Committing someone really isn’t that hard, but persistence is

Every time a horrible crime occurs and involves a person with a history of any kind of mental illness, whether minor depression or lifelong schizophrenia, there are always the screechers who cry that commitment laws aren’t tough enough.

The real truth is the laws are in place. But people – including parents – who tried to get someone committed and failed are sure that it’s the system’s fault.

I hear from people in emails more than I’d like about this very issue, and I’ll tell you this: in every case, when you get to digging out the facts, it’s a lack of persistence at fault. If you *really* want to get someone committed, it’s not that hard to do, especially if they’re truly a danger to themselves.

But what I’ve seen is that people make one try, don’t find a psychiatrist who is willing to go the distance, and then give up. Then they blame the system. Or they call the police and expect them to fix a mental health crisis.

It’s not the responsibility of police, unless a crime is being committed. Why don’t people understand that?

Some psychiatrists are more tenacious than others. Some are willing to sign an emergency hold order (in most states that’s 3 days) because there’s not much involved. A signature saying the person meets the standard. Being a danger to oneself can be interpreted widely.

But a full, legal commitment requires more work. It’s not hard to achieve, because most people don’t have the resources to fight it in court. It does, however, require some time and paperwork, as well as followup from a psychiatrist.

I’m not going to give a how-to session on committing someone. The laws are there and it can be done. It’s just that sometimes it may take more work than a phone call or two. So it’s easier to make a phone call, pronounce it a failure and then blame the system.

That’s the American way.