Friday, March 28, 2008

Violence and Mental Illness

I wasn't going to post anything on this topic, because it hits pretty close to home for me. I have an uncle who was diagnosed with mental illness in his early 20s. He is now in his mid 50s. A few months ago he asked his doctor why he had been on the medication for so many years if he wasn't getting better. When is he going to be able to go off his medication? It is a heartbreaking question to hear and the answer was even more difficult: Never. If he wants to function at any level, the medication (which has changed recently) will always be a part of his life.

There is a struggle, too, within my family in how to deal with my uncle. Some don't think he's sick; some think he's too sick. The daily struggle to help him deal with his illness has been something that my mother (his youngest sister) has taken up.

I say all that to say that I can relate strongly to the tension that Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D., eloquently discussed in his responsive remarks:

"There’s a tension in mental health and the law and what we should do in terms of policy," said Swanson, professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University School of Medicine. "One way to characterize it is in terms of the concerns about autonomy and paternalism. Grappling with that tension is a very important thing to do in understanding how we view a problem such as violence and mental illness."

The solution that nearly everyone mentioned in regards to the perceived and real link between is to make sure that individuals who are mentally ill receive treatment. We must also recognize that not everyone who is diagnosed with mental illness or who is mentally ill does not believe that they have a problem.


p.parker said...

I loved this session — it was moving. Everyone kept asking how to motivate people to seek help when they don't think they're sick.

That's the hardest part in my opinion closely followed by the lack of medical adherence.

We gotta write about this and tackle it. Head on.

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