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May 25, 2007 - 10:59 am

Psychiatrist Sally Satela href=”http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/013/679vkrbg.asp” has a thought provoking piece /ain emThe Weekly Standard/em entitled, “Sane Mental Health Laws?” Thanks to Bugs for pointing out the article:br /br /blockquoteThe Virginia Tech massacre last month will surely prompt changes in commitment laws too. Virginia governor Timothy M. Kaine has created a panel to review events and issue recommendations. The governor’s panel will join several other Virginia bodies already reviewing the state’s mental health laws.br /br /The most prominent is the Task Force on Civil Commitment. It was established six months ago by the chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court to scrutinize the state’s unusually narrow standard for committing someone to a psychiatric facility against their wishes. (A patient must be “imminently” dangerous–in short, clearly ready to kill himself or someone else–before a judge can mandate treatment.)br /br /The task force proceedings are bitterly contentious. On one side are civil liberties lawyers and disgruntled patients who insist that lowering the “imminent” danger threshold would threaten individual rights. On the other side are psychiatrists caring for people with schizophrenia and bipolar illness and their relatives who have lived through the nightmare of not being able to get timely treatment for desperately ill loved ones./blockquotebr /br /The article tells about a case where a son is released from a mental hospital because of a patient advocacy group even though he had already assaulted his father but he was released anyway only to kill his mother with a hatchet two months later. Many of the readers here and others in society want to believe that oodles of slightly eccentric people are being rounded up in straitjackets to be warehoused at a hospital. This is so far from the truth, it is actually laughable. I have never met a patient who told me he or she was unfairly kept in a hospital but I have met and worked with many who cannot get the help they need or who have been released from treatment way too early. And what about the families of those mentally ill individuals who have been assaulted and are in fear for their lives or the lives of other family members. Do they have no rights at all? Apparently not.

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