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Laws on Mentally Ill Endangers Public Life

by Himabindu Venkatakrishnan on  April 24, 2007 at 3:11 PM Mental Health News   - G J E 4
Laws on Mentally Ill Endangers Public Life
The most brutal fact about the Virginia Tech massacre is the fact that there is no law for the forceful treatment of the mentally ill until he endangers others or his own life. Long standing laws regarding patient's rights makes it difficult to enforce treatment by the family or authority for the concerned patient.
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When a person is physically ill there are various methods of treatment for the disease. But when the patient is mentally ill he is looked down upon by the family and society. The frightening and mystifying aspect of the illness carries a social stigma that is hard to do away. If correct psychiatric care is administered as soon as the illness is deducted many lives could have been saved.

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Unwilling or forced treatment of the patient is seen as violation of the civil rights of the patient. But the authority fails to see that upholding the patient's rights is in a way denying the civil right of the normal people to live in peace without fear.

The details about Seung-Hui Cho's exchanges with the mental-health system more than 2 years ago has brought to fore a major debate about how the state and local authority should intervene in decisions regarding the treatment of the mentally ill before they become a threat to society.

"If there's any one issue that polarizes the mental-health community, it's forced treatment," said Sally Zinman, executive director of the California Network of Mental Health Clients, an advocacy group opposed to imposing treatment on the mentally ill and linking the disease with violence.

It is very rare that these kinds of people seek treatment themselves. It is family members who have to intervene and force treatment. Many a time's patients seek treatment but refuse medication.

The massacre could have been prevented at the Virginia Tech as many teachers and students knew of Seung-Hui Cho's violent mental status. But the civil rights protecting him they could do nothing to save him or the college community.

President Bush in the wake of the incident declared that experts in the field from the country would meet to discuss as what to be done in order to prevent such incidences in the future.

Many students had tried to help Cho when they reported his stalking, unruly classroom behavior and suicide threats to the university police. He was taken to an of -campus mental health agency. The councilor had recommended a temporary detention order saying that he was an 'imminent danger' to himself. But official court document reveal that after assessment by the Carilion St. Albans Psychiatric Hospital, a doctor wrote that Cho, although mentally ill, "denies suicidal ideation (and) does not acknowledge symptoms of a thought disorder."

Under he Virginia law in order to forcefully commit someone to psychiatric treatment must seek permission from the court. The St Alana report helped Cho from being committed by the magistrate and was released with the understanding that he would get out patient treatment.

This unwell man was able to buy guns and ammunitions and the law enforcement could do nothing to stop him in his act.

Too many people have suffered because of inadequate laws and misinterpretation of civil rights. Something needs to be done fast regarding the plight of the mentally ill via-a-vis his family and the society at large. The civil right of the family and the community must be given importance as much as the patients. The ease of procuring arms and guns too must be controlled to avert such mishaps.

Source: Medindia
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