The Mental Illness Dilemna

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006
The Mental Illness Dilemna
Wed, 08-01-2012 - 10:51am

Advocates for the mentally ill are faced with a deep dilemma each time extreme and deadly crimes are perpetrated by those with a mental illness. Obviously, such acts are not sane or normal; it beggars common sense to suggest that a person who is thinking straight would choose to kill or wound dozens of strangers. And yet most mentally ill people — even those with conditions that have been linked to violence, such as addictions and schizophrenia — are no threat to anyone other than themselves.


For the mentally ill, who might be seen as canaries in this coal mine, stigma serves to wall them off from the social support and medical care that are necessary to spur recovery and prevent illness from leading to tragedy. As a society, we need to understand that risk does not equal destiny — and that believing it does is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not wrong to see schizophrenia as a disease or even to appreciate its association with violence, but to view people with schizophrenia as hopeless can in some cases worsen their course unnecessarily.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 01-08-2009
Fri, 08-03-2012 - 10:57pm
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-18-2004
Sat, 08-04-2012 - 1:53am
<< The US Court system, police and the criminal justice system are not designed to handle people with mental illness.>>

The last thing you want to do in Texas is call the police about a despondent, mentally ill relative. They shoot them.
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006
Sat, 08-04-2012 - 7:44am

Hundreds of people with mental illness are shot every year in the US. There is a database that keeps track:

Here is a write-up about the database:

The Treatment Advocacy Center’s Preventable Tragedies Database is a product of its times – and its times keep changing

Available from virtually every page of our website, the Database initially was a collection of newspaper articles kept in file folders. Founder E. Fuller Torrey, MD, started clipping the stories in the early ‘80s as he saw “symptoms of things going wrong” as state hospitals closed and patients were discharged into communities that were unequipped to meet their needs. 

“It was very random because it just consisted of what I could see for myself,” he says of the initial collection.

Not long after he founded the Treatment Advocacy Center in 1998, a dedicated system was created to track the "preventable tragedies" he had been tracking. Its purpose was to catalogue incidents that were reported in the news and involved either a victim or a perpetrator of a violent episode who suffered from severe mental illness (usually untreated). Ever since then, advocates of treatment law reform have used the system as a tool for illustrating to public officials that not treating severe mental illness has consequencies; media, researchers and legislative staff have consulted it as a source of state-specific information and a barometer of the systemic problems behind sensational headlines.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-17-2003
Sat, 08-04-2012 - 9:05am

I am just using your post to reply to the whole.

There seems to be this kind of innocent belief that help is right around the corner. It sort of irks me when the general belief is parents just aren't trying hard enough. In this state, mental health appointments are hard to come by if you want a thorough evaluation. It's not a matter of hopping to the next town or driving hours away to get an appointment.

Then once you do get an appointment, both you and the child have to fit with the therapist. And what kind of therapist is it? A psychiatrist, psychologist and any level of social workers, all adds to confusion of finding a proper therapist and dx. Psychiatrist are generally easier to get an appointment with, but even then, could take up to 6-8 weeks or longer, but their aim is to medicate. Either way, you might find an appointment, have a few sessions and realize the therapist just isn't qualified to meet your needs ... or maybe you just don't like them or trust their judgments. Sooo, the cycle begins again.

Also, some obstacles are out in our way through insurance companies and I think some people downplay this.

Now, I am writing this, living an a state, where health insurance is available and mental health coverage, I believe is mandatory. I can only imagine what other parts of the country are dealing with. What I do hear, isn't good.



iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2009
Sat, 08-04-2012 - 10:29am
Yes, the mom is a nurse. However, it has been misreported that she was not surprised what her son did. She responded on the phone to yes, she is his mother. That's it.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-27-2001
Sat, 08-04-2012 - 10:44am

It seems that this thread would have to be broken into new threads based on diagnosis or illness.  There are genetic or biological mental illnesses that can only be treated medically and parents can only be educated to cope.

There are others that are stress-diathesis, meaning that while some people may have more of a tendency towards them, stresses or other factors in life can trigger them, such as addiction, obsessive compulsive disorder, even schizophrenia.  

Does that make it a parent's fault?  No, but inappropriate parenting, i.e. emotional, physical, or sexual abuse would very likely trigger the development of these conditions in people who are biologically inclined towards them more than a  peaceful, positive environment.

Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder can pop up in the best of families.  They are biologically based.  So can depression anxiety, and addiction.  But the addition of stress makes the vulnerable more likely to become seriously ill.

Although adoption studies have been done, more often, in tact families are observed, and nature/nurture is difficult to discern.  My husband's family has bipolar.  My family has depression/anxiety.  Both of our families have addiction.  So how do we know which things are a result of the environment and which are inate?  We simply don't.  Clearly my bipolar son would have had bipolar even if he'd been adopted.  That is just too strong a biological connection.  My sons with ADHD also would have had it.  Because I was educated in ADHD by the time they manifested symptoms, I was able to address the symptoms better than if I'd just thought they were annoyingly "wild".  I have learned how to redirect their behavior and understand when the motor gets revving that they can't sit still, even if they want to be cooperative.

Bipolar I'd had no experience with so, frankly, I didn't address that son's symptoms well at all.  Once I was educated on it, it became easier, but my  change in parenting would've been almost useless without the appropriate medication and therapy.

I'm fortunate, I guess, to live outside of NYC, so mental health is very available, though I share a previous poster's frustration that they are certainly not all a good match, nor are they all particularly knowledgeable on all issues.

My family and I have also done alot of work on the family issues surrounding addiction so that we are breaking some of the unhealthy patterns that make addiction seem like a good coping strategy.  I can only hope that my children haven't inherited that disease, or if they have, that they will have tools to address it.  

It's very complicated, this mental illness thing.  I hope that mental health care becomes more available to all who need it.  One of the most difficult things is, as other posters have said, being mentally ill makes it very difficult to realize that you need help.  Those with bipolar often love the manic part of their cycles and feel fine, and when they're depressed, often just think that the reality is life is miserable and there's no point in getting help.  Same for people with depression.  

It would be great to see general practitioners trained to screen their patients for these things during regular exams.  

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006
Sat, 08-04-2012 - 4:01pm

I am curious to know which resources consider schizophrenia to be anything other than a biological, genetic, medical condition. If I had to name the two most biologically based mental illnesses, I would select bipolar and schizophrenia. I thought all the old theories attempting to link schizophrenia to parenting had been discarded a long time ago.

When I have read about the diathesis stress model applied to schizophrenia, theories about viruses in utero come up.


iVillage Member
Registered: 08-27-2001
Sat, 08-04-2012 - 4:44pm

Here's where I saw the reference to stresses and schizophrenia. Just want to be clear that I didn't mean to suggest that parents were to blame. Tney can be, but so can otner stressful events beyond the control of the parents, or simple biology
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006
Sat, 08-04-2012 - 6:56pm

I am not aware of any childhood traits that predict a likely emergence of schizophrenia. My understanding is that schizophrenia emerges in late adolescence or early adulthood for men and somewhat later for women, IMO it is similar to how autism seems to emerge around three years.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006
Sat, 08-04-2012 - 7:19pm

 inappropriate parenting, i.e. emotional, physical, or sexual abuse would very likely trigger the development of these conditions in people who are biologically inclined towards them more than a peaceful, positive environment.

I think this statement from your post is wrong and not supported by your link. Your link supports my post - something happens, like a virus, before birth or early in childhood that stresses the body and somehow triggers the genes toward developing schizophrenia. Stress caused by loss or abuse are also mentioned,

But nothing about "inappropriate parenting" or "very likely to trigger" are mentioned.

IMO, "inappropriate parenting" being "very likely to trigger" schizophrenia sounds more like the outdated theories that parents cause schizophrenia than it does to the explanation in your link.