Friday, May 30, 2014

What Lessons Can Be Learned From The Santa Barbara Mass Murders? A must-read blog post today by Pete Earley

The Elliot Rodger case is especially painful to parents. News reports suggest his parents recognized their son was troubled, got him into treatment and when his writings and statements on social media alarmed them, they called the police to request a “wellness” check. When his statements became even more worrisome, they left immediately to visit him only to be too late.
Armchair quarterbacking is always risky, but here are a few thoughts about this recent shooting.
Lesson one: I strongly endorse Crisis Intervention Team Training for the police, but a psychiatrist should have been sent to evaluate Rodger based on his parents’ call and Rodger’s psychiatric history.
Lesson two: Even if a psychiatrist would have found Rodger’s mental condition troubling, little could have been done because he was not posing an immediate danger to himself or others. I’ve written before about the need to re-examine “danger to self or others” as a criteria. Coercion should always be the last step, but we need to find a better criteria for deciding when to use it simply because no one can predict dangerousness.
Lesson three: The reason the police were called is because we do not have viable alternatives. Most emergency rooms are no better equipped to evaluate an individual in crisis than are the police.  We need more crisis stabilization centers, such as those in San Antonio, Texas, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where someone who is experiencing a mental crisis can be evaluated and offered the help that he/she needs.
Lesson four: communication and coordination are crucial. Did anyone bother to contact Rodger’s therapist?  Did anyone listen to why his parents were so alarmed? Were they asked about their son’s past episodes? Too often, parents are marginalized. Not all parents are good parents. But most care about their adult children’s mental health. I’ve heard too many stories from parents who attempted to talk to law enforcement, doctors and therapists only to be dismissed and told that background information about their adult child’s earlier episodes was insignificant. Would the same be said about a heart condition?
Lesson five: it’s all about money. Elliott Rodger came from an affluent family but being wealthy is no guarantee that you will receive meaningful care and treatment. (See lesson one – sending a psychiatrist with first responders would be wonderful, but in most communities getting an appointment to see a psychiatrist can take days, weeks, even months. See lesson three –we need more crisis stabilization centers, but building them takes money.)

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