Public Comment

My Thoughts on the Berkeley Hills Murder

By Jack Bragen
Tuesday February 28, 2012 - 12:57:00 PM

When someone with mental illness is presumed guilty of a crime, it's all over the news, and this promotes the misconception that mentally ill people are automatically criminals and that criminals are automatically mentally ill. Persons with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of crimes than perpetrators of them. 

Doing away with rights of persons with mental illness, to me doesn't appear to be a solution. A large part of the problem is the perception of the public that persons with mental illness are across the board dangerous. Most persons who have a mental illness pose no threat to society. Forced treatment may not prevent these occasional violent incidents from happening. You could create more anger among people with mental illness when you try to suppress the basic rights of that population, and thus, the restrictive laws could backfire. 

Noncompliance is a real problem for persons with mental illness. Family members are upset that they can't get their loved one into treatment when they are ill and are not accepting treatment. While I might agree with some type of change to the laws, I don't believe the current proposals are quite right. You should not increase the legal restrictions on persons with mental illness without also making conditions better for us. I'm seeing the whip, or the shackles, but I'm not seeing the carrot. If the problems that persons with mental illness face are addressed, it might do a lot more to increase voluntary compliance with treatment. As it is, you have a population which has little hope of having a "good" or pleasurable existence. Most people with mental illness don't have much to look forward to except maybe their next cigarette or a piece of chocolate cake with their meal. Getting persons with mental illness into employment in work situations that we can handle would do a lot toward increasing hope. When you force treatment on people without providing anything to look forward to, you are killing hope. This could create a great number of suicides, or even homicides among those with mental illness. Don't kill our hope. 

Other than that, the public perception is warped because we don't see the same public outcry when someone is murdered in Oakland, say, in an armed robbery, compared to the much more rare incidents of mentally ill persons perpetrating violence. 

I have heard of about three suicides among persons with mental illness (who attend a support group that I go to) in the past two years. Where is the public outcry over that?