July 23, 2004

Meds May Prevent Violence

A recent homicide case in Cincinnati has once again reminded mental illness advocates and the general public that refusal to take medication is the main cause of violent acts from people with mental illness.

Ohio resident Charles A. McCoy, described as "loving and sweet" by family members, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He went through long periods without medication, despite his families best efforts. He is currently charged with killing an 85-year-old friend.

The vicious cycle cited by mental health advocates is a familiar one to most affected families: "The delusions convince the person that there is no illness. Worse, doctors and concerned family members recommending treatment could be seen as part of a plot." Because legal options to enforce treatment compliance for people with poor insight are seldom used or don't exist, this cycle all too often escalates into acts of criminal violence or tragic suicide.

"If we had the appropriate resources to bring to bear on treatment, we probably would be able to prevent some of these tragedies," said the board president of NAMI Ohio.

Ohio, along with 42 other states, actually has legislation that allows for court-mandated treatment compliance without hospitalization for the mentally ill. However, since many people (including judges themselves) aren't aware that this legal option exists, it is rarely brought up in court. Moreover, hot debates over patient and personal rights make many judges hesitant to order compliance if a person does not meet the very narrow definition of "a danger to themselves or others."

National advocacy organizations such as NAMI and the Treatment Advocacy Center are active proponents of such "assisted treatment" options for the mentally ill, largely because of the high percentage of patients that aren't able to recognize their sickness.

For more information, please see "Meds May Prevent Violence" in the Cincinnati Post, July 22, 2004. (http://www.cincypost.com/2004/07/22/mental07-22-2004.html)

For more information on assisted treatment and mental illness legislation in different states, see the Treatment Advocacy Center website (http://www.psychlaws.org) or the "Assisted Treatment" section of schizophrenia.com (http://www.schizophrenia.com/invol.html).


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