Tucson and the Case for Involuntary Commitment
Perhaps this is not the best time to post this page, but, well, the article is online now and so here it is for your consideration, if you’re interested.
It is very difficult, I know from personal family experience, to try to persuade a mentally ill person that they need to seek help, especially if one of the things the person is suffering from is a delusional disorder, and particularly if their delusions involve ideas that they are being followed, stalked and persecuted. The delusions are so very real to the person, they just do not believe it when you try to point out that logically, what they believe is happening just cannot be true. Logic has no bearing on what they perceive to be absolutely true.
A family is left, then, with trying to force a grown person into the car for a trip the hospital ER, where the family will try to convince medical personnel that the person is a danger to himself or others; meanwhile, the person himself is savvy enough to be able to “pretend” his way through the cursory exam he will get at the ER. Frankly, it’s lose-lose all the way, for the family and for the affected individual.
The article I linked to proposes that it may be time to take another look at “involuntary commitment” to ensure community safety, of those whose mental state is obviously deteriorating over a period of time, as it appears to have been obvious to Jared Lee Loughner’s family and friends. Here are the first few paragraphs:
Warning label: This article will make civil libertarians unhappy. Read at your own risk.
We are embroiled, alas, in a politicized argument about the slaughter in Tucson. While most of the charges being flung about rest on a scanty basis (at best), the most important and least contestable facts are getting lost: Jared Lee Loughner was mentally ill when he pulled the trigger, there were multiple signs of his descent into delusion over the past year, and no one did very much about it.
To be sure, the authorities at Pima Community College finally suspended him after five contacts with the police and conditioned his return on clearance from a mental health professional. Police delivered the letter of suspension to Loughner’s home and talked with him and his parents. We do not know what happened next. Perhaps his parents tried to persuade him to seek help and were rebuffed; perhaps they were reluctant to have further involvement with the authorities; perhaps they were too confused or conflicted even to try. In any event, there’s no evidence that he did receive treatment, and according to college officials, he did not attempt to return to school.
The bottom line: No one was legally responsible for taking the next step, and they might well have hit a wall if they had. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the director of the Urgent Psychiatric Care Center in Phoenix said that in the absence of specific threats, parents or authorities might well have failed to meet the tests for involuntary commitment under Arizona law, which resembles laws in most states as well