LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - How do we help the mentally ill?

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We all read, hear and see with horror the events of this month at the hands of an apparently very mentally disturbed young man.

Given my profession, I am struck by the assessment of this man's thought pattern near the time of his heinous act and realize that people such as this are everywhere, in every community of America left untreated and/or unrecognized for one reason or another.

Acts such as this I fear will worsen the stigma surrounding mental illness and cause fewer people to seek the help they need fearing a label of a potential murderer.

Of course one can not say at a distance anything about the case that ended in this way but one must wonder, if this man had treatment for his presently ascribed thought disorder, would he have thought the way he did?

Would he have done the things he had done? There is never an excuse for acts such as this and of course responsibility must be placed on the guilty but in the future, can we learn from this terrible thing?

How can we get people such as this treatment without violating their civil rights if they refuse?

Insight to illness is often a problem I face, sometimes daily with my patients. If you do not recognize having an illness, why would you consent to treatment?

Critical questions that we in mental health often deal with on a daily basis; how do you help the person who does not see he/she has a problem?

Daniel D. Varnell, M.D.
College Place

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