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Jan 282014

Many mental illnesses are unfortunately inherited to one extent or another, and many of these mental illnesses effect the families in very dramatic and tragic ways. They also sometimes lead to big tragedies outside their families such as the case of the school shooter, Adam Lanza,  who killed his mother, then went to a nearby school and killed 20 children as well as several adults.

Here is an excellent article about the search for why  Adam did what he did, and how the “system” failed this young man.

we must examine every piece of evidence. Learning more about the mental state of the shooter is unlikely to ever complete the puzzle but it is a critically important trail to fol By no means do all shooters have a diagnosable mental illness, for one. For those shooters who are mentally ill, the illness may be only one of many factors enabling and driving the violence, including substance abuse and dependence, isolation and social disconnectedness, impairments in the capacity for empathy, festering grievances and political fanaticism, to name a few. What’s more, our ability to predict who, amongst the mentally ill, will actually be a shooter (or exhibit other homicidal behavior) is terribly limited.
Nevertheless, there is a certain logic to our seeking to understand the role that mental illness plays. We have a desperate need to understand why these things happen, if only to experience the transient relief that a sense of control can deliver. We know there must be something very “wrong” with the shooter: not knowing what that is, we must examine every piece of evidence. Learning more about the mental state of the shooter is unlikely to ever complete the puzzle but it is a critically important trail to follow. By no means do all shooters have a diagnosable mental illness, for one.

Virginia senator Creigh Deeds’ son who was bi-polar attacked him with a knife, stabbing him multiple times, then killed himself with a gun. The young Deeds was severely bi-polar and his father had taken him to a hospital ER under court order, but since a bed in a psychiatric institution was not found within six hours, the hospital turned them away and told the Senator to take his son home. The next morning the son attacked the father.

‘I turned my back and he was on me’: Scarred Senator Creigh Deeds breaks silence about moment his son stabbed him before he killed himself – and blames health system for allowing it to happen
Deeds has spoken out in an interview that will air in full on Sunday about the moment his son stabbed him last November
But he said he did not want his ‘perfect’ son to be remembered for the attack, and instead blamed the health system on allowing it to happen
The day before the attack, the family had tried to check him in to a psychiatric ward – but he was turned away as there were no beds
Deeds has now vowed to make mental health reform his top priority

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2545270/Virginia-Senator-Creigh-Deeds-breaks-silence-moment-son-stabbed-him.html#ixzz2rLKirccH

Having myself worked in several in-patient facilities for the mentally ill, and in one outpatient clinic for the chronically mentally ill, I empathize with the families of mentally ill individuals who are not treated because of various reasons. One  reason is lack of facilities, other reasons are therapy not being affordable or available, therapy or medications not being available because o f the patients lack of funds, family interference with treatments, dysfunction in the family with several members of the household all having mental illness, and the list could go on  to infinity.  That and the laws that bar a potentially dangerous mentally ill person from being  detained against their will unless they are ACTIVELY trying to hurt someone or themselves in the immediate moment.

I have worked with various family members who were desperately trying to find help for their mentally ill relative to little or no avail. Many of these mentally ill commit crimes and end up in prison where they receive little or no therapy or help.

With elderly patients suffering early stages of mental illness and dementia which makes them vulnerable to people conning them out of their money, as long as they know the approximate date, their own name, can draw a clock, and know who the president is, they can not be “declared” and a guardian appointed to take care of them. So the family is forced to sit on the sidelines and allow the con man (or con woman) to abuse their parent’s lack of judgment. One of my own friends and neighbors was in this position, her father had been latched on to by a drug addicted woman half his age and she physically abused the old man, took every dime he had every month, and left him when the money was gone  only to return the next month and repeat the process. It took several years of this abuse before he deteriorated mentally enough that his daughter could legally become his guardian and have  him placed in a locked facility for his own protection.

Not all mentally ill people or people with dementia are dangerous to themselves or others, but some are and those people who are unstable and violent need to be treated  and/or confined BEFORE they commit crimes that land them in prison or on death row.

Many people who are mentally ill end up as homeless, living on the streets, many by choice. Their worst crime is self harm by alcohol or drugs, and failure to conform to therapy voluntarily.

It is not against the law for  an adult  to refuse to take medication prescribed by a health care provider unless that person is so mentally ill and/or dangerous as well and is institutionalized. Then it can only be done under a court order or they must be released in 72 hours.

John Hinckley, Jr., the man who tried to kill  President Reagan, is a perfect example of a dangerous person who is dangerous because of his mental illness.  Frankly, I think if he had tried to kill an “ordinary citizen” he would already be freely back out on the streets, though he is now allowed frequent visits with his family  unsupervised. Here is an interesting article from wiki about this man’s history, both before and after he tried to kill the president.


Another very sad story is about a mother murdered by her son.

DEEP RIVER, Conn. (AP) — Margaret Rohner worried about her troubled adult son not taking his psychiatric medications and told a friend he needed to be hospitalized. But she was eager to see him over Christmas and, despite earlier reservations, agreed to let him come to her home to open presents and spend the night.
The day after Christmas, the 45-year-old Rohner was viciously attacked with a fireplace poker and knife, her eviscerated body left in the living room of her Deep River home. Her 23-year-old son, Robert O. Rankin, was charged with murder.

Take special note of the comments to this last article from family members of the seriously mentally ill. In some cases the seriously mentally ill have families who are supportive and could be helpful, such as this woman, but the law will not allow them to become guardians of these people or to mandate that these people be kept confined before they kill someone.

Other times, it has been my experience that many chronically mentally ill come from dysfunctional families who are also mentally ill and unable to help or support them.

Prisons unfortunately are filled with the chronically mentally ill who have assaulted others, and they might be much better served in inpatient facilities for the criminally insane where they can be supervised and medicated.

Whether offenders are offenders because of mental illness, or because they have a personality disorder like my son and are breaking the law because they want to, the effect on the families is devastating. The mother of Adam Lanza and this poor woman are both examples of the devastation caused by lack of necessary mental health treatments. While many people with bi-polar and other “serious” mental illnesses live “mainstream” lives with treatment, support and medication. The small percentage of people with these and other mental illnesses live lives of suffering and chaos.

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  5 Responses to “The role of mental illness in family dysfunction”

  1. New Article Up

  2. It’s a shame that society isn’t necessarily there to help those who truly need it. I knew a couple who had a child with severe issues. There were many courses of action they could take, but ultimately they would be in violation of something, in some way, shape or form and risked losing it all, no matter what they tried to do. The agencies that were supposed to be there to help them, all pushed them aside, claimed their hands were tied and did nothing. The only thing they could do was wait for something really, really bad to happen, but by then it’s far too late…

  3. I ran into a friend the other day whose adult son is chronically mentally ill and is arrested from time to time for petty crimes. She is his legal guardian which gives her some say in his care and treatment but still she is FRUSTRATED by the “system” which abuses her son.

    She is also a psych nurse which helps her have an understanding of her son’s problems, and she knows the systems and how they work.

    Not all seriously mentally ill people are dangerous, but in an “episode” of mania or psychotic break where they hallucinate they can become dangerous. TREATMENT is the answer, but unfortunately there are too few resources for the number of people needing treatment.

  4. I recently got an e mail from a mother, I’ll call her “Sue” about her daughter “Jane” who had been arrested for drunk and disorderly, attacking an officer, etc. Sue was devastated because she feared that her daughter might get some significant time behind bars.

    Since then, Sue has told me that the charges have been reduced if her daughter gets counseling and medication. Jane is improving some but still has visions and hallucinations, though she has started back to work at some job.

    I would recommend to Sue take her daughter to the ER at any time she is suffering from visual or auditory hallucinations, and also to seek social security disability for her daughter and guardianship as well.

    Guardianship for adults by another adult must show that the ward is not able either by mental or physical defect to care for themselves and keep themselves safe. It will require a court order, and you may need an attorney, but the judge looks at the evidence that the person is a danger to him or herself and that the person asking for guardianship is able and willing to care for the ward (the person needing a guardian)

    I just personally went through a guardianship hearing for my mother and was appointed her guardian. There are two parts to guardianship. One is of the physical ward, the other is the guardian of the ward”s estate and a report must be issued to the court yearly to show that the guardian has spent the ward’s money (if any) in a business like manner to take care of the ward.

    If the ward has little or no resources or money the guardian can apply for medicaid and other benefits for health care, etc. In some cases a group home may be the right placement for a ward, or a nursing home if they are confused and elderly. There are agencies that you can contact to help you with these things. Hospitals all have social workers to help you as well. Or your local health department.

    Mental illness is a big problem in our criminal justice system and way too many of mentally ill people either in up in jail or prison or living homeless on the streets where especially women are prey for others. It is a difficult load for a loved one, parent or child to handle so seek and find the best support in your community to help you. God bless all such families.

  5. I remember when Creigh Deeds was first running for office, he visited my former neighborhood. He came to my house and introduced himself. I didn’t know anything about his family members. until the story about his son attacking him appeared in the news. I was sorry to learn that his son had severe mental health issues. Mental illness truly sucks.

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