Mental Care in California

As a mental health professional I share your concern and that of your readers about misunderstanding and mistreatment of the mentally ill (editorial, Nov. 23). However, in all fairness there should be a more balanced presentation of the issues. For example, credit should be given when the police get it right.

I had a ringside seat several months ago when the West Valley police handled a situation with my next-door neighbor, who was armed with a clearly visible gun. They were cautious, careful and incredibly courteous, considering the tension and potential danger. It took them 5 1/2 painstaking hours to get him out of his home and into custody, during which not a shot was fired. There was no news coverage of this apparent nonevent.

It’s easy to second-guess, but offhand I could not predict my response to a situation in which I have a split second to gauge whether my life is threatened and to decide on the “appropriate” action, and I’ve had years of training and experience.





By the time my daughter was diagnosed as being bipolar, our daily existence had become a living nightmare. There have been many suicide attempts and psychotic rages that ended with 911 calls. We spent many nights at the local hospital ICU unit waiting to see if she would survive her latest suicide attempt. She was released time and again without getting treatment for the illness that caused her severe depression. Although we both had medical insurance, we were nearly bankrupted because our insurance did not cover mental health care.

If my daughter had any life-threatening disease other than mental illness, we would have the support of family and community. Parents of a person who is mentally ill are often judged and blamed for the illness. When people talk of the mentally ill, they often say, “It’s the way a child is raised.” My daughter’s illness was not caused by improper toilet training, neglect or abuse. We hope that your Nov. 21-23 series on mental illness will help to make people aware that the mentally ill need help instead of being treated like pariahs. We love our child just as much as other parents. Sometimes we are even lucky enough to get a glimpse of the person she was before she became ill and this gives us hope that we may have her back someday.



Long Beach


The series on the mentally ill was excellent. It hit very close to home, because my mother was paranoid schizophrenic. She was murdered in Hollywood on Thanksgiving night in 1987. I had conservatorship over her for a year, and then I gave up. I tried to put her in a locked nursing facility, but there were no beds available.

The sad end to her life could have been entirely avoided if the system had taken care of her like it was supposed to. The worst part is that my mother is only one of hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people who need long-term solutions to their problems, not just stopgap care.


Sherman Oaks