Yisroel Pensack: Arizona Assassin Should Have Been in Psychiatric Treatment

In an article headlined “Jared Loughner: Focus on delusions, not politics,” San Francisco Chronicle reporters Carolyn Jones and Casey Newton zero in on the real issue underlying the Arizona congressional assassination attempt and mass-murder tragedy — an insane legal system that largely leaves it up to psychotics themselves to decide whether to seek or undergo treatment for their mental illness:

SAN FRANCISCO — Posting strange and paranoid messages on the Internet and fixating on the end of the world, accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner appeared to be more driven by a delusional mind than a real interest in politics, mental health experts said Sunday.

“I doubt people who say this is about politics have a good understanding of mental illness,” said Dr. Bob Dolgoff, medical director of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center‘s mental health division. “It could be conspiracy theories or men from outer space. The important thing here is, why wasn’t he in treatment?”…

In California and Arizona, people believed to be mentally ill can be hospitalized involuntarily only if they’re considered a danger to themselves or others or if their illness has left them severely disabled. Only a judge can force someone to undergo treatment. Parents cannot.

To ease the process, some mental health advocates are pushing for wider implementation of laws such as California’s Laura’s Law, which was enacted in 2003 to make it easier for authorities to force patients to take medication. Funding and civil rights concerns have prevented the law from being enforced in most California counties…

Violence is not a common symptom of schizophrenia or other mental illnesses, experts said. In fact, those with psychiatric disorders are more likely to become the victims of violence, or turn the gun on themselves…

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