Seeking treatment for a loved one in Virginia
In the face of challenges like these, it is vitally important that families have all the information they can before a crisis occurs. More on seeking treatment for a loved one is available here.
The Treatment Advocacy Center (www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org) is a national nonprofit dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illnesses. TAC promotes laws, policies, and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supports the development of innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
"Children wait in emergency rooms for psychiatric beds, sometimes for days."
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Labels: VA Tech shooting
Labels: Inpatient beds
Since 1994, nine U.S. studies have illustrated this [link to violence and untreated mental illness]. The best known, the Violence Risk Assessment Study, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, followed 961 seriously mentally ill individuals for one year after hospital discharge. During that time, these individuals committed 608 acts of serious violence (physical injury, threat of or actual assault with a weapon, or sexual assault), including six homicides. The most important finding: Those who regularly attended treatment sessions had less than one-quarter the rate of violence compared to those who did not.As for stigma as the greatest barrier to treatment? Hardly. Surely stigma exists and keeps some people from seeking treatment, but as we’ve witnessed with the recent Virginia Tech shootings, the greatest barriers to treatment are misinformation, lack of education amongst mental health professionals, and poor treatment laws.
“But any system that lets rigid laws take precedence over common sense, human caring and the free flow of information is destined to fail.”He quotes Marcus Martin, an emergency room physician who is on Virginia Governor Kaine's commission investigating the Virginia tech shooting whose common sense view leads him to observe:
"We keep head-injured patients, trauma patients, involuntarily all the time," said. "We don't rely on the legal system. It should be the same for mental health."But, it’s not just in Virginia that questions about the mental health system’s hyper-vigilance about confidentiality have arisen. Maine Senator Peter Mills (R-Somerset) introduced a bill this session that is intended to clarify confidentiality provisions so that mental health professionals can disclose information to families and caregivers who may be at risk of harm from a psychiatric patient.
“Review emergency services and commitment laws to ensure the standards are clear, appropriate, and strike the proper balance among liberty, safety for the individual and the community, and appropriate treatment.”
[T]he hospital psychiatrist claimed that William knew his name and where he lived — and that he was very insistent on not being placed.
"But he can't take care of himself, he doesn't have food, he can't pay his bills, he won't take his medications," I replied. "It's his free will to not take his medications." Thus, he was deemed "fully competent."
Also, there is a shortage of psychiatric beds at the state hospital — down from 3,000 beds in the 1960s to 300 today. This leaves police little choice but to transport mentally ill suspects to jail.There is no doubt the criminal justice system is overloaded with patients who should have received psychiatric treatment long before they landed in jail.
Treatment has never been better for mental illness, but it has never been harder or those in need to get it.
In his book “Descartes’ Error,” neurologist Antonio Damasio describes the 1975 case of Supreme Court Justice William Douglas. A debilitating stroke left him confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed on his left side. Against medical advice, Justice Douglas checked himself out of the hospital, dismissing reports of his paralysis as “a myth,” and publicly invited reporters to go hiking with him.
Douglas, like other patients with anosognosia, was completely unaware of his injury. He went so far as to claim he was kicking 40-yard field goals with his paralyzed leg. Clearly delusional, Douglas was forced to retire from the Supreme Court.