The Black Mountain News reports on the difficulties of helping the mentally ill from legal challenges to the personal stress placed on family members:
From the Black Mountain News:
If Janet Howland were still alive today, the Certified Nursing Assistant might be once again caring for the elderly. She always wanted to return to Haiti, where she went on a missionary trip in college. She loved caring for animals and children, so maybe she could have returned to those passions.
But Howland is not alive today. Howland drowned in the inlet above Lake Tomahawk sometime in the early hours of November 30. How her mental health might have contributed to her death is unclear, because there were no witnesses to the drowning.
What has become clear to Howland’s sister, Peggy Warren, is a painful reality encountered by so many other relatives of those with mental illness – having someone involuntarily committed for medical help can be exceedingly difficult, even if doing so could save his or her life.
“I was left dealing with this on my own, and feeling like there wasn’t much I could do,” Warren said.
That’s largely because of legal barriers designed to protect individuals’ rights, creating an ethical dilemma between getting someone the necessary help and preventing wrongful involuntary commitment.