THE CHALLENGE FOR PSYCHOLOGISTS

As a professional psychologist, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time for psychologists to start practicing their profession.  In other words, it’s time for the profession to step up and admit that individuals who are seriously mentally ill are, indeed, ill – and should not be on the streets, but rather isolated and cared for in institutions.  (Even the hapless medical profession isolates their seriously ill patients, thereby protecting both the ill and the rest of the population.)  In the 1970s, the mental health professions inadvisedly listened to those who, through misguided altruistic notions,  sought to close all institutions that treated seriously ill mental patients.  Thus, institutions were closed and those who would have been their patients now largely reside on the street, among homeless populations.  Either that or they struggle along at home without proper treatment, as did the Sandy Hooks and Parkland shooters.  What was it about the 39 visits by police to the Cruz home that did not trigger an arrest and institutionalization for this mentally ill subject?  We in the mental health professions have too long allowed the public to believe that the mentally ill are harmless:  They might be, but they also very well might not be – we should not be taking those risks.  I’m regularly astounded when I observe clearly “disturbed” behavior in individuals that exist in the general population and see people passing these off as “just odd.”  Why do they do that?  Because we as psychologists have insisted that they be “politically correct” and not censure the “odd” behaviors.  Here’s a news flash: These behaviors are indications of disturbance that we should be paying serious attention to and leaping to take the proper actions to get the kind of professional help that is needed.  And, yes, sometimes that will mean institutionalization – which is almost impossible to implement at the present time.  Over the past 40 years, we as a profession of psychology have traveled  a long way in the wrong direction in the treatment of the mentally ill – we haven’t been kind, as we’ve imagined that we were, and we certainly haven’t been fair or kind to the general population – ask the families of the victims in Parkland about that.

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