Today’s Star Tribune article (“Criminalizing mental health,…, denied treatment,…Michael Schuler stabbed himself in both eyes after spending 40 days in jail”) identifies the iceberg tip that is the crisis of this nation’s failure to deal with mental health issues. “Hundreds of inmates with dangerous psychiatric problems languish in county jails” is repeated in hundreds of county jails and hundreds of prison facilities throughout America.
My neighbor committed her son into the juvenile justice system specifically because she was unable to find him mental health services otherwise. He received no help and was awarded a criminal record instead.
My experience as a long time CASA volunteer guardian ad-Litem showed me just how much psychotropic medication is pumped into five and ten year old children without adequate mental health services and the sorrowful results that appear to be inevitable. My first visit to a four year old CASA charge was at the suicide ward of Fairview hospital. I’ve written about the seven year old foster boy who hung himself and left a note about the horrors of Prozac.
Because our institutions repeat this failed mental health approach throughout child protection and juvenile/criminal justice we are guaranteed big numbers of dysfunctional people that will stress our schools & communities and fill our jails and prisons for decades to come.
Jeff Weiss pleaded for help from his community as he fought with and wrote about his severe psychosis and homicidal/suicidal thoughts prior to killing his grandfather, himself, and 14 others at Red Lake MN a few years ago.
Michael Swanson’s mother spent years trying to find mental health services for her severely troubled son before he drove to Iowa and mindlessly murdered clerks in two separate stores. Had any part of the health system been humane & functional, all these families could have been spared the horrendous grief that accompanies these behaviors.
As long as we the people continue to so successfully implement public policies providing the worst possible outcomes (terrible crimes, full prisons, failing schools, and a growing population that can’t cope with or without psychotropic medications) money will pour into perpetually overburdened law enforcement, courts, and prisons instead of health and mental health services (that could actually improve our quality of life – not to mention the people/families needing the services).
The blame/hate politics behind these core issues remain powerful and from child protection to criminal justice departments, there is little appetite by the public to make things better. The status quo for decades now has been to punish people born into terrifically dysfunctional families and continue the blaming and hating through 40 or 50 years of incarceration, parole, state ward costs and unhappiness for the communities they live in.
Let’s all take a deep breath and revisit Dr Read Sulik’s definition of mental health;”the ability to cope with our peers in school, at home, and in the community”.
These are teachable skills and we the people can make this happen (as has the rest of the industrialized world) by supporting early childhood programs and becoming concerned with the youngest and most vulnerable among us.
This would cost us far less in crime and social disruption, and we would save billions in insurance and the immeasurable personal pain we visit upon ourselves with our current heartless non-working policies. Read the rest of this entry →