Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mental Illness is No Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card

I will go out on a limb here and say that people who cannot control themselves are insane.

The word insane is derived from unsound. An insane mind is an unsound one.

The insane stick out among us like sore thumbs. You can often tell from a block away that some stranger is insane. As when, for example, you see him walking up a crowded street alone and wildly yelling and gesticulating to himself.

The insane may not realize what they're doing at any given moment. They may not remember doing something earth-shaking that they did an hour ago. They may do something horrendous and then be surprised that people disapprove of what they did. In other words, they don't know right from wrong. They have no idea that what they are doing will get them into trouble. They show this by not even trying to sneak around in order to get away with it. The insane are unable to control themselves and thus are but a puppet of their urges.

Insanity can be temporary, as when somebody just "snaps."

Now, what I have just said about insanity is consistent with legal theory here in the United States. This is why you need to prove sanity in order to get a conviction for a crime. The judgement of sanity is made according to the criteria I used above. Did this person show by their behavior that they knew what they were doing? Did they show by their behavior that they know right from wrong? Did they show by their behavior that they could control themselves?

The insane are not punished here: they are committed to psychiatric care.

But guess what? Serial killers and criminals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are usually judged sane and sent to jail. Because they flunk the insanity test with flying colors.

We have a lot of sloppy thinking out there that all mental illness is insanity. That's exactly what you are saying if you claim that the mentally ill cannot control themselves and that they are not to blame for the bad things they do.

Well then, they deserve no credit for the good things they do either, right?

In other words, the mentally ill are all just machines with buttons that get pushed. Right?

Wrong. I challenge anyone to show me a psychiatrist or psychologist who will agree with that, in effect saying that all mental illness is insanity.

Mental illness causes TEMPTATIONS. Since when is temptation an excuse for anything?

What? People can't be expected to resist temptation? Jeez, then if I am tempted to steal someone's wallet, it's justifiable theft because poor, poor me was really, really tempted to! (sniff, sniff)

That sloppy thinking just doesn't hold up, does it?

It is sad that the mentally ill are tempted in ways the rest of us are not. But since when does TEMPTATION = CAUSE? We all get tempted 20 times a day. And we all are obligated to resist temptation. All but the insane are capable of resisting temptation. That includes the mentally ill.

The insane are not responsible for what they do. But other mentally ill people are. Mental illness is no Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.

And the mentally ill shouldn't be treated as incapable of resisting their temptations. What a demeaning attitude! That's the way to lead them deeper into sickness, not the way to guide them to wellness.

Kathleen Krajco