October 9, 2013 at 7:34 PM
Boarding the mentally ill
Mental illness does not predict violent behavior
I wanted to thank you for your coverage of the “boarding” problem in Washington state in the article “Boarding mentally ill becoming epidemic”. [page one, Oct. 6].
This article turned a spotlight on the damage caused by keeping involuntarily detained patients with mental illnesses in chaotic and confusing emergency departments for long periods of time, aka “boarding.” This is a serious problem that the public needs to be aware of, causing trauma to the patient and incurring serious expenses.
I was concerned, however, that the article may have contributed to a common misperception that people with mental illnesses are prone to violence — a stigma that those with mental illness must live with everyday. While scared and confused people, including those with and without mental illness, sometimes act out in violent ways when facing a crisis, the reality is that mental illness alone does not cause one to be violent and the vast majority of those with mental illnesses are not violent.
I understand that this article was highlighting some instances of violence to demonstrate how the problem of boarding can lead to acts of violence by some people with mental illness. But I think it is worth pointing out that most people with mental illness are not violent and that mental illness alone does not predict violent behavior.
Thank you again for your reporting on this important topic.
Kyle Czeh, Bellevue
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