In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 26, 2007 / 8 Iyar, 5767

Peril in Unwatched Madness

By Suzanne Fields

Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Psychiatrists of my acquaintance tell me they've got a lot of work in the wake of the massacre at Virginia Tech. Parents who had buried their heads in the sandbox since Johnny or Chloe were young children behaving badly are dragging their late adolescent and young adult sons and daughters in for checkups and treatment. Many of them, says one psychiatrist, lapsing into the politically incorrect language the rest of sometimes use, are "lunatics."

We've whitewashed language about the mentally ill. Labels that once got immediate attention are obfuscated with evasion and euphemism so as not to offend. Psychiatric diagnoses are couched in frilly language to obscure so we don't "stigmatize" or "victimize." Calling an illness a "personality disorder" doesn't frighten with the urgency of "paranoid schizophrenic." Sometimes new diagnoses are tailored to persuade the green eyeshade men at the insurance companies. Sometimes the professionals don't want to lower the "self-esteem" of their patients, so they make them sound more normal than they really are. Trends in caring for the mentally ill run in several directions.

For eight years in the long ago I edited a mental health magazine for professionals, called "Innovations." We featured new treatments and attitudes toward those suffering from a wide range of mental illnesses. Some of the new approaches were promising; others were useless. They all were lumped together, entangled in public policy, abetted by a philosophy that one size fits all. That was a deadly formula for cost-cutting state legislatures.

Typical was a headline on one community program: "From the back ward to the front porch." A copy editor had put into neat perspective what we all wanted to believe, that new drugs could do what Freud never dreamed of. No soul searching or long sessions on the couch. Independent living in the community was the best way to treat mental disorder. States radically reduced their patient populations or closed mental hospitals, which cost more to run than luxury hotels (without the luxury). Patients moved into rooming houses or halfway houses with poor supervision. Neighbors protested. Hallucinating bag ladies and delusional men headed for warm climates to sleep on park benches and sidewalk vents. The golden age dawned.

If they stayed on their meds (an enormous "if"), some of them could manage in group homes, but they often discarded their prescriptions because of uncomfortable side effects. For decades, society, driven by a variety of vested interests, began camouflaging the kind of mental disability exhibited by Cho Seung-hui, the shooter at Blacksburg. Parents were embarrassed to seek help. Civil liberties lawyers rigorously defended the rights of the nuts. Authorities were afraid of getting sued. Friends were protective. Hospitalization was expensive. We can't know whether psychiatry could have prevented Cho's murderous rage, but the tragedy should shake us up enough to think again about attitudes toward mental illness and how to treat it.

Parents who refused to commit their children before the massacre may be more willing to get help for them now. Commitment laws have to be examined closely and sometimes changed. Parents and policy makers as well as friends and family — including sisters, cousins and aunts — must realize that seriously mentally ill patients must be observed by professionals for a long time to see how they function on drugs and therapy. The complexities of mental illness do not often, or even usually, become apparent in outpatient treatment. Symptoms can mimic a wide range of human behavior that can pass for normal, or merely eccentric. Psychopaths are particularly clever in fooling us.

We still don't know a lot about the different causes and cures for mental illness. While Cho's "creative writing" is supposed to have offered clues to his potential for violence, many of our best writers have depicted, albeit far more stylishly, similarly violent themes. It's comforting to blame the violent messages on movies and music, but young men in other cultures who get different cultural messages — Islamic messages, for example — become suicide bombers, and many are as crazy as Cho. Culture can enable a mentally sick person to sublimate his craziness in forms that are either approved, rewarded or go unchallenged by society. It's unlikely to be the root cause of sickness.

Scientific research has uncovered parts of the brain that trigger psychopathology (including tumors) and is beginning to reveal how genetics, brain circuitry and biological predispositions play into mental disorders. But common sense is as important as science in confronting somebody who consistently seems a little "off." We don't have perfect knowledge or absolute cures, but we should at least act sensibly on what we do have. To paraphrase Hamlet: "Madness in ordinary ones, must not unwatched go."

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on JWR contributor Suzanne Fields' column by clicking here.


Suzanne Fields Archives

© 2006, Creators Syndicate, Suzanne Fields