Involuntary treatment is a touchy subject. There are advocates who say forcing someone against their will takes away their civil liberties. It’s true that prior to the curtailment of involuntary hospitalization, the power was abused. But has curtailment gone too far? People such as Elliot Rodger and Adam Lanza had signs that they were ill, but because they were over eighteen, their parents couldn’t forced them to get treatment. Under the eyes of the U.S. law, once someone becomes an adult, they are assumed to be able make decisions for themselves.
According to an article dedicated to outpatient treatment in the March 2001 Psychiatric Services Journal, authors E. Fuller Torrey and Mary Zdanowicz say that the current mental healthcare system in place cannot appropriately care for severely mentally ill patients. They write that many patients who have Schizophrenia and Bipolar are cognitively impaired and lack the ability to make decisions for their treatment.
This makes me think of the homeless people that I saw on Skid Row when I volunteered for the Monday Night Mission. The people who are the most fragile are people who aren’t even cognizant of their situation. How do you help a severely mentally ill homeless person who is paranoid and scared of receiving help? They aren’t going to go treatment on their own. There are stories where people landed in skid row or other places similar to it because they had a fugue and wandered away.
Mental health treatment in the United States is reactive rather than proactive. It’s understandable because mental illness is fickle and can be a result of many factors. For example, majority of people who are diagnosed with Schizophrenia are already at the full blown stage, and its difficult to treat. Other instances are when people go on mass rampages towards others. It’s easy to look back and say the signs were there, but the action is done. People are dead or injured as a result that someone refused treatment or couldn’t receive treatment in time.
It’s frustrating to hear when I have friends who had family members commit suicide. The signs were there that the members needed help, but because the members were adults, they couldn’t force them to get help. The result was death.
Another thing that saddens me is when family members are affected by a loved one’s drug addiction. He or she needs help, but the family isn’t able to force them to go to treatment because their an adult. The only way coercive treatment will happen is when the drug addicted person becomes a harm to themselves or to society. When people reach that point, it can sometimes be too late.
I understand that involuntary hospitalization is a multifaceted and complex topic. No one wants to be hospitalized against their ill. It’s humiliating. But if its in the best interest for the person, then its warranted.