Why Treating the Mentally Ill as Suspects is Counter Productive

The mentally ill need care, not suspicion. Yet a visit with your therapist can occasionally feel like an interrogation as they try to cover their backs from the unknown. And it’s not like their performance goes undetected. The mentally ill are simultaneously some of the smartest people in the world; though they may be treated as minds of inconsequential validity, rest assured that they are observant and capable of unwanted inference. How to treat such talent while protecting society – that is a very difficult balance.

The foremost indicator of future violence is past violence, but all too often people are buried under suspicion without any past violence at all. Should there be a need to put someone under suspicion for their condition, it must be the result of an evaluation done without suspicion, since suspicion on the part of the doctor leads to fear on the part of the patient, which leads to suspicion on the part of the system. Once there is suspicion on the part of the system, it is often too late for a patient to lead a normal life, for they will face an uphill battle for most of their lives.

It is a fact that mass shootings put more power in the hands of psychiatrists, and these psychiatrists are not blind to the scrutiny they will face if – albeit a remote possibility – a terrorist slips their grasp. But we should not ignore the fact that mass shootings make up a relatively insignificant portion of the death rate, despite their sensationalism, and a far greater number of lives are lost to scrutiny than death by bullet – though their stories remain untold.

Beyond Discrimination

When there is discrimination, there is always difficulty getting through it.  But the issue is not simply one of instilling a different mindset toward the discriminated, which is hard enough to do.  The issue also has to do with the fact that discriminators fear retribution for their actions should the discriminated get fair compensation.  This cycle of discrimination and distrust can be overcome by instilling a different mindset in the next generation, but relying on this entails no justice for the current one.  And no justice for the current generation entails slower change, if any.  This cycle can be broken, but there needs to be a perception of fair-mindedness from both sides.  In some areas progress has been made.  It is usually best made when we accept our differences as much as highlight our similarities, and each side recognizes compensation as fair.  Freedom is not Justice, but it is a healthy attitude to take the opportunities given. They can be compensation enough.

What I Learned from my Dad

I was raised with an almost naïve lack of bias against anyone for their superficial qualities. It is “almost naïve” because it is in many ways the correct way to view people – treating each and every person with individual dignity may be exhausting once you come to note that discrimination and reverse discrimination do still exist, but thankfully I made it well into my 20’s without being well aware of any of it, and by then the way that I treated people was mainly fixed.

I did of course know that discrimination existed. I knew of the treatment of Jews and Gypsys during and before WWII. I knew of the impetus for the civil rights movement in America in the 60’s. I knew of racial slurs, even if I never heard them said in person and in earnest. But I never saw discrimination with my own eyes. My naïveté was preserved as a youth and therefore treating people with individual dignity was not exhausting, but feasible.

I am not perfect, but what interpersonal equanimity I have, I owe to my parents and I give special credit to my Dad. My Dad had to fight the wars, day in and day out. The wars of business, the wars of reputation, the wars of attrition and perserverence, and then he had to come home and not ruin us with his personal struggles, temporary as they were, however grand they may have been. Not that there were never negative repercussions, but they were always surmountable, because they did not strike at the core of what is good.

No one is perfect, but my parents had foresight. They saw quite clearly that the world would be a better place for me and everyone, if we did not judge by those superficial qualities into which we are born, but treated each as an individual as best we could. It is all the more impressive knowing that such was not the standard in the age into which they were born. And sadly, if this is the standard today, there are many, persecutors and victims alike, who are distinctly failing to achieve it.