America

In Shooting's Aftermath, A Debate On Mental Health Policy

The sketch of the man police say is behind the shooting rampage in Tucson is still not fully in focus. But Jared Loughner's  online messages and the stories told by people who know him paint a portrait of a man deeply disturbed.

The tragedy has left many asking questions about how we handle the mentally ill in this country and the laws the govern when a person can be treated against their will. The conversation has been intense, so we wanted to round up what's been said:

— Perhaps one the most interesting pieces comes from The New Republic's William Galston. He makes the case for involuntary commitment, writing:

A single narrative connects the Unabomber, George Wallace shooter Arthur Bremmer, Reagan shooter John Hinckley, the Virginia Tech shooter—all mentally disturbed loners who needed to be committed and treated against their will. But the law would not permit it.

David Shern, the Mental Health America president, at the Health Affairs blog says that "Less than one-third of teens who need mental health care receive help." He says that the health care reform law could change that.

— In the Philadelphia Enquirer's opinion page, Paul Heroux pleas for public support for the mentally ill:

Perhaps what's most important to remember is that no one chooses to be mentally ill. Many of the causes are genetic and are exacerbated by environmental factors. If you think life is hard for those living with or around mentally ill persons, remember that life is even more difficult for those afflicted by mental illness. This becomes a collective problem when those afflicted go without help.

— Somewhat tangentially related, a new study from Northwestern University shows that about two to three percent of students who visited university clinics for colds were also depressed. The study claims that colleges do a shoddy job at spotting depression and simple changes could help.

— In the New York Post's opinion page, DJ Jaffe, co-founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center, worries that federal money is going to the "worried-well, with little left for the seriously ill."

The Washington Post talks to a psychiatry professor at Duke University who says the question of what effect incendiary rhetoric has on the mentally is fair game "The nature of someone's delusions is affected by culture. It's a reasonable line of inquiry to ask," said Dr. Marvin Swartz.

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