I don't read the paper, unless I can pick and choose my news story and sources on line (and that's not really "paper" now, is it?!?)...I don't watch the news channels on TV, unless I am doing so with the sound off. I like to make up my OWN version of what we call the "news" here in in America...my stories and captions with the TV scenes playing are ALWAYS nicer and far more entertaining! I DO have iGoogle and I use a web page called "topix.net" to alert me to stories I *might* find of interest about Multiple Sclerosis or the happenings here in Seattle...but as for the news in the rest of the world? Well, unless a blogger is highlighting it (say, important news like Britney Spears or Anna Nicole Smith!), I probably won't hear/read about until the "news" is something we call *history*. My world is safer and far more predictable this way...
I have unfortunately been bombarded by the well-meaning, who are sending me links/clips/snippets about the local murder here in Seattle on New Year's Eve...a young woman was stabbed to death just outside her front door and, just this past week, it appears a "suspect" has confessed to this murder (if I can BELIEVE any of the stories I am reading)...a suspect, who is being highlighted as MENTALLY ILL...thus, the multi-chat in my email inbox.
I am NEVER allowed/able to discuss ANY of the histories or medical records of the population of mentally ill I work with...laws prohibit this, and for good reason. After all, YOU could be one of these folks I see (if you live in my county...Sherry, you're off the hook there in Colorado!), or it could be your sister, mother, brother, boss, coworker, just to name a few options. And, because I am privy to many stories and records of folks dubbed, "mentally ill offenders", AKA, mentally ill criminals, I am often APPALLED by what I read in the local papers or see on the local TV news...thus, my self-imposed boycott to AVOID it. But, unfortunately, I could NOT avoid the story(s) airing right now about the mentally ill suspect of the aforementioned murder. SO, here's my rant:
I am just SICK (perhaps even MENTAL) of the way news gets portrayed when there is someone who has an "alleged" history of mental illness...especially high profile crimes! Does anyone ELSE ever stop and wonder just WHERE these reporters GET their paper-selling headlines??? They certainly are NOT getting facts from medical/mental health records...it's against the EFFING LAW TO RELEASE THAT INFORMATION!!! They generally tend to search CRIMINAL COURT DOCUMENTS (because MENTAL HEALTH COURT DOCUMENTS are sealed and confidential and CRIMINAL records are not), which provide snippets of information regarding a person's competence to stand trial, prior CRIMINAL charges, and an occasional police report, which is often laden with an officer's personal VIEWS about a suspect (believe me...I read hundreds of these "reports" a year and, I'm sorry to say this but, MOST local police do not have the slightest CLUE about Washington State Mental Health Law...just like I don't have much of a clue about CRIMINAL charges/law. I only INTERFACE with the criminal justice system here). Oh, and they also bang on the doors of neighbors or family members for their "professional" view of Joe Blow's mental stability. Extremely factual and high caliber reporting, if you ask me. (*said with tongue in cheek*)
Yes, the mentally ill DO commit crimes...our local county jail is FILLED TO THE BRIM with the mentally ill on one particular floor. This floor is considered the SECOND LARGEST mental health housing/treatment facility in the state...next to the actual STATE HOSPITAL, that is...where the mentally ill are conveyor-belted through on a daily basis because there are not enough TREATMENT FACILITY BEDS to provide care for these "inmates". And do you know what the MAJORITY of their *crimes* are? Does anyone in my county have any idea what their tax dollars are paying for in keeping these "criminals" locked up? Well, I'm about to let you in on a well-kept secret.
The vast majority of the mentally ill are being held in the county jail facility for crimes such as "criminal trespass" (they were sleeping in a park or under an overpass...highly *unseemly*...especially if they are arrested sleeping in the doorway of a STARBUCKS, for heaven's sake!), "dine and dash" (they get hungry, so they order food and leave), and "petty theft" (oddly, often stealing FOOD and BEER from area stores...imagine that...stealing food to survive?!? The beer is an entirely different matter). There are the occasional "VUCSA" charges (Violation of the Uniformed Controlled Substance Act...yes, they do smoke crack and other illicit drugs on occasion...which could be WHY they are mentally ill. But I won't segway into the lack of TREATMENT FACILITIES/FUNDING for substance abuse issues in my fair state!), or "public intoxication". There are various assault charges...usually against family members, mental health workers/case managers, shelter staff...people trying to PROVIDE for and ASSIST them...or random attacks on the street amongst the homeless mentally ill. And, once in a while...but honestly NOT that often...there is a high-profile case/inmate/mentally ill person housed on this particular floor of the county jail. And these high-profile mentally ill criminals are surrounded by multiple persons charged with these OTHER offenses...taking up precious cells that COULD BE USED TO HOUSE REAL CRIMINALS! You know, the people who DO commit crimes...the non-mentally ill criminals...who are getting released from jail in droves each day because there are NOT ENOUGH JAIL CELLS TO KEEP THEM INCARCERATED!!!
I am so saddened by the loss of life that occurred in Seattle on New Year's Eve...there is no explanation or words of comfort that can be given to those left behind in the wake of such violent crime. And it saddens me deeply when someone from the population of people I work with is suspected of committing such a heinous offense...when someone from the population of people I work with/the mentally ill DOES commit such an atrocity. And I understand the news reporters/TV stations need to "report" on such events...we as a society DEMAND this information because we think it provides answers or keeps us *safe* in some way. I only wish these reports could and did contain ALL of the facts...the facts that are protected by law regarding individuals and their mental health histories, as well as the FACTUAL accounts regarding those that serve this population. It seems we are forever destined to point fingers away from ourselves as a means of justifying our losses.
I highly doubt the local paper or TV stations will be reporting today on the memorial service of one of my colleagues from an area mental health center. This colleague served the mentally ill for many, many years and was a well-respected individual in the field. She died suddenly last week of a probable heart attack. She worked day in and day out with clients, finding them housing, food, services, and providing a *safe* place for them to share their deepest concerns and fears. There is no way of knowing how many person's lives she made better...OR how many clients she may have intervened upon, keeping them from committing various crimes or offenses because of their mental illnesses. There is unfortunately not enough ROOM in the paper for THIS story and no one appears to WANT to read about THIS side of mental illness...the side of compassion, understanding, caring, and *calm*...the side of mental illness that continues onward EVERY day without headlines.
So, get me off this spinning Tilt O' Whirl...it's time for me to crawl back under my rock...where it's safe...