by Jeff Mcgill
Mental Health Programs in America Need Help….
“Oh no, please help” were the last words my daughter said as she lay dying on a sidewalk in a beautiful Washington DC neighborhood. She was the victim of a random act of violence by a person who should not have been on the streets. The person who did this unthinkable deed to my darling daughter had a history of mental issues. I do not know the specifics of his illness, other than he was on meds and had been observed in the area acting “strangely”. The DC police knew of him and were concerned about his issues and behavior. I cannot help but at least partially blame my daughter’s tragic death on the changes in our mental health care system in the past 50 years, that have decreased the options for dealing, helping, holding, and housing people who need help. It is a failed system.
I live in California, where the clearing out of mental health facilities, the reduction of funding, and the lack of mental health professionals available for help has been continually cut for the most part since the late 60’s. The reasoning and rationale for this social and cultural movement is another lengthy story, but has been followed nationwide by most states. California prides itself on “leading the nation in change”. Concerning this particular subject, there is NO pride in the title.
Nationwide, help for mentally ill persons is still in decline. Many of the social violence issues we face today; gun violence, stabbings, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery, etc. are often perpetuated by people who need mental help. Many times, as in the instance of my daughter’s murderer, the person was known to have mental issues, had a criminal record of petty crime, but because of weak laws, could not be held for more than 72 hours at a time. Often, mentally ill people are turned back out on the street, shortly after being brought in for minor issues. Many times, there is neither a place for them to go or professionals available to help them.
I feel that many mentally ill people want and need help, but do not know where to go or who to talk to. The most seriously mentally ill are incapable of caring for themselves or even seeking help. While their families try to help, they are also somewhat powerless to help because of the adult age of their mentally ill family members. I think many of these people, and their families, know they need psychiatric help, maybe need medication, or have had their medication run out, but they cannot get help or medication because of the downsizing of the mental health support systems these last 50 plus years.
My solution to my mental health concerns are:
- 1) Increase mental health funding at the national, state, and local level.
- 2)Re visit current mental health laws to better help people.
- 3) Increase the number of residential and outpatient facilities for the mentally ill.
- 4) Increase the number of mental health professionals available to help people.
- 5) Develop a nationwide model for observing and holding mentally ill persons who have been identified as needing more help, or as a danger to themselves or society.
- 6) Provide an entry and exit model, so that mentally ill persons can get help and return to society, once they are identified as safe. Model to include consistent follow-up for patients.
I feel that today’s mentally ill are saying “oh no, please help” also, but often are not heard. Let’s begin to start helping them. My wonderful daughter, who was a shining light for so many around the world would have loved a cause such as this. Hence, I sadly take on this crusade for her.
Jeff Magill, Father of Margery Magill