In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Are our Rights always a good thing?

Of course our rights as Americans are a good thing, but these same rights cause problems for the mentally ill in America and for those who love them.

If you've read this blog much, you've noticed that I have a heart for the mentally ill in our nation. From time to time I write on this topic with the goal of giving the reader a glimpse into their world. I believe many people have experienced very minimal contact with the mentally ill and so do not know much about their life experiences. My hope is that learning about mental illness, the people who suffer from it, and their families will help people develop insight concerning mentally ill people. Hopefully this insight will affect how you act in various situations, enable you to pray for the situations facing mentally ill people, affect how you vote, and how you give your time or money to organizations.

As Americans we have the freedom, the right, to live however we choose. Even if our lifestyle is what many would think of as odd or unusual we have a right to choose. The problem for the mentally ill is that, due to their illness, their judgment is impaired and they often put themselves in dangerous situations, but, because they have freedom to choose, nothing can be done about it. I've known several people who have struggled with this.

I can think of one family I knew who had a handsome, intelligent, talented 20-something year old man who is paranoid schizophrenic. His family would watch him stop taking his medication and become more and more paranoid and begin the downward spiral symptoms (in his case these symptoms were things like wearing gloves, refusing to eat food that he did not prepare himself, never allowing others to touch him) that the family has come to recognize all too well - but both themselves and any kind of legal authority was powerless to do anything about it. Even though early intervention is always healthiest for the young man and most effective, no one could intervene. Not until his symptoms had spiraled really out of control, could anything be done. Out of control for him was once when when he went to visit his mother and misperceived a situation to which he responded by beating her up, or another time when he attacked a clerk in a store. At this point law enforcement can step in. When he was clearly and actively being a danger to himself and others, then he could be taken to the psych ward of the local hospital and admitted against his will for up to 72 hours for observation. When dealing with someone as sick as this young man, typically he would end up on temporary conservatorship during which time the conservator would remand him to a secured psychiatric facility for follow up treatment until he adjusted to his medication and showed an absence of dangerous behavior. By the time the hearing for permanent conservatorship came around the young man had stabilized enough to be let off conservatorship, released, and the cycle would resume. The problem is that with each subsequent hospitalization, the young man's self esteem decreased, the amount of medication required to stabilize him increased and the outcome was he was a little less sharp each time.

I know a middle aged woman who is also paranoid schizophrenic and has been symptomatic for around 25 years. This woman had given birth to 8 children, none of which she has been able to raise. She has been assaulted on several occasions because she, due to her delusional thinking, regularly puts herself into dangerous situations. Sometimes she will visit her 83-year old mother and stay for a couple of days. She's a very difficult house guest because she tends to never sit down to a meal, drink vast amounts of coffee, smoke a lot, be up all hours of the night, continually be doing her laundry (the same laundry over and over and over), frequently talk about negative subjects such as those terrible so-and-sos who beat her up or how the bank is stealing her money. When her mother tries to get her to leave after a few days she becomes agitated and sometimes will begin to hit herself. The last time she visited her mother she grabbed at her mother to hit her her, but another person in the home intervened. Aside from moving to another location (and not letting the daughter know where she lives), there is nothing the mother can do.

This young man and this middle aged woman are typical of mentally ill individuals who are either treatment resistant or who do not take their medication. In another post I mention one group of legitimate reasons why people stop taking their medications (I'll save other groups of reasons for not wanting to take anti-psychotic medications for other posts).

I'm not abdicating that we should take the rights of mentally ill individuals away from them. I'm merely trying to make you aware of the problem. Give you a glimpse into their lives and how things work.

1 comment:

Inge' said...

Thank you for this very insightful post! My ex-brother-in-law is bipolar. When he does not take his meds, it can be very bad for anyone that comes in contact with him.

This is such a sad situation not only in our country but other as well. To be locked up or ignored or jailed because of a mental illness is devastating for all concerned.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin