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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How a Day Like Today Happens

Posted by on Wed, May 30, 2012 at 7:18 PM

The Seattle Times has identified the suspect in today's shootings as Ian Lee Stawicki—a man the Times implies is mentally ill:

His brother Andrew Stawicki, 29, of Ellensburg, said that when he saw a photo on the news of the alleged gunman inside Cafe Racer he recognized it as his brother.

Stawicki said his brother, Ian, was mentally ill.

"It's no surprise to me this happened. We could see this coming. Nothing good is going to come with that much anger inside of you," Andrew Stawicki said.

In Washington State, it is exceedingly difficult to involuntarily commit mentally ill individuals—particularly for extended periods of time—unless someone is an imminent threat to themselves or others. Individuals with illness severe enough to be committed to a mental health facility in other communities are—by plan—allowed to try to integrate into the community.

In place of (costly and arguably inhumane) warehousing of the mentally ill, the plan for decades in Washington state has been to provide aggressive outpatient case management. Psychosis, bipolar disease, depression, anxiety and others are all treatable diseases. The notion—and it's not a bad idea at its core—is to use an army of social workers (state employees) to keep mentally ill people in the community engaged with treatment and the community safe.

Over the same decades, our investment in social services has dwindled. Right-wing propagandists like the Seattle Time's editorial board, Tim Eyman, and everyone you know who has uttered the phrase 'a more efficient state government' are directly responsible for our social service network being gutted, the many safety nets being left tattered and unmanned.

The reign of radical right wing financial policy in Washington State has left (the richest of) us with some of the lowest tax burdens of any community in the United States. The cost is a day like today.

Updated. Don't take my word for it...

... read this beautiful comment by a social worker desperately trying to keep his or her clients, and you, safe.

I am a social worker, and while I happen to have a small, manageable case load, most of my colleagues are saddled with a totally unrealistic amount of clients (60, 70, 100!!!). In addition, we are paid just a tiny bit more than your average fast food worker (some agencies just pay $12.00/hr for MSWs!!!! And I am beginning to think I will never clear $40,000/year), so most of us have to take on second and third jobs and are just entirely exhausted. I myself work two jobs (both in social work) and rarely have even a day off. I do this because I honestly love the work and the clients and know it is important (and also because I need to survive). But I know I am not always at my best.

And, as this points out, the budget for mental health services is insufficient, making it pretty impossible to find resources for clients sometimes. And we're talking about basic resources like food, shelter, and clothing.

The big picture here is that our society does not care about the mentally ill or the people who dedicate their whole lives to working to help stabilize them. The only time we even talk about mental illness is when horrible things like this happen. And that's a huge problem. Because more social workers and bigger budgets alone won't solve this. We have to change the way our society thinks of and treats people with mental illness, and make effective, humane treatment a real priority.

I wish I had a quick answer about what with solve this. I don't...but I know that most of my clients over the years have been profoundly lonely and isolated, with no real opportunities, friends, or things to look forward to. How would you act if that was your reality? What might you do? I wish we could find a way to better integrate the mentally ill into mainstream society, and yes, of course aggressively treat people who are at a real risk of harming themselves or others.

Mental health, in Eyman's Washington.

 

Comments (84) RSS

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1
The most amazing thing is it takes something like this to get the Stranger from bleating about gay marriage for a day. Is Eli already fishing for his next Pulizter?
Posted by BetarayBilly2 on May 30, 2012 at 7:24 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 2
plus, he could get handguns when his family knew he was mentally ill. two of them.

he may have even owned them legally. we'll see.
Posted by Max Solomon on May 30, 2012 at 7:25 PM · Report this
Keister Button 3
@2 He probably did own them legally. A 1989 Municipal Court record shows Stawicki as judged "not guilty" for "carry concealed/unconcealed weapon". A 2008 Municipal Court record shows Stawicki charged with property damage, obstructing reporting of domestic violence, assault, and coercion.

Did the mentally ill grandmother who shot her family members in south Seattle a few years ago get her guns legally too?
Posted by Keister Button on May 30, 2012 at 7:28 PM · Report this
4
Wow, why to use 4 not-even-cold-yet corpses to advance your political agenda. .

Maybe with his extensive criminal history he should have been locked up longer? See how easy it is to drag corpses around for a political position?

Stay classy.
Posted by Watch me use the corpses to blame liberal judges on May 30, 2012 at 7:34 PM · Report this
stinkbug 5

from @Cowbelly :

"Good God. I dated the Seattle shooter, Ian Stawicki, 20 years ago. He slept with a gun under his pillow and was always a little 'off'"

https://twitter.com/Cowbelly/status/2080…
Posted by stinkbug on May 30, 2012 at 7:39 PM · Report this
bugwitch 6
Is there legitimate evidence this guy was "mentally ill" or just his families word for it? Because I could tell you about a few members of my family who would say I'm nuts. But, to be fair, I would say they were nuts as well.
Posted by bugwitch on May 30, 2012 at 7:39 PM · Report this
7
The term "bipolar disease" is somewhat meaningless, referring simply to any disease of any variety of two-pole characteristics. A term like "bipolar disorder" or "bipolar depression" would probably be more precise and effective.

Bipolar disorder, on its own, doesn't really rouse to homicidal violence. Manics who suffer a psychotic episode amidst a period of mania are very likely to commit such crimes as were witnessed today, however. I would imagine a psychotic episode amidst a major depressive episode would be more likely to result in just suicide.

Incidentally, while all those diseases, to some varying degree or another, are treatable, there are many factors beyond simply the failure of social services that give rise to violent outbreaks of this nature. Among these we find that men, due to the manner we inculcate manhood, are unlikely to seek treatment for their diseases and, more perhaps more importantly, are unlikely to seek treatment for dramatic changes in the expression of whatever disease they are suffering from. Prescriptions being used may become ineffective and the victim may not have the wherewithal to seek an MD to adjust them.

I could go on, but I'm not a disciple in these matters and they are better left to a professional.
Posted by Central Scrutinizer on May 30, 2012 at 7:43 PM · Report this
8
Is it possible to wait until the facts come out before you get on your soapbox?
Linking this to radical right wing policy is opportunistic bullshit.
Have some respect, find the facts, analyze them, think for a few seconds, and then post something intelligent...sheesh...
Posted by monkpaw on May 30, 2012 at 7:47 PM · Report this
9
Maybe if Steve Ballmer and Microsoft werent able to railroad State tax policy to suit the richest residents in Washington days like this would happen less.

In other news of tragedy and mental problems, yet another person jumped off an I5 overpass today.
Posted by Mob Barley on May 30, 2012 at 7:51 PM · Report this
10
my second thought is not to politicize this tragedy, but my first thought is that this post is accurate.

there are costs to society cutting social services and leaving the mentally ill to the streets.
Posted by sad day on May 30, 2012 at 7:53 PM · Report this
Fnarf 11
Thank you, Jonathan. You're fighting the good fight. Sadly the prevailing attitude in this state is "warehouse 'em, or let 'em run around unmedicated, whatever". My heart bleeds for the victims today, but I feel terrible for the misery that led this guy to do this.

Was he mentally ill? How much goddamn evidence do you need?
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on May 30, 2012 at 8:05 PM · Report this
12
@4 here's the thing. You guys like guns and the 2nd amendment, I'm with you. I really enjoy hunting and cooking up game. WE (both sides of the debate) can hopefully agree mentally unstable people are a dangerous problem in this country.
It's not about raising taxes or taking away guns but rather confronting the very real issue of mental illness in America.
Posted by CbytheSea on May 30, 2012 at 8:05 PM · Report this
Eastpike 13
Then there goes Phoenix Jones on facebook, speculating about how it must be "drug gangs". smh.
Posted by Eastpike on May 30, 2012 at 8:07 PM · Report this
14
@13 I thought there was no floor on Jones' stupidity. I am proven wrong.
Posted by CbytheSea on May 30, 2012 at 8:12 PM · Report this
15
@6: Ian was well known to some service providers in the U-Dist, including a very good friend of mine who tried to get him mental health services numerous times before today. And from what I'm hearing from friends folks at Cafe Racer had been having problems with him lately.

I've worked in public health and social service in Seattle for over 20 years and trying to get services for mentally ill folks can be nigh on impossible. And we're not much better or worse than most other areas of the US.

My heart fucking aches right now...and I'm in goddamn hotel room in Baltimore crying for guy I've known for 25 years and his partner of almost that long.

Fucking guns.
Posted by gnossos on May 30, 2012 at 8:15 PM · Report this
trollstalker 16
@4: Politics have life and death consequences, that's why many people are so passionate about them.
Posted by trollstalker on May 30, 2012 at 8:22 PM · Report this
17
Megan, this needed to be said. Thank you for saying it so passionately and so clearly.
Posted by maddogm13 on May 30, 2012 at 8:26 PM · Report this
18
I mean, Jonathan...
Posted by maddogm13 on May 30, 2012 at 8:27 PM · Report this
19
You are so right about this...I work in community mental health and due to budget cut-backs, if people don't have active Medicaid or private insurance, they don't receive services or medication. The wait lists for sliding scale services is months out. We can't "warehouse" anyone, as there is no money for that either.
This is not going to get any better until some more money comes back into mental health for the homeless and low income patients in our communities. With the economy in the state it is, there are a lot of people who need mental health care and meds who are not able to get the help they need. And some of them have guns.
Posted by Community Helper on May 30, 2012 at 8:28 PM · Report this
20
So well put. Thank you.
Posted by gloomy gus on May 30, 2012 at 8:28 PM · Report this
21
@11 I WISH the attitude was "warehouse them." If it was then this lunatic would not have been free to kill somebody.

That was Jonathan's point. There literally are no place to put these people. Either for treatment or just to keep them off the streets. Until they commit a crime like this one. All the state facilities no longer exist.

I've been through the trying legal process of trying to, first get help for a loved one, then just trying to get a state agency — or ANYONE— to recognize that the family can't care for this person.

That system. It doen't exist.

So then then you're left just trying to get somebody in authority to realize this person is going to kill somebody or themselves. And that doesn't seem to work either.

It would be ideal if there were systems of intervention so we could prevent people from loosing their grip so profoundly at all. But nothing, even the most compassionate system is 100% fool proof.

But in lieu of that, jeeze, a fucking state institution would be good enough.

Posted by tkc on May 30, 2012 at 8:31 PM · Report this
22
I call BS. "Days like today" (and worse) have happened in Norway and Canada, where spending on mental health per capita is an order of magnitude more than here in Washington State.
Posted by hrmmm on May 30, 2012 at 8:34 PM · Report this
23
Aye, with the abandonment of the mentally ill. Over at the Times, they've disabled comments about this "due to the sensitive nature of this story." Their next anti-tax editorial should be a fucking hoot. I hate that paper so much it makes my teeth hurt.

(I know the penalty for straying from these good and twisted offices, but the Weekly had a good feature on the privatization of mental health services. http://www.seattleweekly.com/2012-05-23/… )
Posted by Che Guava on May 30, 2012 at 8:35 PM · Report this
24
Seattle isn't used to this kind of random violence - because we had such good social services.

Seattle was so well renowned for how it treated people, there was a flood of Katrina survivors, does anyone else remember that?
Posted by Name here on May 30, 2012 at 8:40 PM · Report this
Teslick 25
tkc @ 21: Thank you. Excellent comments. While we certainly need to spend much more for mental health services, I think we have to examine the issue of involuntary commitment. We don't want to go back to the days of Frances Farmer, but I'm not sure how we provide services (no matter how good) to people who refuse treatment without commitment.
Posted by Teslick on May 30, 2012 at 8:43 PM · Report this
26
These are the same right wingers who, today in a FB post-off with me, said they packed a (legal) semi-automatic "just in case." Fear and bigotry aren't sustainable ways to build a functional society. Compassionate care and a commitment to making both education and health care - including mental health services - available and affordable to all is the only way to make peace.
Posted by sn on May 30, 2012 at 8:43 PM · Report this
27
The hands of the family of mentally ill people are completely tied when it comes to protecting either their relatives or innocent bystanders. I've lived it and I will likely live it again. Can we please prioritize mental health funding now?
Posted by jkjk on May 30, 2012 at 8:45 PM · Report this
28
@22 they have happened in other places! Oh wow! But the frequency is so dramatically different your point is moot.
Posted by CbytheSea on May 30, 2012 at 8:49 PM · Report this
29
@27 it's so fuck-upped-ably true.
Posted by CbytheSea on May 30, 2012 at 8:51 PM · Report this
Fnarf 30
@15, fucking guns.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on May 30, 2012 at 8:55 PM · Report this
31
I am a social worker, and while I happen to have a small, manageable case load, most of my colleagues are saddled with a totally unrealistic amount of clients (60, 70, 100!!!). In addition, we are paid just a tiny bit more than your average fast food worker (some agencies just pay $12.00/hr for MSWs!!!! And I am beginning to think I will never clear $40,000/year), so most of us have to take on second and third jobs and are just entirely exhausted. I myself work two jobs (both in social work) and rarely have even a day off. I do this because I honestly love the work and the clients and know it is important (and also because I need to survive). But I know I am not always at my best.

And, as this points out, the budget for mental health services is insufficient, making it pretty impossible to find resources for clients sometimes. And we're talking about basic resources like food, shelter, and clothing.

The big picture here is that our society does not care about the mentally ill or the people who dedicate their whole lives to working to help stabilize them. The only time we even talk about mental illness is when horrible things like this happen. And that's a huge problem. Because more social workers and bigger budgets alone won't solve this. We have to change the way our society thinks of and treats people with mental illness, and make effective, humane treatment a real priority.

I wish I had a quick answer about what with solve this. I don't...but I know that most of my clients over the years have been profoundly lonely and isolated, with no real opportunities, friends, or things to look forward to. How would you act if that was your reality? What might you do? I wish we could find a way to better integrate the mentally ill into mainstream society, and yes, of course aggressively treat people who are at a real risk of harming themselves or others.

(sorry for the essay)
More...
Posted by MSW on May 30, 2012 at 8:57 PM · Report this
32
Unabashed bleeding heart liberal viewpoints --- that's why I read the Slog! Antithesis of most corporate media. Thank you.
Posted by 1971 on May 30, 2012 at 8:57 PM · Report this
Fnarf 33
@21, what I meant was, most Washingtonians would be happy to warehouse them out of sight as long as they don't have to pay for it. People really, substantially, do not care a damn about crazy people. The discussion about commitment vs. outpatient treatment is taking place amongst a few thousand people at best. If they're on the street, most people are content to just blame the sons of bitches for being evil and start bloviating about how if they were there and had a weapon they'd blah blah blah. Same attitude that fills our prisons (half of those people are mentally ill too).

And our morgues.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on May 30, 2012 at 9:00 PM · Report this
COMTE 34
@22:

Yes, it's true: no concerted national effort to deal in a sane and compassionate manner with the mentally-ill is 100% effective. Therefore, it's a complete waste of our public resources to even attempt to deal with the problem.

Jesus Fucking Christ...

Posted by COMTE on May 30, 2012 at 9:01 PM · Report this
Max Solomon 35
@22: "days like today" have not happened in those countries with the frequency of Amoklauf killings in Amercia. Norway's horror has no equal in terms of the number killed, but Amercia average around 2 such incidents a month, and they happen anywhere, anytime.

Posted by Max Solomon on May 30, 2012 at 9:06 PM · Report this
36
I lost a friend in the Capitol Hill massacre in 2006. My heart is absolutely breaking today for what all the family and friends of today's victims are going through. It's so frustrating to see the same damn situation happening again. I'd like things to change for the better, but I'm not holding my breath. A society that celebrates a nearly unfettered right to bear arms while denying things like mental healthcare and alleviation of poverty is more or less throwing fuel on the fire.
Posted by Subdued Excitement on May 30, 2012 at 9:17 PM · Report this
37
@28: frequency has inverse correlation to mental health spending? interesting premise, don't buy it.

@34: ok - let us know how much public resources (spending) would be enough.

@35 and Golob: yup, they happen even in blue states, isn't that crazy?
Posted by hrmmm on May 30, 2012 at 9:20 PM · Report this
Just Jeff 38
It is inaccurate to describe all members of this "army of social workers" as "state employees". While state employed case workers are the monitors and gatekeepers of funding and services (largely), the majority of social workers who provide services to the mentally ill are actually private employees of both for- and nonprofit organizations. Many of these organizations contract with the state and local municipalities to provide services, and the nonprofits do a fair amount of fundraising on their own.
Posted by Just Jeff on May 30, 2012 at 9:25 PM · Report this
39
@37 No. You're fucking up your math and/or misunderstanding the concepts of statistics. Do you really need me to help you?
Posted by CbytheSea on May 30, 2012 at 9:29 PM · Report this
Posted by hrmmm on May 30, 2012 at 9:33 PM · Report this
41
The Americans with Disabilities Act, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, requires that mentally ill people who are involuntarily committed or otherwise under the supervision of the state have access to the "least restrictive environment" that is practicable and appropriate. This is the law. It is also, in my view, wise. Wise in light of the long history of abuses in institutionalization. Wise in light of the need to integrate mentally ill people into work life and the larger community, to the extent possible.

Now I don't know if the shooter here should or shouldn't have been institutionalized. I don't presume to know. And you don't either. Would this shooting have happened if he had been under proper supervision and medication? Would this shooting still have happened, so that institutionalization was necessary? Search me.

The point is that if we have rejected institutionalization except in the most hopeless of cases --- and we have ---then we can't just "lock them up," contrary to some of the suggestions above. And if we can't just lock them up, then full funding of residential programs, of integration programs, of treatment programs --- funding of these programs is an absolute necessity. Otherwise, REALLY BAD STUFF HAPPENS.
Posted by Pliggett Darcy on May 30, 2012 at 9:35 PM · Report this
42
@40. I thought we were comparing Norway or some other country. Do you want to talk about your statement or change the subject?
Posted by CbytheSea on May 30, 2012 at 9:39 PM · Report this
43
@40 we could use your link to establish which state is more efficient in its mental health spending. Which is an entirely different conversation and could be quite helpful.
Or we could compare the USA to other countries which is what your first statement was positing. It's up to you.
Posted by CbytheSea on May 30, 2012 at 9:43 PM · Report this
44
@40 ok, let's hit up a Norway/Canada/USA cage fight.
http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content…

Awesome! Actual research, something sorely lacking from Golob's rant of an article.
Posted by hrmmm on May 30, 2012 at 9:50 PM · Report this
COMTE 45
@37:

Okay, I'll play "feed the troll".

Considering that roughly 20% of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with some form of mental illness; and that roughly 75% of that number receives inadequate-to-literally no care for their condition, the answer to your question would be: "a fuck of a lot more than we do now."
Posted by COMTE on May 30, 2012 at 10:06 PM · Report this
Geraldo Riviera 46
@37 "While social-economic-demographic-geographic-and-political indicators show the strongest association with homicide rate variation, the results show the importance and potentially preventive utility of broader ICC criteria, increased psychiatric inpatient-bed access, and better performing mental health systems as factors contributing to homicide rate variation."

Civil commitment law, mental health services, and US homicide rates

http://www.springerlink.com/content/j863…
Posted by Geraldo Riviera on May 30, 2012 at 10:06 PM · Report this
47
@44 thanks for staying on subject. I only have time to read the first page. I really liked this quote:
Revealingly the US system rates relatively poorly for most of these criteria, even though its per capital total health expenditure (mental health spend is not given) is over half as much again as that in Canada and Norway, and over double that in the UK.
This seems to come up over and over again when it comes to the overall US system of healthcare. Why is that? I would guess it's due to an ever-rotating line-up of non-profits that help the least mental stable. Why do you think the US is less efficient?
Though back to your first statement. As far as I can read, this report doesn't deal with violence caused by the mentally ill, they even include the caveat that it's far from complete.
So I suppose we'll have to rely on the old objective stat of homicide rate. Luckily, the US kills Norway, 4 to 1! Almost as good as the Mariners against the Rangers today. 3:1.
Posted by CbytheSea on May 30, 2012 at 10:07 PM · Report this
48
Bad stuff happens, such is life
Posted by Wow2311 on May 30, 2012 at 10:13 PM · Report this
49
I have a story about a mental health services office I temped at long ago. This probably isn't a huge breach of confidentiality as I don't remember the name of the office or even the agency through which I worked with them. It was a short gig (only a weekend), they were a 501c3 that dealt with various low income mentally ill visitors and let's just say it was in a central part of town known for its copious mentally ill population.

So I'm at the front desk. Some of the office visitors are quite bonkers and some it's not as easy to tell. But one guy came in... he was dressed in camo, was chatty and a bit too edgy for comfort but was friendly. He didn't seem terribly off-center, and told a bunch of battlefield stories. While he's out of earshot one of the office clinicians discloses to me that he is in fact quite insane, possibly unstable, that they had a call into King County Mental Health to come get him and that they were gonna filibuster the guy to get him to stick around until KCMH arrived.

That talked this guy up for a good long while, to the point where they quite clearly had run out of topics and were clearly stalling. This was about 30-45 minutes. The guy BTW never gave off any sort of threatening vibe that I could tell. Finally he went to leave and they just had no other way to stop him without using undue force.

Go figure, KCMH shows up shortly thereafter and everyone has a 'oh shitballs we just missed him' conversation. KCMH personnel seem disappointed but not terribly upset.

I'm not entirely unconvinced that KCMH wanted him to get away because either taking him in wasn't worth the trouble or they didn't have the resources to squeeze him into a facility, so they took their time getting there.
Posted by Gomez http://misterstevengomez.com on May 30, 2012 at 10:31 PM · Report this
50
Gomez, I can top your stories times a thousand. And same results.

Just one example...Late November, downtown Seattle and it's pissing rain and blowing like a motherfucker and we've got a client in the alley behind our building w/her pants to her knees and masturbating w/a dead pigeon. And I do mean literally -- she is inserting a dead pigeon into her vagina. Rapidly. And moaning and groaning just like Meg Ryan.

When KCMH finally fucking shows up, they say "oh, she's just drunk". Right. Drunk girls stuff dead pigeons up their twats.

Our system is fucking broke.
Posted by gnossos on May 30, 2012 at 10:44 PM · Report this
Lose-Lose 51
Good post.
Here's a new slogan for you:
"This is what small government looks like".
Posted by Lose-Lose on May 30, 2012 at 10:53 PM · Report this
Westlake, son! 52
I am going to need a bookmark to the popcorn gifs gallery for the next little while huh?
Posted by Westlake, son! on May 30, 2012 at 11:02 PM · Report this
53
And this would all be true without guns, too. In fact, it was all true without guns18 years ago. And beyond that, back to the beginning of time, of course, but I'm a bit rattled by the parallels to that particular attack, and not just for personal reasons.
Posted by robotslave on May 30, 2012 at 11:06 PM · Report this
Sargon Bighorn 54
Golob the mentally ill have been killing people long before Eyman came along. SHAME on you for suggesting he is to blame for what happened. You may be just as guilty, maybe more so for the murders today.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on May 30, 2012 at 11:07 PM · Report this
55
All you guys are morons, including the guy who wrote this blaming it on GOP legislators.

Ian wasn't crazy. He was an angry cold-blooded f**k that shot his friends, ran from the scene (cause he knew what he did was wrong), killed some poor lady downtown, then when he saw the cops in West S. he blew his brains out.

He knew exactly what he was doing. Stop searching for blame. Ian made choices. Unfortunately he chose to be evil.
Posted by JackChucky on May 30, 2012 at 11:29 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 56
But what do we do with mentally ill people who refuse to take their meds? The murderer of Shannon Harps was under state supervision but stopped taking them. What is the solution to mentally ill people who refuse to accept they have a problem or won't take their meds because they don't like how meds make them feel or because the meds make them fat (in the case of the Northern Illinois University shooter)? Just offhand, I've cited two prominent murders where the killer refused psychiatric treatment, and I'm hardly an expert on the topic.

What are the standards for psychiatric care in other countries? Does Norway have better outcomes solely because they spend more money, or do they have more leeway in locking up incompetent and dangerous people?
Posted by keshmeshi on May 30, 2012 at 11:33 PM · Report this
57
I can't believe the whiners complaining about this post being political. It's called the facts jackasses. Uncontrolled nut bags are hurting and killing the rest of us, now more than ever thanks to dumb-ass Republicans and Libertarians.
Posted by K X One on May 31, 2012 at 12:29 AM · Report this
58
I don't mean this comment to detract from the completely legitimate point that Jonathan is making regarding our totally fucked up mental health care system, but one thing that some other countries do a better job of is finding ways to integrate people with mental illness into the larger community- even while they are clearly mentally ill. (In France, they have systems whereby mentally ill people are adopted into small communities, and are sort of taken care of and sheltered by the community as a matter of course). It's pretty easy to be a lonely, alienated adult in the United States even if you are reasonably sane, reasonably smart, reasonably employed or employable, and reasonably not a total jerk. Our culture is totally brutal when it comes to people who don't meet those standards. And social alienation is a poison- it just kills us. I think that, honestly, the drive to cut the mental health safety net is as much motivated by our total discomfort with the irrationality and uncomfortableness of the mentally ill as it is by the "small state government, low taxes" mentality which is so very prevelant during election time.
Posted by Kumquat on May 31, 2012 at 12:30 AM · Report this
59
I love how this is a right-wing problem. Did you forget that Obama bailed out the banks? Do you fail to see that the left and the right are the same damn thing. Do you not understand that this is classic divide and conquer strategy?
Posted by antifa7 on May 31, 2012 at 2:53 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 60
@59 as George Carlin said, you don't have a choice when you go to the ballot box..you just think you do. But since Tim Keck wants to be a political player in Washington state (wonderful piece in the Seattle Times a few months back) don't expect anyone from the Stranger hold Democrats to account.

Though this is largely a result of conservative politics it's sad no one wants to admits the Democrats in this state never grew a back bone to stand up to any of it.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on May 31, 2012 at 3:08 AM · Report this
61
Mental illness is a broad subject and each case is individual and as different as day is from night. To care for the mentally ill is time consuming and requires not only money but finding the right care taker(s) that can relate to that particularly mentally ill person. The fact that we have so few incidents of killings and suicide in our society is what amazes me. We need better, more accessible mental healthcare run by professionals who are advocates to the mentally ill --- yet, even with that you will have cases where the patient doesn't want to take the meds, where the patient becomes sick enough not to know when the meds aren't working or the meds are actually causing psychotic problems. It's sad but our society, and possibly no society, is set up to deal with mental illness with 100% success rate but that doesn't mean government can cut funding. I've been depressed, sometimes onset with no notable outside causes, yet, it's near impossible to get help because not only is our society set up for a certain amount of isolation regardless of your moods, a depressed or mentally unstable person actually can't seek treatment due to their own restrictions and isolations that they impose on themselves. Then there's the issue of finances needed for expensive treatment and meds. There is no easy answer, but even when you try to get help, it's unaffordable and due to the financial issues, you end up with psychiatrists and counselors who give you the bare bones of time and send you on your way with drugs or prescriptions that may not be right for you or you may not be able to afford to upkeep your visits or meds and when you run out, you're even worse off than you started - more depressed, more prone to episodes, more isolated. And then psychiatry does seem to be a trial and error sort of process and mentally ill people are most times impatient, locked in their own world of depression and isolation, have phobias and problems unimaginable to the sane person. It's just difficult and yes, regardless of all this, states or federal government should maintain the best healthcare for mentally ill persons as a rule not an option. Now, I feel sick because it is all incomprehensible and no one paragraph can sum up all the issues, all the needs, all the problems, all the solutions to such a broad and varied topic as mental illness. Seeking treatment can be such a mentally taxing expedition that you need to be a rocket scientist just to understand where to go and what to ask for, etc. It should be EASY, not complicated. Mental healthcare should be EASY to find, easy to pay for, easy to keep up, EASY and it should be very accessible and furnished by the government just like we have an infrastructure for roads and waterways, there should be a healthcare infrastructure. There will be episodes, there will be deaths and suicides, there will be those who seek treatment and come away helped and those who seek treatment without good results. And unfortunately, there will be those who need treatment but you can't get them to visit the doctor, you can't get them to stay on their meds, you can't get them to help themselves. And there will also be mental healthcare providers who are just plain incompetent. And there is no fix, only oversight of the system and stabilization, patience, love and plenty of professional care made available, affordable or free is the foundation.
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Posted by Faye P on May 31, 2012 at 3:22 AM · Report this
62
I have a brother in just this situation: mentally ill, with delusions, very attached to his right to bear arms. I fear it's just a matter of time before he lashes out violently against one of the two major targets of his resentment: 1) our parents or 2) women in general. I can't speak to the mental-health funding issues because as a right-wing extremist he would never, ever use anything publicly funded. It'd be nice if he could be involuntarily committed but it can't be done. He takes his meds only sporadically because he hates the side effects (I don't blame him, but still), and nothing can be done about that either until he hurts someone. But his case has everything to do with gun policy. The man has no business owning a gun--his reason for wanting them is precisely why he shouldn't have them. And yet there's no stopping him from his little one-man arms race. There's no other country in the world where my brother could buy guns. We're just sitting on a time bomb and nothing can be done.
Posted by Big Sis on May 31, 2012 at 4:00 AM · Report this
63
Mental illness and firearms are not a good combo,, even in war. Please note the number of catastrophic incidents among active duty military personnel. Combat troops and others are suffering from abnormally high rates of mental illness. Maybe firearms CAUSE these aberrations....
Perhaps the sight or feel of firearms triggers latent psychosis in some people.....Perhaps the possession of a weapons enhances delusions of grandeur and invincibility? Whatever, crazy people with guns create problems that sane people with guns cannot cure or prevent.
Posted by pupuguru http://www.godsweed.org on May 31, 2012 at 5:14 AM · Report this
64
@53 Yeah, that guy attacked seven people with a knife but how many of them died? Five? The title reads "Man with a Knife HURTS Seven" and there were seven people attacked so that would be .. none. None of them died.
Posted by funkathrusta on May 31, 2012 at 5:51 AM · Report this
65
lets grant that golob's mewing whining is 100% correct.

lets ignore the fact that he is full of shit.

so what?

four stiffs is still way more cost effective than the programs that were cut.

when the moocher 50% want to start paying some taxes then the adults will listen to their ideas about how to spend tax dollars.

till then stfu.
Posted by The Moocher50% got no skin in this game on May 31, 2012 at 7:23 AM · Report this
Just Jeff 66
"four stiffs is still way more cost effective than the programs that were cut."

One wonders if you would make the same statement had one of the four been one close to you.

Or YOU.
Posted by Just Jeff on May 31, 2012 at 9:22 AM · Report this
67
Drug and alcohol addiction exacerbate the problem, but nobody can tell or stop them all. She sounds like a nice, dedicated lady, but sorry, most just don't think you or anybody can do much about it. Pouring money into a bottomless pit doesn't float any boats. Condolences to victims' family's. It's not enough, but all I can see to do.
Posted by broke on May 31, 2012 at 10:34 AM · Report this
68
As some have mentioned, one of the primary dilemmas mental health professionals face is clients who are unable to recognize and acknowledge their own mental illness and the need for treatment. In these cases, and they are many, the challenge becomes balancing that individual's right to refuse medication as part of their treatment against the threat they pose to themselves and those around them. Many people with very serious mental health problems pose absolutely no threat to themselves or others when unmedicated. Would their quality of life and ability to integrate themselves into society improve if they took medications? In most cases, absolutely. But they pose no threat of imminent harm. I've had to help make the call to physically restrain clients in order to commit them for hospitalization and it's not an easy one to have to make. What is the proper balance between individual rights and public safety? That judgment is made on a case-by-case basis for those with contacts and support within the mental health system. Unfortunately that support system is spread incredibly thin where it exists at all. Many within our society walk a mighty tight rope and sadly there's often not a net where one is needed to prevent tragedies like this.
Posted by fovillian on May 31, 2012 at 10:54 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 69
Stawicki's family said he had a history of anger and mental-health problems that he refused to deal with.


And yet another example of a dangerously ill individual who would not accept treatment. What, other than involuntary commitment, would have saved those six lives?
Posted by keshmeshi on May 31, 2012 at 11:28 AM · Report this
melanyrae62 70
We need to ask ourselves why so many in our 'culture' suffer from mental illness in the first place.
Posted by melanyrae62 http://www.essentialbread.com on May 31, 2012 at 11:31 AM · Report this
71
I am also an MSW social worker and I work at a local ER. I wanted to make sure you know that community mental health social workers are NOT state employees. If they were they would be paid much better. In San Francisco, most community mental health clinics are county run, so they pay county salaries, which is a good thing. Case managers with master's degrees at Sound Mental Health and other mental health clinics often are paid a starting wage of $15 an hour to manage HUGE caseloads. (It may even be less as the social worker notes above, I don't know because I refuse to apply for one of those jobs, as I feel it is insulting to pay so little.) I work in an ER so luckily I make a good salary, but we see the effects of this horrible system every day in our ER. First of all, it is very hard to commit (detain) someone in Washington state. Second, once someone IS committed, there is a serious lack of involuntary psychiatric beds in the county so they often end up "boarding" on a medical unit in the hospital with staff who are NOT trained in dealing with mental illness. At any given time there may be 20-30 "boarded" patients in the county at once. If a patient is not hospitalized, there is a significant lack of outpatient services available. If you don't have Medicaid or insurance, it is a challenge to find services. Al of the above add up to a huge problem.
Posted by ER Social Worker on May 31, 2012 at 1:43 PM · Report this
72
I am also an MSW social worker and I work at a local ER. I wanted to make sure you know that community mental health social workers are NOT state employees. If they were they would be paid much better. In San Francisco, most community mental health clinics are county run, so they pay county salaries, which is a good thing. Case managers with master's degrees at Sound Mental Health and other mental health clinics often are paid a starting wage of $15 an hour to manage HUGE caseloads. (It may even be less as the social worker notes above, I don't know because I refuse to apply for one of those jobs, as I feel it is insulting to pay so little.) I work in an ER so luckily I make a good salary, but we see the effects of this horrible system every day in our ER. First of all, it is very hard to commit (detain) someone in Washington state. Second, once someone IS committed, there is a serious lack of involuntary psychiatric beds in the county so they often end up "boarding" on a medical unit in the hospital with staff who are NOT trained in dealing with mental illness. At any given time there may be 20-30 "boarded" patients in the county at once. If a patient is not hospitalized, there is a significant lack of outpatient services available. If you don't have Medicaid or insurance, it is a challenge to find services. Al of the above add up to a huge problem.
Posted by Black Sheep on May 31, 2012 at 1:48 PM · Report this
73
@58 So true, so relevant, and well put. @61, thank you for bravely sharing your experience and a clear description, this discussion clearly needs it and I hope more will go back and read it before making insensitive and uneducated comments.

To the numerous people making such comments, shame on you. You are contributing to a society forcing people into alienation instead of fostering support and cooperative improvement of all of our lives. People need to take care of each other, humans are not any good at going it alone and never would have made it as a species trying to operate that way.

As for politics, I think there is a place for calling for better systems, but it's a shame to make this about what wing is evil and where parties and laws fit in on the spectrum--this is a tragedy about people. Emphasis should be on compassion, not closed-minded criticism and infighting. Call for an improvement of services and better understanding of mental illness, rather than squabbling over who's to blame and what to do with "them." It's heartbreaking, and this is all heartbreaking enough!

If you read the Slog article today by Brendan Kiley about the wake celebration of the victims' lives, one of the slain understood this reality and took steps to include his own killer. Maybe if he had more help, from a concerned community and empowered services, he could have been successful.
Posted by btlydum on May 31, 2012 at 3:05 PM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 74
@56
Norway has better outcomes because they have more leeway in locking up incompetent and dangerous people.
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on May 31, 2012 at 4:48 PM · Report this
75
Just to postulate about the treatment of the mentally ill... I've been studying robots, aliens, zombies, etc., and the bottom line about what makes them so scary is that they are not presumed to be on the same rational footing as your everyday sane person -- meaning that they cannot be reasoned with. I don't think it's unrealistic for the populace to cringe and want to steer clear/put away people like this, in the same way that most people don't want to date fat people or most people aren't attracted to kids. There's something psycho/bio logical that comes from not being able to reason with someone. You don't want them around you, you don't want them to be around you, and when you cannot cross a street or board a bus in this town without getting an earful of crazy talk, you get fatigued -- and you just wish you could smoke a cigarette without having 20 people ask you for one.

And it's not just "homeless crazies," either -- this dude probably had cash flow coming from his family -- and he was missed because he could probably play it cool some of the time and spun the lucky wheel of a criminal justice system that is more intent on setting criminals free than locking them up.

Posted by thegoldenkey on May 31, 2012 at 4:51 PM · Report this
76
@74 & 75 you are making me feel physically ill with your callousness and inappropriateness. A difference between mentally ill people and zombies, etc. are that they are people! And illness is along a spectrum with health, nobody is 100% healthy, and the goal is to find ways to help people become mentally healthy, not to leave them suffering and ill, fostering the "snapping" that is rearing its ugly head here.

If communities are paying attention to the marginalized, they are also going to be more likely to notice when they have become dangerous and need a more extreme intervention, which can likely be temporary once a reasonable level of health is achieved. Writing off people in crisis and avoiding them is clearly backfiring.

If either of you ever slip in your level of mental health, which is not unlikely given that a quarter of American adults experience mental illness over a given year and many go unreported (from www.nami.org), I hope you reach out for help and find a receptive community of support, rather than proclaiming yourself immune and not like "them" until you snap. We are all people here, and sometimes we need more help and intervention by those brave and compassionate enough to recognize it. If we had better social justice and services, it might be a feasible reality to intervene in time. If we have more hatred and discrimination and fear, well, we'll have more fear-inspiring hateful retaliation.

A note: I do not say any of this as insensitivity to the pain caused to the victims, but to the contrary to encourage thinking on how more atrocity and pain could be prevented. In fact I knew two of those who died. One of whom showed the compassion I'm describing shortly before the tragic outcome, unfortunately to no avail. Unfortunately, one man's kind actions aren't enough to counteract the major force of societal neglect of vulnerable people. Don't be part of the problem.
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Posted by btlydum on May 31, 2012 at 8:32 PM · Report this
77
I signed up just to make a comment on this article, which I was relieved to see. I saw part of the live conference the mayor gave, and was angry when he told people not to blame him or the police, it's the culture of violence to blame. I don't know if the mayor knew the man was mentally ill, but even in the absence of most or all violence, there will still be people who are mentally ill. The culture is to blame for looking down on them rather than giving them help, and the governement, mayor, etc is certainly to blame for not providing support for sick patients. The article said that he did not seek help and did not elaborate - it could be that he did seek help, but was punished by the system.

There are so far many perspectives for mental health workers, but not many perspectives of mental health patients, so I thought I would share my experience. I have had severe depression my whole life and have always been responsible about taking meds and doing what I can to treat it. I often go through periods of severe suicidal ideation. There is a "help" line that you call, where they coldly cut you off after 10 minutes, and you are in fear of them calling the police to incarcerate you without listening to you properly. I mentioned suicidal ideations to a doctor once, and he called an ambulance to take me less than a mile to the hospital. The worst of the worst was when my therapist determined I was not safe and threatened to call the police if I was not in the ER by the time a family member left the next day.

I was desperately trying to not go through the ER, but my provider lied to me and said that at that clinic they don't admit people straight into the hospital (which is untrue). So me and the family member ended up going to the ER. At this point I was willing to be voluntarily committed. I was ignored for quite a time and then finally put in an isolation room along next to 3 others in the ER, many of whom were screaming, being belligerent, or singing, acting generally crazy, etc. These people were treated gently and led up to their rooms quite quickly. When the social worker came in, she acted rude and insulting, and ended up determining that the hospital could not help me. However, she stated, since I was in danger, they were legally obligated to commit me involuntarily. So here's the picture - I came in voluntarily, suffering greatly, and was told in a damaged and vulnerable state by someone in charge that I couldn't be helped...At this point, I no longer wanted to go to the hospital, since I was experiencing extreme rejection sensitivity and didn't want to be somewhere I was not wanted. If it weren't for the kindness of my family member rearranging her schedule I would have been involuntarily committed when I went in to be committed of my own accord. For 2 days after I had psychotic episodes where I would babble that I couldn't be sick because the hospital said they couldn't help me.

In short, the more work I do to get help in the system, the more I've been punished. For someone who is already hopeless, there is a time at which you will just give up, given a system that does not want you.
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Posted by the_sky_is_falling on May 31, 2012 at 8:41 PM · Report this
78
I think you miss the point here, he had a gun. Maybe I should back this up a bit, it gets complicated, but a mentally ill individual HAD A GUN. I wouldn't trust myself with a gun after a bad day at the office. You want top stop mentally unstable people shooting other people, given that we all go through mentally unstable periods? Then take away the damned guns!
Posted by WBlue on May 31, 2012 at 11:07 PM · Report this
79
@59 It was Dubya who bailed out the banks; Obama was the one who wanted to "look forward" and not send them all to prison. Obama was also the one that saved Detroit and made a profit on the deal. Stick that in your Libertarian Paradise...
Posted by It's Stranger in Oly on June 1, 2012 at 6:35 AM · Report this
Texas10R 80
Jonathan, how can someone as smart as you are, say something so fucking idiotic?

JONATHAN GOLOB: "In Washington State, it is exceedingly difficult to involuntarily commit mentally ill individuals—particularly for extended periods of time—unless someone is an imminent threat to themselves or others."

Cheese and rice, Jon; Is there ANY OTHER REASON "to involuntarily commit mentally ill individuals" ?

Your position as a policy analyst on Fox News awaits.

(Yech!)

Posted by Texas10R on June 1, 2012 at 8:02 AM · Report this
Texas10R 81
@78 who writes: "I wouldn't trust myself with a gun..."

What a yutz. Based on your post, I wouldn't trust you with a goldfish. Thank you, for not "having a gun", but please resist the temptation to disarm the entire public on the basis of some guy for whom mental health services were not readily available.

*Idiot*

Posted by Texas10R on June 1, 2012 at 8:08 AM · Report this
82
78. He was also let go in 2008 after roughing up his then-girlfriend, threatening her and smashing up her home. The guy clearly had issues, but our system allowed him to go free if the girlfriend elected not to move forward and press charges, which for some reason she didn't.

Laws do no good if we can't use them. Even with new gun laws, the Crazy Ians of the world would still walk free if we don't throw them in prison for mad violence and it's easily possible for them to dodge charges... and your new laws would do no good.
Posted by Gomez http://misterstevengomez.com on June 1, 2012 at 8:42 AM · Report this
83
I couldn't agree more with the social worker except for one point.

It wasn't Eyman who did this. It was Christine Gregoire who cut our state's basic health system and completely slashed funding for mental health outreach programs, etc. Meanwhile, she went on a spending spree building worthless unnecessary roads, bridges, tunnels, etc to "stimulate" our economy (i.e. give away public money to private companies).

Why pass the buck to conservatives? I'm a liberal, but darn it, let's fix the real problem and be rid of all this partisanship. Our state has been run by Democrats for years, and I'm fine with that, but they ALL need to get off their butts and address the REAL issue here. Standing around pointing fingers at Tim Eyman is not only disingenuous, it takes attention away from the real problems we face and makes finding a solution even harder.
Posted by Brian_Bosworth on June 1, 2012 at 4:52 PM · Report this
84
Dear Sky-Is-Falling (#77):

I am sorry you had a difficult time in the ER you went to. If it might help, I want to explain why the social worker you saw probably said you needed to be involuntarily committed. Sometimes, many times, there are no "voluntary" psych beds in the county. Seriously. In the past, people who needed treatment and were voluntary but there were no beds open were referred to the DMHP's (the ones who can commit people) in order to find them a space. So that may have been the reason the MSW told you that. Now they are getting away from this, and admitting voluntary patients to a medical unit while they wait for a bed. Not ideal, however.
Posted by Black Sheep on June 2, 2012 at 6:05 PM · Report this

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