Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Dangerously Mentally Ill

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examined the plight of the dangerously mentally ill. There are 4 million people in the United States with severe mental illness. Only about 40,000, or 1%, are dangerous. Even then, the violence is usually minor - a punch or a shove, said Jeffrey Swanson, a Duke University professor who has studied the correlation between mental illness and violence for more than 20 years, reported the Journal Sentinel.

People with mental illness are 13 times more likely to be a victim of a crime than the perpetrator. Still, the inability to identify who is dangerous and the barriers to getting them care are among the more wrenching failures of our time.

If a man standing in a crowd clutches his chest and collapses, people will rush to help. But if that man has schizophrenia and mumbles or cries uncontrollably, chances are he'll be ignored.

"People are scared of mental illness," Jon Lehrmann, head of the psychiatry department at the Medical College of Wisconsin told the Journal Sentinel. "The natural tendency is to look the other way."

Nor is there an expectation that we should help, as with illnesses that affect other parts of the body.

"The best indication of future violence is a history of violence," Mike McBride, a longtime Milwaukee psychiatrist told the Journal Sentinel.

Sometimes there is no warning at all. Mental illness often doesn't appear until the teens or early 20s.

To read more: http://www.jsonline.com/features/health/law-creates-barriers-to-getting-care-for-mentally-ill-135387808.html

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