Even if only a small fraction of mentally ill people commit violent acts, there are plenty of serious incidents involving people who were not getting adequate treatment, reports the Washington Post. Getting treatment for mental illness once was relatively easy, causing psychiatric centers to become dumping grounds. Some experts say the pendulum has swung too far the other way, with most states requiring proof of a person’s “imminent danger” to themselves or others before giving them treatment.
“Right now, we only deal with the extreme cases,” said John C. Whitbeck Jr., who oversees a George Mason University law school program that helps families seeking help from the courts for mentally ill relatives in civil commitment hearings. “And that’s not getting anything done because so many people need to be addressed at the middle level.” Robert Keisling, former head of emergency psychiatrict services in Washington, D.C., said, “There’ve been increasing pressures to reduce beds everywhere. And there’s been a dumbing down of the hospital system. Some of the folks doing assessments are not psychologists or psychiatrists, and there are a lot of stupid assessments being made.”