To the Editor:
We can all understand that the tragedy at the Elementary School at Sandy Hook causes new discussions about gun control, but what about the subject of mental illness? In this country and also in the states, we have not dealt with this issue in an appropriate way for many years.
As a mother who had a mentally ill son, was past President of the Family Alliance for the mentally ill, as well as served on the Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Illinois for several years, I have had some experience with what was happening as well as what services exist today. Mentally ill people have little access to institutional treatment in today's society. Singer Zone (state facility) has been closed for several years and our own psychiatric unit at Kishwaukee also is closed, leaving Aurora as the nearest treatment center. The jails admit that many of their inmates are the mentally ill people who receive no treatment!
In our haste to get many mentally ill people in a less restrictive environment, we have ended up with a group of people who need our assistance to become functioning members of society. We have failed them and we are harvesting the results.
In spite of the fact that medicines for the mentally ill are much improved, there are several drawbacks:
1. The patient has to be closely monitored to be sure they are taking the medications, and
2. The medicines have to be adjusted at times so the dose is appropriate. Outpatient support is helpful, but it is not enough. The only way some of these medicines are effective is if the patient is institutionalized and under observation. Please, it is time to reevaluate the state of the treatment of mental illness in our state and in our country!
Donna I. Bennett