Thursday, August 31, 2017

How the mental health system fails the sickest – and the public

I didn’t know Megan Dix, but felt like I did.

Her friends and family all to a person say Dix was a great daughter, wife, mother and coworker. That’s what made the Lyndonville mom’s murder so unsettling – she was any one of us; a good-natured, high-character person always trying to do her best for those around her.

It was sickening how she was cut down randomly for no logical reason whatsoever a week short of her 34th birthday. It reminds you how short our life is on this planet, because anything -- and this proves anything -- can happen to you or someone you love.

Likewise, I didn’t know Holly Colino (the suspect in Dix’s murder) but felt like I could have.

While we all don’t know people who could coldly kill like Colino had been alleged to, there’s a good chance we know someone battling mental illness like she has been.

You wouldn’t know that, though, because it’s almost become taboo for anyone battling it (or caring for someone with it) to talk about it, for fear of embarrassment or ostracization. It comes in many forms, from body image issues to depression to schizophrenia and it is more common than many think – in any given year, almost 1 in 5 American adults battles mental illness. 

That doesn’t and shouldn’t give Colino a free pass for what she may have done. I, for one, am against all (dis)qualifiers for guilt of murder and rape; if some committed a heinous act while insane or feeble of mind, they’re just as guilty in my book as someone who knew better (and who’s to say that the insane person didn’t know better?).

But, this is just another in a long line of cases where society failed people like Colino and, in turn, innocents like Dix. By abandoning the ill, we’ve put others in harm’s way.

How did no one address Colino’s serious mental health issues with all of the warning signs that were out there?

If you feel like peering into the mind of a confused soul, check out Colino’s Facebook page, Blogger posts, and YouTube videos. They are incoherent, dangerous, and frightening. And they are all screaming for help.

How did that go unchecked? We have countless government agents who mine social media for terrorists. We have a federal artificial intelligence system that scans emails and the internet for threats. Facebook users regularly turn-in to administrators others who post overly-political or allegedly-hateful comments.

Yet, none of those powers or people raised a flag and said, “get this girl some help” or “lock her up.” There were Facebook users who even interacted with her unsafely who failed to inform authorities of the bizarre behavior and threats they experienced.

And, more so, where was society for the good of Colino and the greater good of the population?

It all starts with getting people the help they need, even if it requires being institutionalized or hospitalized.

In the 1970s it became the in-thing to close institutions once known as “insane asylums” due to a rash of such organizations mistreating their patients and the continued development of psychiatric drugs (never mind that those drugs create their own problems).

Sure, there were plenty of real world examples of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” but many hospitals did wonders in helping get people cured or giving them a consistent, comfortable environment in which they could manage their illnesses and their lives.

There are still some psychiatric institutions in operation, but far too few. Mental health experts say there is a 95 percent decline in mental hospital beds since 1960, even though there are many more people who deserve that level of help.

And help is what they need. Help. Safety. Comfort. Rehabilitation. Asylum.

Yet, they haven’t been getting it nor will they anytime soon.

Our modern medical system treats mental illness like the so-called redheaded stepchild. New hospitals and health campuses are being erected across the country at spectacular rates and they are being handsomely funded by taxpayer dollars, but the focus is always on physical health. No one is interested in making multi-bed facilities for the mentally ill.

That’s too bad, because people like Holly Colino are being ignored. A just and moral society takes care of the people who need it, even if they don’t seem to be exactly like one of us.

When we abandon that calling, when it comes to hard cases like hers or the infamous Adam Lanza we inadvertently put innocents like Megan Dix or the little kids who were gunned down at Sandy Hook in harm’s way. When it comes to the better cases, we are robbing the ill of the best mainstream existence possible. 

Help the sick and you help society.  

Ignore them, and you hurt them….and potentially every one of us.

From the 04 Sept 2017 Greater Niagara Newspapers 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agree with all of this....except that the people she was targeting on FB could have reported her, but nothing was done. I have reported people for bullying one of my daughters, and nothing happened. This was an awful tragedy, and I cannot stand to hear people defending this Colino. Sorry, but she needs jail time. In her YouTube videos and blog posts, she tried to lie her way out of accusations by police. That shows guilt. If she was able to do that, imo...then she knows right from wrong.