This subject leads straight up the wazoo, resulting in brains exploding among professionals, patients, and family members alike. I have my opinion, and you probably know which direction I’m heading if you’ve been following my posts at all. With that caveat, I still believe there is jiggle room on both sides since we live in a gray world where few things are black and white.
But–and here I go–what about those people who meet the criteria for “unable to care for themselves,” “dangerous,” or just plain “meshuggah”? Should they be institutionalized against their will and forced to take medication?
In the first two examples I vote yes. In the last I cast my vote on a case-by-case basis.
What’s really screwy, however, is that standards differ from state to state. It’s always an obstacle course to get help for someone who doesn’t want it, but in some states you have to twist arms, beg, or even lie. Yes, lie! In New Hampshire, where I live, it’s slightly better but you have to be extremely persistent. I know because I’ve been down that road. Oh, one more thing, and the most difficult of all … be prepared for your loved one to hate you for trying to help.
What’s beyond crazy is that help would be immediate if, for example, a person had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or Alzheimer’s, like my mother. If she wandered off, she’d be picked up by the police and brought to a place of safety with compassion, no shackles in sight.
It’s widely accepted that many serious mental illnesses have a physical basis. It’s not all in your head! Yet we allow people to decompensate to the point where they are arrested and jailed until action is taken. Something doesn’t smell right in Denmark!
On the third example I gave, the right to be crazy—I’m flexible, in fact, it’s okay by me, provided the person can handle the activities of daily living (even if compromised) and not defecating in the street. While I recognize that many of these people would be better off treated and may be grateful later if someone intervened, others would not. It’s a hard call to make. Those folks fortunate enough to have friends or families who care, despite all the heartache involved, are luckier than those whose loved ones have given up; all are victims.