Rights of the Mentally Ill

However, a spouse abuser who tried to kill his wife may not fall under that classification, even if he incidentally suffered from depression, unless that depression could be causally linked to the triggering incident.

The second consideration is that not all mental illnesses are associated with the same risk of violence. The American Psychiatric Association revises its mental illnesses with enough frequency to make it clear that they are only now just beginning to understand the complexity of mental illness. Therefore, while a century ago it may have been appropriate to lock away everyone suffering from mental illness as a means of protecting society, that approach is no longer warranted. Some mental illnesses are associated with a greater risk of harming others than other mental illnesses. For example, people suffering from depression pose a risk of harming themselves, but may also pose a greater risk of harming themselves. However, while many people assume that schizophrenics are all dangerous because of delusions, the fact is that schizophrenia is not always linked to paranoid delusions and may not increase someones dangerousness.

Therefore, each individuals mental health should be thoroughly assessed before proposing an involuntary commitment.

The third consideration is that commitment may not be the most appropriate way to safeguard society from the mentally ill individual. First, committing someone does not mean that they cannot harm someone; on the contrary, a person who is committed has access to a vulnerable population of other mentally ill individuals. Second, commitment may not be the best way of addressing someones mental health issues. Depending on the underlying mental health issues, an individual may actually respond to drug therapy within a matter of a few days. Medication compliance can be assured in an outpatient setting, protecting society while respecting the liberty of the individual. In these scenarios, where other medical interventions can provide for the same outcome as hospitalization, it is important to thoroughly examine those options before hospitalizing.

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