Letters: Treating and reporting insanity

After most of our mental hospitals were closed,

After most of our mental hospitals were closed, starting in the 1960s, many individuals who previously might have been involuntarily evaluated, committed and treated became our "homeless." Kings Park psychiatric hospital. (March 9, 2012) (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

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Columnist Anne Michaud makes the case for catching mental illness early as a way of preventing mass shootings and puts her stamp of approval on such congressional proposals as educating police and school staff about mental illness and a public awareness campaign planned by the Obama administration ["Treat these young men before they kill," Opinion, April 4]. There are no easy answers, but surely education is an important part of the puzzle.

Before the age of 14, half of those who will go on to develop a mental illness are already showing symptoms. Yet students can graduate from high school without ever learning anything about mental illness. This is in sharp contrast to the comprehensive HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and sex education curriculum they're exposed to in health classes.

All students should be required to learn the warning signs of mental illness, the importance of seeking treatment and compassion for peers who are a little different, so that students aren't marginalized and feel comfortable acknowledging a mental disorder.

A grant our office received from the National Institute of Mental Health for our middle school lessons, "Breaking the Silence," showed that they improved knowledge and changed attitudes -- and potentially behavior. What is needed now is the political will to require mental illness education as part of the health curriculum.

Janet Susin, Lake Success

Editor's note: The writer is the president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Queens/Nassau and co-author of "Breaking the Silence."
 

The article about treating mentally ill young men before they kill is a really reasonable and logical discussion of issues regarding deranged killings rather than just demonizing sportsmen.

After most of our mental hospitals were closed, starting in the 1960s, many individuals who previously might have been involuntarily evaluated, committed and treated became our "homeless." We need to face the fact there are serious public safety issues related to untreated and potentially violent persons.

In 2012, Connecticut tried to strengthen its outpatient treatment law. However, opponents such as the American Civil Liberties Union called the bill outrageously discriminatory and said it infringed on patients' privacy rights. The bill was defeated.

Background checks are a popular proposal for excluding the insane, but James Holmes, Jared Loughner and Seung-Hui Cho all passed because their names weren't included in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Unless NICS includes mentally ill people, checks are of little use.

Richard H. Staudt, Mount Sinai

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