In response to Thomas Knowles’ letter (Jan. 6) regarding our mental health system, I would say that the mental health system has not failed, but the interpretation of laws regulating mental health involuntary holds and treatment is far too rigid.
Families who are desperate to find help for their loved ones face huge barriers. On the pretext of protecting individual rights, access to treatment is blocked by equating “danger to self or others” to suicide or homicide.
There are far more dangers in the community for those with mental illnesses, especially for individuals with psychotic disorders. Rarely will law enforcement officers consider “grave disability,” which is the third possible criterion for an involuntary hold.
As one who has called law enforcement for help with a loved one diagnosed with a mental illness, I can attest to the frustration of trying to get him to the hospital for treatment, and being told time and time again that he does not meet “criteria.”
If we are going to protect our mentally ill loved ones, their families, and our community, we must find a balance between preserving individual rights and providing necessary treatment, either voluntary or involuntary.
Fresno County Mental Health Board