Tab Article 29 April 07
By Rev Paul N. Papas II
All About Choices
From the beginning of the human race it has been all about choices. Adam chose the names of the animals as they passed by. Adam and Eve chose whether or not to eat the apple. Healthy and free people get to choose what to wear and eat each day. One of the freedoms our country guarantees its citizens is freedom to travel within the country without borders being erected between states, so we have choices where to travel. These choices come with a responsibility to use them without interfering with other people’s choices. Sometimes a person abuses his or her freedoms and has restrictions placed upon him or her. There are times when a person, through no fault of their own, develops a medical condition that impair his or her judgment.
Today I want to focus on those who have developed medical conditions that impair judgment. Because of recent events there is a renewed interest in the connection between mental illness and violence. Some people are afraid to be around someone who has a mental illness for fear of violence happening to them or someone around them. One in five people are affected by mental illness; this includes employers, employees, public officials and celebrities. Mental illness has been around since recorded history. History shows that there have been many conflicts and wars. Most can be traced back to someone wanting what someone else had, which is greed. Greed is a motivation not a mental illness.
Just because a person commits a horrendous act that does not mean that they have a mental illness. Some people who commit horrendous acts have been diagnosed with a medical condition, mental illness. Mr. Choe for example, was diagnosed with a mental illness and exhibited issues of anger that he could have addressed in a vastly different way. When given the choice to deal with his mental health and anger issues he chose not to. We will never know whether if while hospitalized he could have been treated in a more effective manner. Part of treatment is participating in and accepting the help that is offered, once the proper treatment has been established. The proper treatment is not always easy to determine. Sometimes a part of that treatment includes a period of hospitalization
Hitler who killed millions, mostly of Jewish decent, had many issues including hate, left a disaster in his wake. Hitler’s mother was of Jewish decent. Choe, who killed 32 people came from an upper middle class family and professed hate for well to do people. They both were bullies blinded by hate and rage.
People who commit acts of Domestic Violence do not necessarily have a mental illness and are bullies often blinded by rage.
Mental illness can be a factor in crimes committed. The state says twenty two percent of those incarcerated have a mental illness. The Department of Justice says the figure is sixty six percent. Because of the mental health hospital closings today’s jails and prisons have become today’s asylums. We need to upgrade mental health services and facilities, not cut the funding. Prevention is always more cost effective than warehousing.
There is good news and hope for people who happen to have a mental illness. There are many caring advocates available willing and able to help and support those who have a mental illness as well as their friends and family members. Many of those advocates have the idea that criminalization of mental illness is the wrong way to go. They believe that getting help for someone who needs it should be the goal without excusing the behavior.
There was born the Jail Diversion Program, successfully run as a model program, at the Framingham Police Department with a clinician from the Advocates, Inc riding in a Police Cruiser on relevant calls. Should it be determined that the person is acting out as a result his or her medical issue of mental illness and meets all the criteria then he or she is eligible for the Jail Diversion Program. If the person is willing to address his mental health issues then a criminal record is averted in that case.
Mr. Choe says he was bullied and picked on when he was younger. Many people can say that. Those that were bullied deal with it in different ways, some become bullies, and others make it one of their goals to stop bullies. Again that is a choice.
Rev Paul N. Papas II is a Pastoral Counselor with Narrow Path Ministries and current President of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Greater Framingham. NAMI Greater Framingham has support groups for family and friends in Framingham and Uxbridge, and Peer Support Groups in Marlborough and Milford and a Family to Family 12 week Education Course in Framingham and various Education Meetings, the next major event is the annual NAMI MASS WALK on May 19th in Brighton. May is Mental Health Month www.narrowpathministries.org and http://home.earthlink.net/~nami01704