Friday, August 6, 2010

How the American Medical System Fails Seriously Ill Psych Patients

This was my response to a post at the Dreamin' Demon regarding a seriously psychologically ill and dangerous man who tried to circumcise his eleven month old son.

Commenter "Lizard" says: It seems to be common among those with serious psychiatric problems that they stop taking their meds. Why? My impression is that (a) the meds make them feel like they're "just fine," so they think they don't need the meds any more and (b) the meds have serious side effects that would dissuade about anyone from voluntarily taking them on a regular basis. 
The Cheese says: Another problem is that he was released. Our medical system fails people with serious psychiatric problems (and less serious psychiatric problems, and non-psychiatric medical issues...) There was a case here in Denver some 15-20 years ago where a man checked himself into the state hospital, telling them "keep me here, or I'm going to do something bad." But he had no insurance. So they released him. Lo and behold, he raped a woman and set her on fire.
This man should not have been released in the first place.
The majority of people with mental illness are not dangerous to others. Statistically, approximately one-third of mentally ill individuals total present a danger. Most people with mental illness are not, in fact, "insane." They are cognizant of reality and possess impulse control. Individuals such as this, however, fall well outside that category.
My grandmother worked in the state hospital in New York for her entire working life. She knew the patients better than the doctors who saw them once a week. Yet they wouldn't listen to her because she was "just an orderly." Sure enough, one patient she pleaded with them not to release went back out into society and knifed a couple of people to death.