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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

October 17, 2013 at 7:34 AM

Mental illness shouldn’t go untreated

Thank you for bringing attention to this problem

Thank you for you timely and much-needed articles on the crisis in mental illness [“Boarding mentally ill becoming epidemic,” page one, Oct. 6].

Lack of resources, treatment facilities and other issues raised in the articles are vitally important.

However, there is another issue. Mental illness is different from other illnesses because one of its symptoms is the failure to know or acknowledge oneself as being ill. Delusional thoughts are reality.

Imagine if someone were told that something he or she knew as reality were not actually real, he or she was just sick and need help. That person wouldn’t react well. Under our current law, meant to protect the civil liberties of mentally ill people, people can refuse treatment until they are an imminent threat to themselves or others.

Even with better treatment facilities, there is a crucial missing element to help those with mental illness. It is truly heartbreaking to helplessly watch a loved one deteriorate, knowing treatment is available to make huge improvements in his or her life.

It is crucial that we modify our civil commitment standards to save the lives of those with mental illness and others. We’ve seen way too many tragic consequences resulting from untreated mental illness. We can do this in two ways: change the civil commitment standard from “imminent” to “substantial likelihood” and adopt a lower standard for required outpatient treatment, in which the deprivation of personal liberty is much less.

Tim Osborn, Seattle

Comments | More in Mental illness | Topics: mental illness

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