Monday, August 8, 2016

Mental health and public safety

Criminal justice and mental health are strangely associated with each other. A shortcoming of each service will lead to deteriorating the quality of the other.

In this article below, some examples are shown. Some people with mental disorders are arrested because of their odd behaviors. The police are willing to send them to a psychiatric hospital. But, in the case there are no available beds, the patients are detained in jail, without receiving adequate treatment. The longer untreated duration is, the more difficult for the patients to be cured.

The Meridian Star: Budget cuts may swell county jails with mentally ill

Public safety is one of the most important issues for citizens. However, divisions for achieving it are suffering from lack of budget, because we would hardly recognize the improved safety in spite of the effort of conventional force. This tendency is shared by many countries.

Just recently, Sagamihara mass murder case occurred in Japan. This tragedy has shaken many people’s mind. Not a few people claim the necessity of enhanced supervision for mentally disordered offenders. I agree with this idea partially. But if realized, we would not feel the community safer than in the past at all.

My past entry: Mass murder case of challenged people in Sagamihara, Japan

People working in a division for protecting safety are unconsciously involved to community mental health. In Japan, a survey to family members of patients with mental disorders was conducted. The result suggested that they truly wanted help for bringing the patients to the hospital when needed. Since many patients with mental disorders resist to visit the hospital, it is difficult for the families alone to escort them to the hospital. However, most medical practitioners cannot visit the home of patients. They say they can do nothing to do unless the patient comes to the hospital. After all, the police catch the patient to bring them to the hospital. Families have no one than the police to rely on when there is a risk of the patient for harming others.

On the other hand, many practitioners in Japan are hesitating to keep in touch with the police in the treatment of patients with mental disorders. It looks a little strange. Community mental health cannot be achieved by medical practitioners in Japan. Police officers should also be engaged in the act for improved community mental health.

In England, budget cut resulted in the reduced number of official workers in prison. The outcome of this radical change was increased suicides of prisoners. They had not been treated with specialized care. Indeed, mere supervision and the daily connection did prevent them from killing themselves.

In my sense, English police are more familiar with community mental health than the Japanese one. Nonetheless, it seems not adequate collaboration is kept between mental health workers and police. The cost is always the core of concern. In England, the cost of treating offenders with personality disorders was analyzed. As a result, they should be treated in prison rather than in a hospital, at least regarding the cost-effectiveness. Although it attracts some criticism, I think this conclusion is acceptable.

The relationship between mental health and public safety is not simple. Stereotypical idea that patients with mental disorders are dangerous should be expelled. But we have to consider how to gain the society in which everyone can live without worrying about safety matters.

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