Monday, October 31, 2005

If you can choose, you have a chance?

Do homeless people with mental illnesses deserve supportive intervention or should their homelessness be respected as a rational choice?

Many of those with severe schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can't choose to accept services because they don’t even think they are ill. No amount of persuasion will convince someone to take medication if they think aliens are speaking to them through their teeth.

One homeless advocate who has been there sees the difference clearly - between his own situation and that of a man named Nathanial.

"I see a lot of myself in Nathaniel," says [Anthony Hamilton], whose illness is controlled with medication that's much more effective, and has fewer side effects, than what he and Nathaniel were both treated with years ago. "But one difference between us is that I knew something was wrong with me. Right now, Nathaniel doesn't have any insight into how sick he is. I think he could do well on medication, but you can't push them."
Nathanial still sleeps on the streets. Because one effect of his illness is lack of insight, he doesn't get the same opportunity to regain control of his decisions.