What if Potentially Violent People Won’t Get Help For Mental Illness?


Andrew Engeldinger’s parents pushed him for two years to seek treatment for what they suspected was mental illness. Even though he became increasingly paranoid and experienced delusions, there was nothing they could do, says the Associated Press. Minnesota doesn’t allow people to be forced into treatment without proof that they are a threat to themselves or others. Engeldinger’s parents were horrified when their son, 36, went on a workplace shooting spree, killing the owner of a business, three employees and a UPS driver. Engeldinger then killed himself.

“They wanted him to get treatment. They wanted him to get help,” said Sue Abderholden of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a family spokeswoman. “You’re not going to convince someone they’re ill if they don’t want to believe it.” It is a problem faced by friends and relatives of people suffering from mental illness, along with police officers and health care providers where they turn for help. While a small number of the mentally ill commit violence, the difficulty of getting treatment and ensuring it is successful, and the catastrophic consequences of failure, are common threads that often link such outbursts. “These are not random acts of violence,” said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist at the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Maryland, who believes that “these episodes will increase in number and severity and will continue until we figure out what to do about it.”

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