When the U.S. began dismantling government-run mental institutions a half-century ago, privacy protections made it tougher to hospitalize people forcibly, says the Wall Street Journal. The goal was to allow the mentally ill to live something close to a regular life. After a series of high-profile shooting rampages, many with links to mental illness, the U.S. is re-examining this approach. Some of the loudest voices for overhaul are from the families of the mentally ill.
Jared Loughner, who killed six and injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 in Tucson, had withdrawn from college after he was required to take a mental-health evaluation. Attorneys for James Holmes, who killed 12 people in a Colorado theater last July, are seeking an insanity defense. The shootings have led to discussions around mental health status and gun background checks. Four states proposed laws requiring mental health professionals warn third parties if a patient is believed dangerous. New York passed such a law. Critics say it will prompt patients to stay away from treatment. Advocates for the mentally ill disagree on how to reconcile the tension between patient rights and public safety.