Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Simple Lesson In Mental Illness

Yesterday I was almost drawn into a debate about the punishment of terrorists and counter terrorists here in the British Isles.
I pulled back from the argument, worried at the way the conversation was heading.
Words like monsters and evil and capital punishment were being thrown about into the mix with descriptions like mad and bad and at times like these, where emotions are understandably high, we need to take a deep breath in order to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Secreted within the fundamentalists, the misguided and the angry will be the mentally ill. Terrorist plots, the fear of attack and the conspiracy theories that will no doubt accompany them are like nectar to bees when it comes to people suffering from psychotic delusions. The madness of the acts attracts true madness like a magnet.
Someone who is acutely mentally ill and who is  sectionable under the mental health act ( for being a danger to themselves or to others) is not in control of their faculties, plain and simple
They are unable to make informed decisions and therefore cannot be held responsible for their actions.
These people need medical and nursing care, and not punishment . In severe cases secure care may well be for life.
Now it can be argued that all terrorists that maim and kill and destroy seemingly without a second glance must be mad in someway and I have no easy answer to this, suffice to say there has always been a fine line between evil and psychopathic behaviour and psychosis. One can be termed bad, and can be punished the other may be called mad and needs treatment. The definitions are always blurred by emotion.
I don't know if any of the recent terror attacks were actually committed by someone Suffering from mental illness.
But what I do know, and what I am passionate about, is the fact that if any of them are psychotic and sectionable under the Mental Heath Act, then people should realise that they are not in control of their actions.

43 comments:

  1. You are correct John and I am certain that this subject needed to be brought into people's awareness.

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  2. Well, John, you sure have put your head above the parapet. Difficult question you raise.

    One of many phrases sticking out in your reasoning is "not in control of their actions". What is "control"? I have seen perfectly "sane" people losing the plot. Commit, say, grievous bodily harm. I have seen grown (intelligent) men cry when the shit hits the fan of repercussions as to their actions. They may have been drunk (out of control, emotions running high), they may have been goaded and enraged (out of their control), they may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, implicated by proxy (out of their control).

    It's not for nothing that bulls are shown a rag (though apparently it doesn't have to be red - anything flapping in the wind will do).

    I do not believe that punishment works. If anything it hardens. Makes bitter. And, where men are concerned, testosterone will kick in even harder - to EVERYONE's detriment.

    Call me a dreamer: One of the reasons I am against the death penalty because I believe there is nothing more punishing than our conscience. Dead you are dead. Alive? Alive you will suffer the consequences of your actions - if only in your mind. The regret ... the never ending regret ...

    Of course, you - and you have professional experience - maybe put forward the perfectly reasonable argument that the truly insane don't even suffer their own conscience. Because they don't KNOW they have done wrong. That's the moment even I get frightened.

    Before I get carried away, what do you, John, suggest? Because, surely, even sectioning isn't an answer. You know why I declined to train as a fully fledged defense lawyer? Because how do you defend the indefensible yet still see your "client's" plight? How? In the midst of tearing yourself apart. You can see why my hobby horse is "ethics".

    U

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    1. It is a blog about comment sense ursula. You can be mentally ill and perfectly capable of making autonomous decisions . You can be sane and in a moment of " madness" kill someone.....I am not discussing those areas. They are for better people than me to work out.
      No i am talking about the floridly mentally ill. Those delusional by illness. I dont know about you but I have been party to the sectioning and care of those so mentally ill that reality means very little to them they have had a different reality made for them to deal with and in those cases it is unfair to think that they are responsible for their actions.

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  3. You are right of course, but we also need to be careful that we don't label Muslim extremists as terrorists and white extremists as mentally ill. There needs to be parity of description in these things.

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    1. I was including the muslim extremists in this arguement, extreme actions can take advantage of the unwell

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    2. No matter what religion

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  4. I think brainwashing is the most dangerous weapon Isis has. All these radicals were sane at one point in their lives. All it takes is a "Hitler" type personality and lots of media exposure to turn desperate people crazy. How do you think Trump was elected?

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  5. Yes I agree John. This will be covered at his trial when counsel for the defence will plead diminished responsibility on his behalf. The media need a reminder. However there is a fine line here. Is a radicalised ISIS terrorist sane?

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    1. An interesting debate. You can have people who are mentally ill who are still capable of making considered decisions. So I would say yes. People who have a psychosis often cannot function on any level

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  6. Before they were blowing up buses and trains and buildings, "mad men"/terrorists were running amok and killing anyone that was nearby, burning, looting, bombing .. whatever means for destruction they could use ..
    Were the Irish mad back in the days when the IRA blew things up ?

    1- you have to be slightly at least, mad , insane, to go to the great lengths of killing and usually committing suicide like these bombers we have today ..
    2- I don't know about "mentally ill" but they are certainly missing a few marbles .. getting a cow and 40 virgins isn't enough of a treat for the average human to blow other people up.
    3- madness is often bred by hate .. although, you John, know much more about madness than I and most of us know, it is impossible for me to believe that a person with a life ahead of them is not a wee bit insane to strap on a suicide vest and walk into a market, past the young mother with her baby in her arms, the people he might know .. I refuse to think sane people are capable of this sort of sick behavior .. Madness covers it nicely .

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  7. Thank you, John. I'd like to point out that some physical ailments also cause temporary derangement(for lack of a better word). Uncontrolled high blood sugar, certain vitamin deficiencies, drug interactions, post partum depression/psychosis, et al., may be missed or misunderstood, and cause people to act irrationally. They can be a danger to themselves and others. Above all, compassion . . .

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  8. Saying people are monsters or evil or deserve capital punishment doesn't take us anywhere. The question is why someone did something reprehensible and how they can be stopped from doing it again.

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  9. Your discussion today brings up many good points, not the least of which is how to tell on which side of the line of sanity these men/women fall. It's a decision for a far saner person than I.

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  10. I agree with you completely. The difficulty, of course, is in dealing with these things dispassionately. There are so many variables.

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  11. Interesting conversation on acute mental illness and the perpetrators who carry out questionable actions while making decisions that affect them and the people around them. There's always a fine line between everything. If such people who have carried out attacks are found to be psychotic, its all well and good for them to get the necessary treatment. However, it does little for the victims and their families who must live with the fallout. And that's the sad part.

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  12. I'm with you all the way on this.
    Going off on a sideline slightly, I'm always puzzled by how when epithets in the 'evil' vein are hurled at the perpetrators they always seem also to include the word 'cowardly'. Now they might well qualify for many negative descriptions but I'm not sure that 'cowardly' is always an appropriate choice - particularly if the person has intended, as part of his (or her?) plan, to commit suicide in the carrying out of whatever horrific deed. The term strikes me as meaninglessly loaded as the word 'evil' in being a kind of self-vindication of the accuser's understandable anger, but which gets us nowhere.

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    1. There's part of a song that speaks to cowardice. Annie Lennox sang it. "dDg is easy, it's living that scares me to death." It takes courage to live through the difficult, painful, sorrowful, bitter, racist, dark parts of life. Mad people don't know they're mad. Someone has to care enough to get them help--even forced help. The stigma that comes with mental illness keeps too many in need of help from seeking and getting it. We are still our brother's keeper. Acting on it is how we keep our tribe healthy.

      Depriving others of life, maiming enough to deprive another, and suicide are acts of cowardice.

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  13. If we take a deep breath in we will inhale both the wheat and the chaff. Better to exhale powerfully because this will blow the chaff away leaving wheat grains behind. This process is called winnowing.

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  14. The timing could not have been worse if he had tried.... Everyone is using this incident to prove their point. And to change the subject, I see there is a backlash starting against the residents of Grenfell Tower now, as in if they are offered accommodation ( no matter where in the country it is ) they should take it and be grateful. So now not only have they lost loved ones, and all their belongings, they now have to lose their community and be grateful about it!!! The World is going mad

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  15. Blunt instrument though psychiatric diagnosis can be, psychiatry is sufficiently developed to generally distinguish between frank psychosis and sanity, and psychosis and severe personality disorder. Acute psychotic states are generally treatable personality disorder only to a degree. It is very rare for somone with a psychosis to commit a homicide. Slightly more common for someone who has a psychotic illness and an underlying severe personality disorder. These are the tricky ones to deal with and often end up incarcerated in secure mental health facilities or in the prison system.
    Because someone commits an act of extreme violence does not mean that at some level they are "insane". This is an insult to those with genuine mental health problems. Their behaviour is rational in their eyes however distorted they seem to the vast majority. In short, I agree with you.

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    1. And it is invairably these individuals that go on to cause the most havoc .. I agree the subject is so much more complicated and grey than any of us would like

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  16. Broadmoor is full to bursting with people who fall somewhere in between the two. They don't die quick enough to make room for all the latest ones.

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    1. Very true and it is not these i am necessarily talking about .

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    2. H.I. once had a stalker who was in and out of hospital as a paranoid schizophrenic. I had enough of him, so I told him that I didn't care how fucking mad he was, if he carried on I would get him sorted out properly. He stopped immediately.

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  17. Not going to try to make sense of any of this John...it is far ane above my powers of reasoning. I can only pray for the best for everyone.

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  18. All true. I always assume that these individuals must have some degree of mental illness in order to perpetrate such acts. The fanaticism alone, I think, shows a disconnection with reality. Whether they're all diagnosable or not, I don't know, and I don't mean to relieve them of responsibility -- but I think state of mind is a mitigating consideration.

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  19. There are several lectures/conversations
    from my college philosophy course
    that stay with me these many years later.
    I.E......Perhaps this is not life.
    Perhaps this is death and the punishment
    of hell of some other beings.
    Perhaps we are not us.
    Perhaps this is all a horrible nightmare
    in the soul of of a dead race.

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  20. Sobering thoughts. Here in NZ I heard on he national radio service that an estimated 75% of prisoners suffer with a serious mental illness, with schizophrenia making up as much as 50% of that. It has a sad logic to it, but like most countries our prison system is woefully inadequate for these people.

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  21. Well said John. As usual you talk a lot of sense.
    As things seem to escalate (reading the comments above suggests so too) it does seem harder and harder to understand what can be done but it has to be a rational decision in each case - we just must not go back to drastic measures like the death penalty - a so called solution suggested by many. Countries where this still happens appal me and yet as a country we deal quite happily with them.

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  22. I wish mental illness was simple. Sadly there are too many myths/misconceptions abounding. Not least the idea that they are all dangerous...
    Some are, but I suspect many more are not. Which is true of the population as a whole.

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  23. The mental health care system in the US is a mess. Too few services available. People who clearly need medical and paychological care are drugged into submission and then released onto the streets. We need clinics and professionals that are placed throughout communities across the country. Getting off my soapbox now...

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  24. Mental illness is one thing, and I agree that to wantonly kill others seems to require mental deficiency. But the radical terrorism thing adds another dimension. I can see a certain logic in it (without approving it in any sense, ever). For more than 10 years, Arabic countries have been bombed and people killed; cities have been leveled, families decimated. I can see how some see that and think, "Okay, England [or US or France], see how you like it!" And then creating deadly chaos. Perhaps they think they have nothing to lose or that this is the only way to get our governments' attention. That's horrifying ... but not all that difficult to understand, because in their eyes, there is a sort of parity.

    Like I said, not something I endorse or defend or approve; I condemn it. Just mentioning another wrinkle in a complicated situation. Thank you, John, for your informed input on mental illness. I agree, but I have no credentials to lend my opinion any weight. Mary

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    1. In an attempt to understand the thinking behind the actions, I've done all I can to learn more about them and their lives, so I do get what you mean. Learning how and why "others" and "those people" create so much pain to people THEY don't know should change how our governments treat them, and might should cause them to stop waging war against a people who live ages behind modernization, are basically uneducated, and want to be left alone. Understanding how they choose to live sheds much light into why they carry out such extreme acts of violence. Innocents die while our politicians are unaffected by their decisions to wage war.

      PTSD is a type of mental illness. It happens to innocent people whose villages and homes are bombed day in and day out, until their sons and daughters decide it is time to share and share alike--to let Westerners see what it is like. It's an eye for an eye mentality.

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    3. "We only fought back" You gotta be joking.

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  25. i am more afraid of those with mental illness that are marginal...like trump. give me a full blown crazy poerson any day. at least you know what you are dealing with. trump has too many people excusing his craziness away.

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  26. The reality is that people suffering mental illness are more dangerous to themselves than to other people. Certainly the majority of murders and serious violence are committed by those who are otherwise 'sane' individuals.

    What we have seen in Manchester, London and elsewhere is a long way away from our definitions of sanity.

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  27. I have long believed that anyone who stands up in a mosque or church or anywhere else, online too, and preaches violence and hate to what could easily be a percentage of vulnerable people should be punishable as an accessory or even the main criminal when one of those vulnerable people then goes out and makes their preaching concrete. Think that would cut down the incidence pretty quickly. It's not right that those who are not stable are placed in positions where they can be conditioned to think they are doing the right thing, and it's not right if those who do the conditioning are allowed to walk away to do the same to more vulnerable people.

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  28. Good post, John. Well said and thought-provoking.

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  29. Thoughtful post. Many thanks.

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