Mental Health and The Legal System

a family makes a frantic call to 911 about the mental instability of a family member only to be told to just go talk to the person in a more calm manner.  A Mentally unstable man kills people at The Navy Yard in Washington, DC tried turning himself in and was basically dismissed by police in another state.  A young man kills his mother and then shoots and up an elementary school with weapons he was trained to shoot by his own mother who supposedly knew about her sons mental health issues.  The DC sniper had been stopped by police in other areas of the country but nothing of concern raised a major concern to cause them to arrest him.

  In too many cases over and over again individuals in the home, the work place, in social settings notice abnormal behaviors in people that go undetected by the police and sadly the courts.  When a person is stopped by authorities for suspected DUI, there are a battery of field test they are trained to administer onsite and they are also trained to notice smells, items in a vehicle or abnormal driving patterns.  In the courtroom, judges rely upon the information as translated by “the best expert witness”.  The best expert witness is not always the most honest or none biased witness however but rather the highest paid and most popular.  Sadly, judges, experts, law enforcement ignore the history of a person and only focus upon the specific event in the present.  In Mental Health the lack of knowledge or the ignoring of the history of an individual and his or her extended family is like failing to check a persons driving license, registration, and insurance information.  In many domestic violence matters focus is paid to whether or not the person has been physically assaulted.  How do you measure mental hostility, sexual intimidation, financial abuse, threat to take children, etc.?  In life, very few individuals have even a basic knowledge of mental health disorders in family, friends, coworkers or people in general.  How do you identify a pyschopath or a sociopath?  How do you identify a passive aggressive person or a paranoid individual?  How do you identify a narcissist individual or a person who is schizophrenic?  In many abuse, neglect, mass killings, domestic violence cases it is later determined that the prepetrator had some level of mental health issues that someone in the family were aware of but did not have a “specific” clinical name to attach to the disorder.  

The wrap around approach to the continually growing problem of mental illness and violence in the home, the workplace, the schools and community is more needed today than ever before.  In the wrap around approach first and foremost family members must be willing to be honest and timely in disclosing abnormal behaviors of family members.  Second, mental health professionals must be capable of doing the necessary level of mental health assessments that go beyond the intake level mental status questions.  Psychological Assessment instruments are available to determine one’s mental health and should be utilized as much to rule out suspected disorders or to rule some disorder in.  Next the courts must be resolved to do whatever is necessary to support the clinically necessary treatment plan to insure the safety of family, community, schools, and the mentally ill identified person.  Community service time has never and will never solve the mental illness.  Probation for good behavior and letters from individuals who do not have continual intimate dealings with the mentally ill will never solve the mental illness.  Releasing a person simply because the courts don’t see what the family and mental health professionals see will never solve the mental disorder.  Finally the general public must learn how to interact with individuals with mental illness in a manner that keeps everyone safe physically, mentally and emotionally.  Clear boundaries must be adhered to depending upon the mental health of the person.  When family, the mental health professionals, the judicial system and community work together in an effort to keep everyone safe, we can then say with a greater degree of confidence that we are providing useful mental health care.  Keeping “secrets” by family members is the most destructive thing that can happen in providing proper care.   A harmful a discouraging occurrence happens when family is willing to “tell secrets” about the questionable behaviors of a mentally ill family member and the judicial system fails to act in an appropriate manner.

Have you been impacted by mental ill individuals and did not realize until much later the severity of their condition and impact upon your life or the lives of others?

For additional information go to:  or…mental-disorders…/index.shtml



One Response

  1. That’s so sad I agree and I feel that the shooting in California could have been avoided to.

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