Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Blame Game Begins

Here it goes.  As I predicted right after the tragic Aurora Colorado shooting, the media has jumped on the fact that, apparently, James Holmes, the evil killer responsible for the shooting, had been seeing a psychiatrist.  That psychiatrist was part of a threat assessment team on the University of Colorado campus, and had voiced some concern over his behavior to the team.  Also, James allegedly sent her a package containing some violent imagery that may have given clues as to what he was planning to do, but she never received it.  The threat assessment team chose to overlook the potential threat they suspected in James Holmes when he withdrew from the University. 

This type of media coverage bothers me.  Yes, our mental health care system has flaws.  And, I will even concede that this threat assessment team failed in it's mission.  Indeed, they might even hold some liability.  But, it really is more complicated than to think that a mental health professional could become concerned over a patient's behavior, report that behavior to the authorities, and then society is automatically protected from an evil person.  It is really difficult to hospitalize someone against their will.  Plus, mental health professionals are bound by confidentiality to keep many things to themselves.  When they feel sure that a client is a threat, they can and should notify authorities and work with the client to get help, but getting them hospitalized long-term is an up-hill battle.  Managed care won't allow patients to stay long, and in truth, we have a lot of "crazy" folks roaming our streets, dependent on their medication to stay sane.  Part of this is good.  We used to send our mentally ill to asylums where they were inhumanely treated and locked away forever.  Now, we recognize that even the mentally ill have civil rights. 

So, if James Holmes overly told his psychiatrist that he had plans to commit such a monsterous act, she should have told authorities, who should have had him hospitalized.  Then, he probably would have been medicated and released.  He may have recieved some ongoing therapy.  But, whether we like it or not, in one hour a week, a therapist can not learn all a client's plans, thoughts, and actions, and they certainly can't "fix" someone who doesn't want help.

So, let's stop pointing the finger and just put the blame where it lies.  With James Holmes, the one that pulled the trigger.

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