For patients of Fairwinds Treatment Center, their struggles with mental illness, addiction and eating disorders may be severe and require months, if not years, of recovery. But they are lucky in the sense that they have sought or been prescribed treatment, considering how many individuals never seek or are offered therapy for their disorders.
This fact has lead many to question the function and efficacy of the way that local, state and federal policies address mental illness. The sentiment is understandable given what we now know about Elliot Rodger, the shooter who took his own life after stabbing three students and shooting three others with handguns in Isla Vista, California. Rodger, a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), was known to have suffered from severe bouts of depression, and his parents had sought the services of counselors and law enforcement prior to the mass murder.
It's unclear the extent to which an underfunded and under-deployed mental healthcare system played a role in the tragedy. As noted in a recent article by CBS News, therapists in California can only report an individual to the state if they make threats of violence to specific people. Such patients will be barred from purchasing guns for a six month period of time. However, they cannot simply report on someone they believe is a danger to themselves and others if the patient does not make these threats.
One solution that has been put forward by ThinkProgress, a political advocacy and news site, is to incorporate social media into the screening process for mental health patients. The idea is that individuals like Rodgers often demonstrate their violent tendencies and fantasies online, while appearing completely normal and functional when they are approached in person by mental health professionals and law enforcement. However, this raises privacy concerns, as police officers are supposed to obtain search warrants before viewing this information online.
Another proposal that ThinkPorgress makes is that the country spend more on delivering mental health services to those who need it. This is certainly a good idea, but it's hard to implement. Anytime you call for higher spending in any area, whether its mental health or another policy priority, there are the inevitable arguments about whether such investments are worth it.
It remains to be seen whether the most recent mass shooting will change attitudes about the way that mental health services are prioritized by public officials. Typically, these types of incidents spur a great deal of action for a few weeks after the event, but then the momentum slows as countervailing forces and apathy overpower the will to change.
At the moment, it appears that the one change we can all make is to learn how to identify the symptoms of mental illness and seek help for those who exhibit them. This means observing behavior such as addictions and eating disorders and recognizing them for what they often are: the signs of larger, more ingrained mental illnesses that require immediate treatment.
If you know someone who may be dealing with these issues, we hope you'll contact Fairwinds Treatment Center today. Our dual diagnosis treatment programs provide an effective response to the kinds of mental illnesses that lead to destructive behavior, both to one's self and others. Give us a call today at (727) 449-0300 for more information about our inpatient and outpatient services.