Dealing With the Mentally Disturbed

Reading through some of the comments on a post at Dr. Helen’s, it got me thinking about whether the university dropped the ball here. I certainly think they did. But there’s always going to be difficulty in dealing with mentally disturbed people who are exhibiting warning signs.

We live in a free society that values a presumption of innocence; the idea that we cannot deprive people of their liberties without due process. To have someone committed against their will should require the state to meet a difficult burden. If you look at totalitarian systems, many of them used mental health as an instrument of oppression; institutionalizing dissidents and the like as mentally incompetent. There are good reasons to restrain the state in this area.

It seems, though, that this guy crossed into behavior that should have been taken seriously be school officials and reported to law enforcement. At the very least, he should have been expelled. Lighting fires, stalking, harassing, and vandalism are all crimes, and all serious matters. Arson is a felony, especially to occupied dwellings. Why did university officials sweep this under the rug?

But I’m reluctant to go so far as to say it should be easier to commit someone, or suggest that universities need to adopt “zero tolerance” policies akin to what primary and secondary schools have done. That would just be compounding on the tragedy. I think there were general law enforcement options that could have been taken here, and weren’t. The system failed, and tragedy struck.

And people wonder why I don’t want to relay on the same system for my own personal safety.

One thought on “Dealing With the Mentally Disturbed”

  1. Intersting

    Had the same conversation with a liberal farmers wife from Iowa tonight. We agreed at the end, there is simply nothing you can do. Evil exists in the world, and you can only pray you don’t cross its path too soon (you will eventually) and that when you do, you are prepared to address it in a serious way.

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