Her early symptoms involved psychosis, inappropriate behavior, and inability to self-care. The hospital’s emergency room immediately followed the family’s directives and placed her in a locked ward, contrary to the typical approach used with other mental disorders: is the person an imminent danger to self or others? No one asked that question and no one asked her what she wanted. Why? What made the difference? My mother had Alzheimer’s, not schizophrenia, not bipolar, even though the initial symptoms were similar. Yet for my son with schizo-affective disorder, we had to turn somersaults to get him help. While both treatments resulted in forced or involuntary commitment, one came easily, the other took buckets of perspiration. Same symptoms, but different guidelines: different procedures, due to different laws.
At a clubhouse for people with MI (where I attend as a member), there is an individual holding his pants up with surgical gloves tied together. He is homeless, delusional, combative, gaunt, and may very well get his only meal here. Yet it is likely he will not be allowed to come back for a while. There is a two-year lawsuit going on involving families trying to get us out of the neighborhood. Last week a neighbor (not involved in the suit) came by complaining about Mr. X who was cursing and acting bizarrely in the parking lot. Mr. X needs far more help than we can offer and is putting the existence of the clubhouse in jeopardy. It would be a blessing for him to be hospitalized. Some may argue otherwise, proclaiming his right to starve to death. I say, have some compassion and place Mr. X where he can be treated and then returned to the community as the functioning person he once was. I also hope he receives this help before he winds up in jail or prison, common outcomes and poor alternatives. If he is convicted of a felony, he will lose the option of Section 8, a federal program which helps people with housing. There is a place for involuntary commitment; we just need to use common sense.