Letter: Forced medications
Tim Blagg’s piece about forcing people with “severe mental illness” to take medications, on pain of arrest, deeply disturbed me on several levels.
Blagg mentions that school shooter Adam Lanza had Asperger’s Syndrome. The vast majority of people with this “disease” (which some experts now regard as a difference, like being left-handed, NOT an illness) are actually more prone to be victims of violence, not criminals themselves. Consult the website Wrong Planet ( www.wrongplanet.net ) for ACCURATE information about Asperger’s and autism.
He also says that Lanza wrote violent stories and was fascinated by crime, and rightly says that many people who write such stories and have such interests do not turn out to be violent in real life. However, the tone of the article implies that we had better keep an eye on people who have morbid interests. What about Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarentino, and even Emily Dickinson? All of their works deal in some way with death, violence or other scary topics. What a dull world it would be if they were all heavily medicated and locked away as youngsters, never to entertain us with their stories, movies, and poems!
Finally, Blagg thinks Massachusetts should have a law that forces certain mentally ill people to take their medications, under pain of arrest. He says that most states have such laws. However, some of the states that DO have these laws have still experienced mass shootings or other types of violence later linked to alleged mental illness on the part of the criminal. Clearly the laws did not do a very good job of predicting who was going to “go postal.” This is because there is still a stigma attached to mental illness. People do not go for help at an early stage when they could be treated and live a normal life. Locking people up and forcing them to take meds would only reinforce the stigma, making mental illness look like a crime.
The psychiatric medications that people — including children — take often have side effects that can exaggerate violent thoughts and cause agonizing physical agitation that drives some people to violence. Of course, not all meds are bad, when used wisely and sparingly, in conjuction with behavioral therapy and other forms of “talk therapy,” but locking people up and pumping them full of powerful chemicals could backfire on society in a truly horrific manner.
SUZANNE H. GRIMARD