If you happen to be around Stanford tomorrow….

Please join me at their health policy forum to talk serious mental illness and crime. I’ll be on a panel with the LA County Sheriff Lee Baca and the chair of psychiatry at Stanford, Dr. Laura Roberts. The policy forum is open to the public and will be held this Thursday from 11:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M, at the Li Ka Shing Center.

Below is Keith’s blurb for the event.

The horrifying mass murders at the Washington Navy Yard and Sandy Hook Elementary School were both committed by individuals with long-standing mental-health problems. The events galvanized a national discussion about how to improve the accessibility and quality of our mental-health system.

At the same time, these tragedies can paint in the mind of the public a false image of the mentally ill as universally violent and dangerous rather than human beings in need of assistance and compassionate care. That may account for why a shamefully large number of mentally ill people are behind bars. L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca has found himself heading what he calls “the nation’s largest mental hospital:” The L.A. County Jail.

While protecting public safety is a critical concern, it’s important to maintain perspective when analyzing the role of mental illness in violent crime. Harold Pollack, PhD, of the University of Chicago puts it this way:

Millions of Americans suffer from some form of severe mental illness, or SMI. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of these men and women have never committed a violent crime and never will commit one. Indeed, the mentally ill are often victims of violent crime, a social problem that has not received sufficient attention.

To dig into these important issues in a productive way, the medical school’s next Health Policy Forum will be devoted to the topic “Serious Mental Illness: How can we balance public health and public safety?” Harold Pollack and Lee Baca will come to Stanford for the forum and will be joined by Laura Roberts, MD, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. The policy forum is open to the public and will be held this Thursday from 11:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M, at the Li Ka Shing Center. If you’re a local reader, we hope you can attend and join in the conversation.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

16 thoughts on “If you happen to be around Stanford tomorrow….”

    1. Frank: All events are filmed and then put on the Stanford/YouTube Channel. I will post here when the film from this one is on line.

  1. Good luck today!! I think the chances of us cutting crime by increasing access to mental healthcare are substantially higher than any other route I can think of. I mean, if you included the aftereffects of having an abusive childhood, wouldn’t that be pretty much all of them? Of course that isn’t exactly the same thing as SMI, but otoh, not all that different either?

    1. F.e., did anyone else catch the Frontline last night on what football does to the brain? Holy mackerel.

  2. At the risk of Godwinning the thread, let me note that Hitler´s biographers are divided on the question of his sanity. The problem also holds for the other great monsters of history: Ivan the Terrible, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot …

    1. I’ve never heard of Godwinning something, I hope I wasn’t doing it either!

      Thing is, in the Frontline show it seems that one possible symptom of chronic traumatic encephal__?/bad thing that happens to your brain when you play football, is mood swings and things that could certainly lead one to commit crimes. And of course, if we’re talking head injuries, those could very well be happening to abused children, not even getting to what depression and fear do to the young brain. Anyhow. I didn’t mean to hijack.

      I don’t know how we solve the John G. problem. Maybe someone could come up with an award that you win after you die, that is like a Nobel and it goes to your family? For social innovations. And while we’re on the subject, we also need awards for moderation and for non-violent responses to atrocities. I think it was Kinsley who had the idea to list the most generous rich people? We need more inventions like that.

      1. “Godwin’s Law” is the proposition that sooner or later in any argument, someone will compare someone else’s argument to the Nazis (with the implication, at least in current usage, that the possibility of rational discussion has just ended). It is named after Mike Godwin, who was very active in Internet discussions about free speech in the 1990s – who was quite a polemicist himself, but I don’t think he ‘violated’ his own law… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law (Wikipedia says the phrase is now in the OED – and it has a picture of Godwin himself taken a couple of years ago, looking robust and cheerful.)

  3. The justice ministers (federal and provincial) late in the last century promoted an ‘integrated justice strategy’ which basically called for more investment in and attention to education and (mental) health care, because the justice system, notably the correctional system, was required to deal with the failures and rejects of those two bigger-budget systems.

    The political problems were that (a) the ministers responsible for those systems would not get any benefit in their own programs, (b) the benefits would be a generation or more later, when the ministers would be long gone from office, and (c) though one knows with moral certainty that investment in better education and mental health would save money later, one could not prove it with scientific, economic or even political certainty.

    The language of ‘integrated justice’ is no longer used in Canada.

    Good luck!

  4. hi,
    in the past my parents have threatened me with commitment if i tried to press domestic abuse charges against them. that sort of thing is really easy for a few years after a hospitalization. it’s just assumed that everyone
    with a psych ride on their record is a complete psycho. there are really bad people in the world and they aren’t mental health patients. being a bad person gets you a trial. just asking for help gets you excused from all police protection and if your not dying or something when you go to the doctor all they do is ask you about your mood. people speak vaguely about “mental health stigma” like it’s a mild social discomfort when the effects are very real and actually dangerous. if people knew that maybe they wouldn’t seek help, but the effects can be so bad that might be good thing. the narrative of the tragic mental health patient with the supportive long suffering family needs to go and be replaced with real people who aren’t going to get better if they don’t have the same protection from crime and physical illness as everyone else.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear this. Have you tried the ACLU, or another legal aid group (it sometimes takes a bit of asking around to find the right one)? You still have rights after all, no one should be allowed to hurt you. Also there ought to be some support groups out there, I hope? At least you wouldn’t feel alone.

    2. Have you tried clandestinely videotaping the domestic abuse? That should put paid to any effort to claim such allegations are “all in your head.”

  5. Anna’s comment about stigma is really compelling. Wish I could be there for the discussion, but I will watch it on youtube. As we all know, too many people with mental illness are pushed into incarceration where they get absolutely no help, but more trauma. The mental health system is so underfunded that I have seen suicidal people sit in “triage” for 3 hours to prove how mentally ill they are. Then they get hospitalized for a day or two, get a little medication, and then get thrown out (discharged) when it is discovered they have no medical coverage, with no medication. Really counterproductive. There is now a thread going around the internet that many of the medications prescribed for mentally ill people are causing the violence and mass shootings as side effects of the medications. Just great. Wouldn’t it be great if you all can come up with some good ideas that could be implemented.

  6. The stigmatization of mentally ill, and/or mentally disturbed people is an issue that deserves a lot more “air time.” Statistically, mentally challenged people commit acts of violence at about the same rate as “normal” folks do. Yet, headlines such as, “Mentally Deranged Shooter Kills/Injures (whatever number) at City Mall” are widespread. But, the much more appropriate, and common, “Man, afflicted with gun infatuation and unreconciled anger management issues………….” Not so much.

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