Anna was listed as a “domestic”, and Great aunt Mary as a “cook”. At the time, it was called Eastern Michigan Asylum.

    Liked by 2 people

    • G-d&Country says:

      It looks almost exactly the same as a hospital in Massachusetts that got emptied by Dukakis. Then the mentally ill just landed on the streets, and under the overpasses.

      After the continued awful abuse of children in Massachusetts people are now calling for the reinstatement of orphanages. With what’s going on down there, and with the ability to have cameras all over the place in the orphanage, maybe it is better.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. michellc says:

    I’ve always thought it was kind of nuts myself that if a person is mentally ill to trust them to take their medication.

    Liked by 3 people

    • auscitizenmom says:

      I have a friend who is bipolar and makes sure she takes her meds for it. She said she used to fly off the handle at the least little thing. Now, she is just happy, easy going, loving life, and busy. She has other family members who don’t take their meds and have problems. I think she has finally convinced her neice to take them regularly and not miss.

      Liked by 1 person

      • michellc says:

        I had a neighbor whose sister had mental problems. Time and time again she’s been on the psych ward in hospitals for 2 or 3 days then they send her to live alone expecting her to continue taking her meds.
        It’s been awhile ago and the family would try, but they couldn’t force an adult to live with them. I know her parents tried everything, including the court system, but it never did any good.
        I haven’t heard from them in years, so don’t know if anything ever got any better or not.

        Like

  5. lovely says:

    Thank you Stella for posting this.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: Commenting on Mental Illness | Special Connections

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