Sunday, May 3, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

How many have to die before we act?

RichRifkinW

By
From page A10 | June 11, 2014 |

Every time a person with untreated schizophrenia goes on a killing spree — such as in Isla Vista on May 23 where former Santa Barbara City College student Elliot Rodger murdered six and wounded 12 others before taking his own life — some will point out that “the mentally ill are statistically no more likely to be violent than anyone else.”

The problem, of course, is that fact is entirely beside the point.

The issue is not whether all people with all sorts of diagnoses of mental illness, including those with minor maladies, pose a danger. The question is how likely it is that a person experiencing psychotic delusions, who has a history of violence or threats of violence and is not being treated, will cause mayhem.

The evidence suggests those individuals are extremely perilous — not just to others, but to themselves.

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, “Suicide is the number one cause of premature death among people with schizophrenia, with an estimated 10 percent to 13 percent killing themselves. Suicide is even more pervasive in individuals with bipolar disorder, with 15 percent to 17 percent taking their own lives.

“The extreme depression and psychoses that can result due to lack of treatment are the usual causes of death in these sad cases. These suicide rates can be compared to the general population, which is approximately 1 percent.”

Family members of those with untreated mental illness are often at risk. According to Department of Justice statistics, when a spouse kills his mate, 12.3 percent of the time the defendant had a history of untreated mental illness. That’s 15.8 percent when a child is killed by his parent, 17.3 percent for a sibling murdered by a sibling and 25.1 percent when a parent kills his child.

In a typical year, about 5 percent of all murders in the United States are committed by individuals with a history of untreated mental illness, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimated that 7.7 million Americans in 2010 had schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. The NIMH found that roughly 40 percent of people with schizophrenia and 51 percent with bipolar are not receiving treatment in a given year.

The fact that our gun control laws, compared with those in most other advanced countries, are lax adds to the societal danger of people with severe and untreated mental illness. Yet guns are not the heart of this challenge. They only compound it.

The primary problem is that we don’t require individuals with serious psychiatric disorders to receive treatment.

After each massacre, we say something needs to be done. And then we do nothing. After Virginia Tech; after the Tucson, Arizona, Safeway; after the Carson City IHOP; after the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater; after Sandy Hook Elementary School; after the Washington Navy Yard; after Isla Vista; and most recently after Seattle Pacific University; there are calls for change but nothing changes.

Seemingly no matter how many innocents die in these mad rampages, we will never adopt laws to keep guns out of the hands of the severely mentally ill.

Some gun enthusiasts point out, correctly, that a person experiencing a psychotic break can kill with a knife, too. For example, Rodger’s first three victims at UCSB were murdered with a knife. They ask, sarcastically, should we ban knives?

As much sense as it makes to forbid individuals with certain serious psychiatric ailments from owning firearms, it makes even more sense to require they get treatment, even if it must be forced on them. This needs to happen not just to protect society or family members. It must be done to protect those who have lost touch with reality and are a threat to themselves.

In California, thanks to former Assemblywoman Helen Thomson of Davis, who wrote the legislation, we have Laura’s Law. That permits a court to force treatment on a patient with a serious mental illness and a recent history of violence or threats of violence.

One reason this is necessary is because many individuals with psychiatric delusions lack the ability to understand and accept their condition. That is, they don’t realize they are sick. They think the voices they are hearing in their heads are real.

Medical doctors call this lack of awareness anosognosia.

Unfortunately, while Laura’s Law is on the books, it is almost completely unfunded. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has an annual budget of approximately $9 billion. The state, however, gives no money to provide for Laura’s Law.

The burden is on our counties. And since it passed in 2002, only Nevada County — where Laura Wilcox was murdered by a psychotic man who had refused treatment — has fully funded it. A few other counties have provided some limited dollars.

In June of last year, Yolo County adopted a pilot program, where at most, four patients can be forced by a court to receive treatment.

We likely will never stop all violent crimes by those with untreated mental illness. But all of us — especially those with severe psychiatric maladies — would be better off if people like Elliot Rodger and Adam Lanza were forced into treatment before they get ahold of weapons and tragedy ensues.

— Rich Rifkin is a Davis resident; his column is published every other week. Reach him at [email protected]

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Breaking barriers: For Prieto, it’s all about hard work

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Council to hear about drought pricing

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Peaceful Baltimore demonstrators praise top prosecutor

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Nigeria: Nearly 300 freed women, children led to safety

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Downtown altercation leads to injuries

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

    Woman arrested for brandishing knife on overpass

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

     
    Yolo DA launches monthly newsletter

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Can plants talk? UCD prof will answer that question

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    A Scottish setting for local author’s next book

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Graveyard thefts land three Woodlanders behind bars

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3

     
    Indoor Fun Fly comes to Woodland

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Free beginner yoga class offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Video discusses surveillance of prostate cancer

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    NAMI support group meets May 10

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Dr. G featured on the radio

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Fee proposed on rail cars that haul oil, other flammables

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Internships move UCD doctoral students beyond academia

    By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    The secret to Mother’s Day gifting success: Give time, not stuff

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Make Mom a warm vanilla sugar scrub

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

    Letter book is series of collected missives thanking Mom

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

     
    If your mom fancies something fancy, consider a tea party

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

    Out of Africa and back to Davis: James Carey will give special presentation

    By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Big Day of Giving makes philanthropy easy

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    Tuleyome Tales: How are a snake and a mushroom alike?

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    Tuleyome hosts Snow Mountain camping trip

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

    .

    Forum

    End of life doesn’t mean life must end

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4 | Gallery

     
    Advancing education for California’s former foster youths

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

    With sincere gratitude

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    A wonderful day of service

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Please help Baltimore

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    Eyewitness to the ‘fall’ of Vietnam: It was not a bloodbath

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5 | Gallery

    He can’t give it up

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B6

     
     
    Dangers from prescription pills

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

    .

    Sports

    UCD softball splits with Titans

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Trifecta of Devil teams open playoffs Tuesday

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Defending champ DHS clinches a baseball playoff berth

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Sports briefs: DHS boys win to reach lacrosse playoffs

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Making memories at Aggie Stadium

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Pro baseball roundup: Hudson pitches Giants past Angels

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

     
    UCD roundup: Aggie women speed past Hornets

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

     
    New firm helps students on path to college

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A8

    Yolo County real estate sales

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A8

     
    Arcadia partners on soybean trait to improve yield

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    Marrone opens new greenhouse

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, May 3, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8