This blog originally founded by Blogger who holds a theological degree and a doctorate in Counseling Psychology. Taught Psychology for 32 years and is now Professor Emeritus. Is a board-certified psychologist and was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in his profession. Ministered as a chaplain, and pastored Baptist and Episcopal churches. Publications cover the integration of psychology and theology. Served in the Army, the Merchant Marines and the Peace Corps.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Let's Don't Create a Lynch Mob for the Mentally Ill
In my previous post I ask: "Who are the people with mental health problems?" For example, will we be talking about the one out of five Americans who have been prescribed a psychiatric drug and thus have a psychiatric diagnosis?
If not, then how do we identify a likely shooter’s mental illness, and who will make the identification? Example--the Florida shooter was treated in a mental health facility. They missed him. A trained social worker visited him in his home. She missed it. The police were called 39 times. They missed it.
So, I hope they won’t ask me to predict someone.
Between us, my wife and I have over 100 years of experience studying, treating and advocating
for the mentally ill (now properly called people with brain disorders.) Fortunately, we have never had to predict a suicide, nor homicide.
We did have one Tarasoff case. The Tarasoff legal decision requires that in a case where a patient makes a specific threat on a specific person, mental health professionals have what is known as "a duty to warn" the intended victim. In our case, the outcome went well.
My work with the seriously brain disordered includes leading national, state and local advocacy groups. I chaired and attended many meetings with many seriously mentally ill people. Some were actively hallucinating. If there was anyone planning to shoot someone, I never picked it up.
In 2016, people with diagnosed mental illnesses committed less than one percent of all firearm homicides. However, right now hysteria over shootings can grip the uninformed and create a lynch mob attitude toward people with brain disorders. Also in the cross hairs will be mental health professionals who are asked to do something which may be impossible.
In my previous post I wrote about the problem of medicalization of mental illness and guns. Lest anyone think that I believe medicalizing emotional problems is a negative, I don’t. Actually medicalization has been positive. Discovering that what we were calling mental illness responds to medication has given us new tools. Hopefully, also realizing brain disorders can fall along a continuum with other nonstygmatized brain disorders such as Parkinson, will eventually help end stigma.