Posts Tagged ‘civil commitments’

Mental Illness, Civil Commitments and Gun Laws

November 11, 2017

The following is a re-blog of something that I wrote and posted on 1/16/11. 

Nothing significant has changed since this original posting that I can sense. Furthermore, the tragic carnage due to shootings of innocent people by mentally disturbed citizens continues appears to be escalating. 

I blame radical-liberal progressives and the this nation’s total lack of courage to reverse the irresponsibly permissive treatment of America’s severely mentally ill and potentially dangerous citizens.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 11/11/17

Professor Emeritus of Psychology and practicing Health Care Provider in Psychology.

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Mental Illness, Civil Commitments and Gun Laws

Many years ago, in Michigan, a social worker went to visit a man who he had reportedly known for a long time. The social worker had a very good relationship with this man.

So why, on the day of this visit, did this man step out the front door and kill the social worker on his porch with a point-blank shotgun blast to the chest? Think of all the reasons that you can identify. What could possibly explain this horrific and totally unpredicted event?

It should not come as a surprise that the killer was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia.

It is true that Schizophrenia, of any kind, infrequently leads to violence. It is also true that when such violence occurs, it is over- represented in the news.

However, it is essential that anyone who is thought to be mentally ill and behaving in menacing ways be provisionally committed to a secure mental health facility for evaluation. Furthermore, the standards of proof leading to such an initial civil commitment must be lowered.  This has to be done for the protection of both the patient and the public at large.

As a practicing psychologist, I am legally responsible to report any indications of child abuse to the regional Department of Family and Children. I can assure you that when I must do so, this organization makes an evaluation of my report, an investigation normally ensues, and if it is deemed necessary children are placed in protective custody. I am saddened that this system sometimes fails, but it more frequently does not.

The same needs to be done in the case of apparently dangerous individuals suffering from mental disorders. Currently,  the burden of proof for temporary hospitalization and evaluation is so great as to be unworkable. If a law was enforced,  mandating such reports from physicians and mental health professionals to an appropriate agency for investigation and possible action,  many tragedies-in-the-making could be prevented. 

Please  take time to review the following article about mental illness and violence. It is a well-balanced report about serious and emotion-laden problem.

http://www.schizophrenia.com/poverty.htm

On a related matter, I am in full support of the 2nd amendment (Law abiding citizens may purchase and possess firearms). However, those suffering from severe mental disorders must be restricted from the ability to purchase and possess firearms.

A law mandating that health care providers in medicine and psychology, as well as various mental care facilities forward reports of seriously mentally ill patients to an appropriate federal agency that will prohibit their legal purchase and possession of firearms is essential. This can work because currently any individual seeking to legally purchase a fire arm must first be computer-checked by a federal agency. The main weakness in this system is apparently in the report mechanism to that agency.

Please review the Federal Laws on firearms purchases and possession.

http://www.nraila.org/gunlaws/federal/read.aspx?id=60

I urge you to speak-out and lobby your representatives for the passage of such legislation and stiff consequences for those who do not comply.

A Law is useless unless it is enforced with consequences for those who break it.

Wake-up America!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.   1/16/11

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Mental Illness, Civil Commitments and Gun Laws

January 16, 2011

Mental Illness, Civil Commitments and Gun Laws

Many years ago, in Michigan, a social worker went to visit a man who he had reportedly known for a long time. The social worker had a very good relationship with this man.

So why, on the day of this visit, did this man step out the front door and kill the socialworker on his porch with a point-blank shotgun blast to the chest? Think of all the reasons that you can identify. What could possibly explain this horrific and totally unpredicted event?

It should not come as a surprise that the killer was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia.

It is true that Schizophrenia, of any kind, infrequently leads to violence. It is also true that when such violence ocurrs, it is over- represented in the news.

However, it is essential that anyone who is thought to be mentally ill and behaving in menacing ways be provisionally committed to a secure mental health facility for evaluation. Furthermore, the standards of proof leading to such an initial civil commitment must be lowered.  This has to be done for the protection of both the patient and the public at large.

As a practicing psychologist, I am legally responsible to report any indications of child abuse to the regional Department of Family and Children. I can assure you that when I must do so, this organization makes an evaluation of my report, an investigation normally ensues, and if it is deemed necessary children are placed in protective custody. I am saddened that this system sometimes fails, but it more frequently does not.

The same needs to be done in the case of apparently dangerous individuals suffering from mental disorders. Currently,  the burden of proof for temporary hospitalization and evaluation is so great as to be unworkable. If a law was enforced,  mandating such reports from physicians and mental health professionals to an appropriate agency for investigation and possible action,  many tragedies-in-the-making could be prevented

Please  take time to review the following article about mental illness and violence. It is a well-balanced report  serious and emotion-laden problem.

http://www.schizophrenia.com/poverty.htm

On a related matter, I am in full support of the 2nd amendment (Law abiding citizens may purchase and possess firearms). However, those suffering from severe mental disorders must be restricted from the ability to purchase and possess firearms.

A law mandating that health care providers in medicine and psychology, as well as various mental care facilities forward reports of seriously mentally ill patients to an appropriate federal agency that will prohibit their legal purchase and possession of firearms is essential. This can work because currently any individual seeking to legally purchase a fire arm must first be computer-checked by a federal agency. The main weakness in this system is apparently in the report mechanism to that agency.

Please review the Federal Laws on firearms purchases and possession.

http://www.nraila.org/gunlaws/federal/read.aspx?id=60

I urge you to speak-out and lobby your representatives for the passage of such legislation.

Wake-up America!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.   1/16/11

Revise Civil Commitment Laws II

January 13, 2011

Revise Civil Commitment Laws II

A few days ago I presented the educated assumption that the man who shot and killed six people and wounded Congresswoman  Giffords along with 12 others, was suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia. I reviewed the deinstitutionalizing/community mental health initiative of the early 1960’s and also the change in our civil commitment laws that made it almost impossible to get psychiatric and psychological help to those who are in psychotic states and who refuse to seek or accept help for their condition.

Many facts are now available that were not then. Professionals interviewed on the media have tentatively diagnosed his condition as paranoid psychosis. Neighbors had seen symptoms of psychosis in this young man for a long time, high school classmates and friends reported his increasing symptoms of psychosis, college classmates and a math professor reported their fear of this man in their class. The students feared he would bring a gun to class and the professor was afraid to turn his back to do math problems on the blackboard for fear that the actively psychotic person  might shoot him in the back. These fears were present despite the fact that no one reported ever seeing him bring a gun to class. Also, the man’s  disturbed and and forboding ramblings were publicly posted on the internet.

This tragedy could have been, and should have been, avoided.

Once again,  America has hog-tied itself with our laws and we see the inhumane outcomes of our attempts to be humane. It is a sad truth that mental patients were once locked away and many were never released. It is a happy truth that, with the discovery of antipsychotic medications, many were able to benefit and lead more normal lives. It is a sad truth that a large proportion of hundreds of thousands of mental patients who were once released from hospitals did not get medications, or refused to take them, or were ones for whom the medications did not work very well.  A great many of these former mental patients joined the legions of our mentally ill homeless and those in our prisons.

So I ask, what is humane about this outcome for nonviolent psychotic? And what is humane about America allowing an obviously dangerous paranoid psychotic to wander freely amongst our citizens who were fearfully trying to get help for this individual, while our mental health systems and our legal systems were unable to provide the help and protection needed?  So now a man is a mass murderer who likely never would have hurt anyone. All of thishappened because of his untreated paranoid psychosis. So now a congresswoman has been brain damaged,  twelve more have been wounded and nine other citizens have been killed.

In response, our government predictably swings into frenetic and futile action. It proposes that we limit the capacity of firearm magazines (use two guns, or poison, or several knives and a sword). It proposes that we limit the zone around a public official in which citizens may possess a gun to 1000 feet.  What does it matter?  How would such a law be enforced and how likely is the law to control the behavior of a dedicated sane assassin or someone in a murderous  psychotic rage? Finally, the grand absurdity emerges among these lesser ones: it was Sara Palin, Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc., who need to be silenced!

No, dear friends, what really needs to happen is a revision of our civil commitment laws.

 Although murderous attacks by paranoid psychotics can never be prevented 100% of the time, the probability of it happening again can be cut dramatically, if we will only behave rationally.

It is essential that our licensed doctoral level mental health care providers (psychiatrists and Ph.D. clinical psychologists) once again be given the authority to commit actively psychotic citizens, who refuse help,  to mental health care facilities.  This new commitment procedure can be much more humane than the previous ones. The new commitment procedure would be for evaluation and medication assistance (remember medication for psychosis was once unavailable). The first goals of this intervention would be to quell the ongoing psychotic episode, educate the patient as to their particular mental disease, and teach them how to effectively cope with it through medication and stress management.  The final goal of this commitment would be discharge the patient as soon as possible with mandatory supportive follow-up.

It should be understood that such a treatment approach would need to be refined through outcome analyses and further revisions, to the point that it reflects our best efforts to protect the rights of all citizens concerned, including the patient under treatment.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.       1/13/11

P.S. You will note that I have omitted the paranoid psychotic murderer’s name. I did so because that person did not do the killing. Rather, it was a dangerous mental disease (paranoid schizophrenia) that America allowed to wander freely amongst its citizens that did the killing.

To those who ask: What about individual freedom? I will ask: What about the individual freedoms of those students and the professor terrified  in the classroom? What about the freedoms of the professionals who were called to help, but who were restricted from providing help? What about the individual freedoms of those killed and injured by a paranoid schizophrenic’s murderous attack? What about the individual freedoms of all of the victims?

 The list of victims includes the paranoid schizophrenic who did the shooting, those who were killed and injured, and all of their friends and relatives and the rest of us who have been traumatized by this and similar tragedies.

Some say that this suffering is “the cost of freedom”. I say it is the cost of our own cultural design mistake and a loss of freedom that must now be repaired.


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