Turning on the news today often brings stories of shootings, attacks, and violence. Incidents such as the Sandy Hook shootings, the killing spree of James Holmes, and the recent mass murders at the University of California Santa Barabra. The aftermath of events such as these often leave people asking why something wasn’t done before they happened. Why weren’t the plans of these murderers uncovered? Why didn’t someone stop them. Obviously the mental or behavioral health of these killers should have been questioned.
The truth is, many times it has been. In the case of Adam Lanze, who committed the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, he had been in contact with counselors. James Holmes was under the care of a psychiatrist before he went on a shooting spree at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. And teachers at Jared Loughner’s school had reported increasingly strange, delusional, and threatening behaviors before he went on to attack Gabbie Giffords near Tucson, Arizona.
There is No Crystal Ball
So why are these killers under mental health care or supervision and yet still committing these acts of violence? Because there is a difference between evaluating psychological well-being and foreseeing a violent attack. When the Santa Barbara’s sheriff’s office were alerted to concerns by Elliot Rodger’s family that he was a risk, they went to perform a mental health evaluation. They met a person who was articulate, calm, and shy. He admitted to being lonely and struggling with his social life. However, he made no claims to planning violence or showed unstable behavior. The Sheriff’s department had no reason to detain him. He appeared to be no threat to himself or others. However, he then proceeded to attack a sorority house, killing seven and injuring many others.
Basic Rights of the Mentally Ill
The basic rights of mental health patients prevents authorities from detaining individuals and mandating mental health treatment without due cause. The strict standards that are in place attempt to prevent abuse of authorities without proven cause. Many people shocked at the number of mass shootings are calling for a leaner policy, allowing authorities more power to detain mentally ill individuals before incidents occur. Advocates for gun-rights are strongly backing this movement.
While looking for a solution to this increase in violence, many people are unaware of how involuntary mental commitment can be damaging, especially to mentally ill individuals who do not plan on committing violent acts. When a person refuses to submit to detainment, they can be bound, gagged, restrained, pulled from their home, and taken away in a squad car or paddy wagon. While many police officers treat the patient with care and respect, that is not always the case, especially if the person resists - which many do. The long term psychological damage that can be done by such an incident is great. And often times, the mentally ill individual had no plans to conduct mass shootings.
No Magical Cure
While many people are looking for a magical cure for the violence that seems to be sweeping across the nation, care has to be taken that it is the right answer to the problem. Simply detaining individuals because they are mentally ill is not going to prevent violence. People who are involuntarily committed often times leave the facility in the same shape, or worse, than when they were taken in. Simply detaining someone for a 72 hour evaluation will not stop the violence. Looking to improving the quality of mental health treatment, increasing awareness, and ensuring that qualified individuals are fully trained in mental health care can all help. There is no simple answer to stop the violence. But there are better places to start than involuntary detainment.
If you are looking for qualified mental health professionals for your organization or business, contact us. We can help you find the staff to fill your needs.
- Mental Health Musts to Recognizing & Overcoming Compassion Fatigue
- Caring for Mind & Body -- During Mental Health Month & Beyond
- "Mind Your Health" During Mental Health Awareness Month