28 thoughts on “Mental Illness+Guns=Catastrophe – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Richard all we really know is that Alexis sought mental health services in August, one month after his security clearance was recleared after being cleared in 2012. With only this information we don’t even know if he got an appointment, only that he SOUGHT mental health services in August. As well you tell a rather good story (outcome) of getting your relative the help he needed. This is not always possible as you should know with the Lanterman-Petris Short Act (California law first which became the standard for all states)

    I think what you should be asking is why the cops who spoke to him last month when Alexis said he was being followed by strangers sending microwaves through his body, why they could not hospitalize him. You know why. Because he was not exhibiting signs of being a threat to self or others. The report said the cops notified the Navy of his strange behavior. What was the Navy going to do? They could not hospitalize him either, they could just fire him which would not have helped him and needless to say in his condition would have also sent him over the edge (redundant because he went over the edge anyway)

    Fact is the law does not help the mentally ill. Here is a most excellent article on this situation.

    http://www.ocweekly.com/2012-03-22/news/lauras-law-national-alliance-on-mental-illness/

    Fact is your family was VERY fortunate. Most families are not with their mentally ill loved ones and society at large, well their hands are also tied by the law.

    THAT is what needs to be addressed.

    1. @ Robin: I’ve read numerous news reports saying he was treated by the VA and exhibiting psychotic behavior. But this NYT report accords more with what you’re saying & I stand corrected. But note the Times story indicates that there were many lapses here which allowed him to fall just below the barrier that would raise any red flags.

      1. Richard thanks for your response but please PLEASE don’t lose this in my point. This article is about the mentally ill homeless, but fact is that mental health laws as they stand now, have a bar so high that those who are observed who obviously need help, they can NOT be hospitalized unless they are an imminent threat to self or others. I could relate a long story, but to make it brief, for more than a year now my daughter who lives in the Hollywood area has been trying BEYOND what even many family members would do (in this case it IS beyond what this woman’s family has done) to get a severe, and I do mean SEVERELY mentally ill homeless woman the help she needs. Four times my daughter has been successful in getting “Alexandra” hospitalized (which omits all the times my daughter called the cops and PET team and was not successful due to the LAW). Each time Alexandra has been cycled out of a locked ward into an unlocked facility which IS the law. Each time Alexandra has walked out of these unlocked facilities which is her RIGHT under the law. and ended up back on the streets residing mostly near my daughter who has been feeding her and watching after her. Alexandra dresses mostly in costumes, she toilets in people’s yards (including my daughter’s), she screams, she breaks into houses and lights small fires when she perceives she has been slighted by someone……… Her own father who lives close by wants nothing to do with her most likely because for years his other schizophrenic daughter who he allowed to live with him wore him ragged. Her mother in her seventies resides in the UK. My daughter is in constant contact with her, but she can do nothing because Alexandra is 40 and has her “rights”, is so mentally ill she does not know she is mentally is mentally ill, a condition known as “anosognosia” or “lack of insight”, a condition that up to 50% of schizophrenics and 40% of bipolars suffer from.

        This is being totally ignored in this story of Aaron Alexis. Again I ask, what if the law was different? What if the cops who he contacted could have HUMANELY hospitalized him because he was most obviously suffering from mental illness? Sure they say they called the navy to report the incident but the navy could not have hospitalized him against his will either! They could have only rescinded his security clearance, fired him and then he would have gone on his rampage elsewhere because he already had his gun.

        Are all mentally ill persons violent? NO. They do however mostly end up in jails for petty crimes, drunkeness, public disruption. The toll they take on their own families is beyond horrendous and those families can NOT do anything in more cases than not and often have to resort to getting restraining orders hoping that their family member breaks it so they can call the cops and get them off the street at bare minimum.

        This is INHUMANE Richard. There are many aspects to this story, but please don’t admit this issue, because if you are going to discuss mental health care you need to include the FACT that due to our laws, many MANY do not receive care because of our screwed up law that prevents NEEDED intervention.

        http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/resources/mental-health-law/more-on-mental-health-laws/556-editorial-californias-30-year-failure-to-confront-mental-illness

        1. Upon rereading several typos. Change “This is INHUMANE Richard. There are many aspects to this story, but please don’t admit this issue” to>> This is INHUMANE Richard. There are many aspects to this story, but please don’t OMIT this issue.

          Too early, not enough coffee yet 🙂

      2. Richard all we really know is that Alexis sought mental health services in August, one month after his security clearance was recleared after being cleared in 2012. With only this information we don’t even know if he got an appointment, only that he SOUGHT mental health services in August. As well you tell a rather good story (outcome) of getting your relative the help he needed. This is not always possible as you should know with the Lanterman-Petris Short Act (California law first which became the standard for all states)

        I think what you should be asking is why the cops who spoke to him last month when Alexis said he was being followed by strangers sending microwaves through his body, why they could not hospitalize him. You know why. Because he was not exhibiting signs of being a threat to self or others. The report said the cops notified the Navy of his strange behavior. What was the Navy going to do? They could not hospitalize him either, they could just fire him which would not have helped him and needless to say in his condition would have also sent him over the edge (redundant because he went over the edge anyway)

        Fact is the law does not help the mentally ill. Here is a most excellent article on this situation.

        http://www.ocweekly.com/2012-03-22/news/lauras-law-national-alliance-on-mental-illness/

        Fact is your family was VERY fortunate. Most families are not with their mentally ill loved ones and society at large, well their hands are also tied by the law.

        THAT is what needs to be addressed.

        RICHARD I am editing this comment to include the record as it stands. This NBC report says a short time AFTER the call to police he made he SOUGHT treatment at the VA hospital. Richard, that does not mean he was treated, given medication or anything!

        http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/53036707/#53036707

        Now read this. The VA on their own website regarding mental health care makes it seem all nice and cozy. Fact is that it is NOT.

        This is an important read for you Richard regarding your assumption that he actually received care at the VA (especially in light of the time frame of when he SOUGHT care and that when seen he was obviously not a threat to self or others as deemed by whatever professional he saw or spoke to or he would have been hospitalized)

        http://www.stripes.com/investigation-blasts-va-over-wait-times-for-mental-health-care-1.175340

        Read that please Richard. All the details are not in, but it most certainly has ONLY been stated that he “sought” mental health care in August.

        I apologize for being a stickler on details, but these details really DO make a difference when discussing this tragedy whether it be from the access to guns aspect or the lack of him being restricted from access due to mental illness.

        1. @ Robin: The NYT story says he actually saw medical personnel both in Rhode Island and Virginia who both prescribed trazadone for insomnia. So he did receive some form of treatment or at least was seen by VA staff. Admittedly, this treatment was insufficient at least in part because he was deliberately concealing his condition from them.

          Another problem is that the RI police reported the psychotic episode to the Navy. The article says it’s not clear whether the report received any attention from Navy personnel. But I think it should’ve raised a few red flags.

          1. http://www.boston.com/metrodesk/2013/09/18/aaron-alexis-sought-treatment-last-month-hospitals-providence-washington/q0rpAdkENGND16i054B4SJ/story.html

            Received a prescription for insomnia and told to follow up with a PRIMARY CARE DOCTOR.

            That is certainly not seeking mental health treatment or he would have been referred to a psychiatrist (prescribes meds) or a therapist (talk doc)

            Mind you this confirms the NBC story, that he went to the VA AFTER the police incident claiming microwave attack.

            Remember this word: “anosognosia” or “lack of insight”, the mentally ill person is so mentally ill they do not know they need help. 50% of schizophrenics and 40% of bipolars suffer from this condition.

      3. RICHARD I am editing this comment to include the record as it stands. This NBC report says a short time AFTER the call to police he made he SOUGHT treatment at the VA hospital. Richard, that does not mean he was treated, given medication or anything!

        http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/53036707/#53036707

        Now read this. The VA on their own website regarding mental health care makes it seem all nice and cozy. Fact is that it is NOT.

        This is an important read for you Richard regarding your assumption that he actually received care at the VA (especially in light of the time frame of when he SOUGHT care and that when seen he was obviously not a threat to self or others as deemed by whatever professional he saw or spoke to or he would have been hospitalized)

        http://www.stripes.com/investigation-blasts-va-over-wait-times-for-mental-health-care-1.175340

        Read that please Richard. All the details are not in, but it most certainly has ONLY been stated that he “sought” mental health care in August.

        I apologize for being a stickler on details, but these details really DO make a difference when discussing this tragedy whether it be from the access to guns aspect or the lack of him being restricted from access due to mental illness.

        Which begs the point I keep making. The bar is HIGH when doing a 5150 on someone (3 days) which can be extended to 2 weeks in some cases, RARELY extended to 30 days at which time a hearing is called and a conservator MAY be appointed for a mentally ill patient. Otherwise, the onus is on the mentally ill person themselves to seek and remain in treatment.

  2. Your headline bothers me a lot! Every time a shooting takes place, persons with some form of mental illness are confronted with these general accusations of mental patients and aggression. This just isn’t true.

    A better headline would have been:
    Lack of Mental Health Care and a Inherent Violent Society Leads to Catastrophy.

    The problem of lack in mental/health care plus the deep rooted love for guns and violence in America, leads to disaster. I see little reference or links to the issue of Israel on this event.

    1. Richard did not infer anything about mental patients and aggression. In my reading he is only saying that guns in the hands of the mentally ill is not wise and should be prevented. Two separate issues, lack of mental health care and allowing the mentally ill to have access to guns.

      Unless you think the mentally ill should not be discriminated against regarding gun access then I don’t see what your issue with the title is.

        1. I didn’t say that. Richard didn’t say that. So let me ask you this question Oui. Are you against keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill because the vast majority of them are not violent?

      1. @ Robin: Absolutely right and thanks for understanding my views on this. Thanks as well for those informative comments on general issues of mental illness. You clearly know much more about the intricacies of laws & procedures than I do & your knowledge helps ground the discussion.

    2. @ Oui: I take your point. The headline was meant to be dramatic. On Twitter, someone who told me he was mentally ill took real exception to my entire post. His argument, which he refused to explain, seemed to be that the mentally ill should be treated no differently than anyone else (including regarding access to guns). My post angered him tremendously. All I can say is that the only point I was trying to make is that mental illness is so complicated a condition that I believe the mentally ill should not have access to guns both for their own safety and that of others. In this, I’m not trying to single them out for opprobrium since I believe that most members of the public except hunters & law enforcement should have limited access to guns.

      That being said, at least to me it seems obvious the mentally ill shouldn’t have access to guns. I don’t think I said the majority of mentally ill are violent or homicidal. And I certainly wasn’t trying to stigmatize them.

  3. What astounds me is that this level of mass murder– and the writing off of the issues behind the perpetrator, mental condition and all– is considered to be “business as usual”.

    I think there’s been at least half a dozen “newsworthy” large scale shootings in the states over the past four or five months– I haven’t really been paying too much attention– and yet there are so many high-profile people who will do anything to ensure that access to military grade firearms and ammunition stays as open as possible.

    Crazy, just like the “unequivocal” support for the sociopaths in tel aviv who make America suffer financially, socially, and politically.

  4. Richard, this is slightly off topic but I think somewhat relevant. I have a friend in Los Angeles whose son has just joined the IDF. He was a very troubled child and teenager, and always had special tutoring of some kind within the school system. He hated Palestinians with a passion, and me because he knew I supported them. I’m not sure what his disabilities were, but I think one was Asperger’s Syndrome. At around age 18 he became very religious and decided he would move to Israel and join a Yeshiva. His mother was relieved on two counts. First he was very difficult for her to handle, antisocial bordering on violent, so she was relieved he would no longer be living at home. Secondly she felt that as a Yeshiva student in Israel he would be exempt from military service. Two or three months later she told me he had left the Yeshiva and joined the IDF, and was now proudly serving in the Golani Brigade. I confess I fear for any Palestinians who cross his path, and I can only pray he isn’t serving in occupied Palestine. I was stunned to learn that such an obviously disturbed young man was able to join the IDF, and I wonder if it would have been so easy for him to join the U.S. military (which of course he had no interest in doing, choosing to enlist in the IDF even though he had no connection to Israel.) If there are many like him in the IDF I’m not surprised at the lawlessness of the military in the Wild West Bank.

    1. @ Mary
      1. being in the golani brigade isn’t the same as being a combatant in the golani brigade. most of the IDF by far consist more non-combatant than combatant. you should check with your friend what exactly does he do and even then be skeptical because many exaggerate as to what they are doing in the army.

      2. if he is a combatant than, he had 7 months of bootcamp where he is put to the test in many stressful situation, in which, if his commanders doesn’t think he his fit to be a combatant he isn’t going to be one and they’ll find him another non combatant roll, usually with in the unit he served – in this instance – golani. in my experience it doesn’t take long to figure out whose fit and whose not – usually in the first month or so (although there are some exceptions). if he made it through all of that with additional 4 months serving in one of the lines to finish his training than either he fooled everyone (which can happen – there’s never 100%) or he’s doing a lot better than you think. either way, i hope he stays safe and returns home even better than he left it.

      3. the IDF has some programs to enlist many kids (not mandatory of course) who suffer from all sorts of autism and/or dysfunctional behaviour in order to make them feel ‘normal’ in Israeli society contributing like any other kid their age (18). for instance, in the logistic department they hand out the gear and uniform when you get called for the reserves.

      4. “choosing to enlist in the IDF even though he had no connection to Israel.”
      being jewish IS the connection to Israel. how can you not see that while commentating in a blog mostly dedicated to Israel and the I-P conflict run by a jewish american?

      1. @Noam.
        Thank you for the clarification; I already feel some relief from my fear this young man is already running around the West Bank taking pot shots at Palestinian kids who might (or might not) throw stones at an Israeli tank.

        As for your defense of a young American opting to serve in the IDF; I personally think it should be illegal for Americans to join foreign military forces. But that’s just me. If he wants to help fight illegal wars he could enlist in the U.S.Marines.

      2. @ Noam: I don’t think that you and Mary Hughes Thompson are far removed in your perspectives on IDF service for American Jews. Of course, there are some who seek a new identity for which Israel is an attractive alternative. But by and large this is a negative phenomenon as it’s produced True Believers: some of the worst of the settler movement and IDF recruits who may be even more likely to kill Palestinians than some native Israelis.

        1. @ Richard,
          in my experience, the vast majority who came to israel to enlist which i either served with, commanded or just met in general were more concerned about their jewish roots and protecting their homeland or just having a fresh start than to kill palestinians. even finding a jewish bride is more an incentive than killing and they are not coming only from the US but from all over the world and from different socio-economic situations.

          whether it should be legal or not that’s for each country to decide on it’s own. i can easily understand both arguments.

  5. I SO disagree with this article, even though it seems to be an attempt at trying to do better in regards to the mentally ill.

    “But, remarkably, should a psychiatrist have been able to evaluate this man before the shootings, suffering though he appeared to be from hearing voices and delusions, it’s not clear he could have been easily detained involuntarily by current mental health legislation. The law, both in the USA and the UK, supports doctors in seeking involuntary admission to hospital, only if they can convince the authorities that a patient is an immediate danger to himself or others.

    Perhaps in the wake of these recent shootings, involuntary mental health legislation and practice should be loosened from ‘imminent danger’, to a ‘reasonable likelihood of violent behaviour’.”

    Seriously, while hindsight is 20-20 vision in cases like Aaron Alexis, I consider it societal violent behavior towards ALL mentally ill patients to have the bar set so high in regards to imminent danger to self and others.

    Just walking by the homeless mentally ill who obviously can not take care of themselves and ARE in danger living on the streets. What about that? I related the story of the severely schizophrenic homeless woman my daughter has been trying to help for over a year. She is NOT SAFE when she is on the streets off her meds. But the law only considers suicide ideation as being imminent threat to self. I maintain that when one is endangered because they do not have the capacity to care for themselves, something HAS to be done in order to protect them because they are not protecting themselves.

    Our mental health laws are so screwed up. I am not a professional in the field, just an observer who has volunteered working with the homeless over 25 years as well I did my college internship on a homeless shelter that was being established in my community for families. Going back I also did my January winterim project volunteering in Washington DC with Mitch Snyder’s (he committed suicide after I met and volunteered with him) Community for Creative Non-Violence which takes a very radical approach to the homeless problem. So many are mentally ill, so many cannot take care of themselves with people just walking past them blaming them for their own condition.

    OK, I’ll stop ranting now. My bottom line observance is that the bar is set TOO high for the mentally ill to be hospitalized against their will. I am NOT in favor of institutionalizing all mentally ill persons, but something has to GIVE because we as a society are NOT acting in humane manner.

    Here’s the article the quote came from

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-raj-persaud/washington-shooting-naval-yard_b_3960983.html

  6. Mitch was conflicted Oui. I don’t know if you know of him or just looked up articles when I made a reference to him. I chose homelessness in America as my paper for my January winterim in 1987. Mitch promised me an interview with him but in order to get it I needed to volunteer. I did that, serving the homeless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the Capital steps for three days in protest. He then gave me the interview which I still have on tape. In regards to the movie made about him starring Martin Sheen, Mitch asked me if I wanted to sleep on a heat grate with him and Martin that night behind the Library of Congress which is actually where he gave me the interview (in the cafeteria). Yes he was OUT there and a whole lot of people disagreed with his tactics because he was so radical. I was in DC in the dead of winter when the blizzard of the decade hit. Mitch did NOT look down on the mentally ill and he also RESPECTED the homeless, understanding how they got there. I’m just grateful I was able to meet him in the capacity that I did. He may have put on a media blitz but it was one that was needed.

    1. Understood from your post, Mitch Snyder was someone special. That’s why I searched who he was to get his ideals in context. Just great admiration for persons who get involved with the homeless and relate to complex social issues.

      Remembering Mitch Snyder

      In 1981, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States. For many the Reagan Administration is remembered for Reaganomics and ending the Cold War. Yet the poor and homeless of the time remember it rather for a dramatic reduction in housing and social services, Boss Tweed politics, and constant reminders that a mythical “welfare queen” in Chicago and exaggerated “welfare cheats” across America made their poverty their fault. “Mr. Reagan and Congress’s housing cutbacks are directly responsible for the homeless problem,” Snyder once said of the Administration.

      On Thanksgiving Day 1981, tents appeared in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. A sign amidst the spread of tents read “Reaganville: Reagonomics at Work.” The tent city, an intentional throwback to the Hooverville encampments of the Great Depression, held 20-25 homeless persons and activists each night for the next four months. For many observers, a fine line had been drawn between what is real and what is theater. Such was precisely Snyder’s desire.

      Even a Suprme Court case – William P. Clark, Jr., Secretary of the Interior, et al. v. Community for Creative Non-Violence, et al.

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