In the last week, as the nation has taken stock about what to do in response to the recent attack on schoolchildren in Connecticut, two major ideas appear to be more attention to gun control and "mental health." (It is interesting how we speak of mental "health" and not mental illness, another reflection perhaps of the stigma against admitting the reality of mental illness.) One most commonly hears a call for more funding for "mental health" treatment, but also, in an increasing number of places, there is awareness of a need not just for more money in a broken system, but a need to fix that system.
One place psychiatric care clearly is broken is the extreme resistance to requiring treatment for severe and potentially dangerous cases of clear mental illnesses, especially schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder.
I noted in my last blog post that this approach has some political problems, in that it will be opposed by the far right and the far left, for different reasons. Some will always defend civil liberties - they did it with vaccinations and fluoride and cigarette smoking too (and some still oppose these ideas) - until cultural forces led society to accept the need for some restrictions on extreme liberties. Some will oppose involuntary treatment of mental illness, simply because they reject the idea of mental illness, for various ideological reasons.