“Oh no, please help” were the last words my daughter said as she lay dying on a sidewalk in a beautiful Washington, D.C., neighborhood. She was the victim of a random act of violence by a person who should not have been on the streets. The person who did this unthinkable deed to my darling daughter had a history of mental issues. I don’t know the specifics of his illness other than he was on meds, and had been observed in the area acting “strangely.”
The D.C. police knew of him and were concerned about his issues.
Due to our changes in mental health care in the past 50 years we have shrunk the options for dealing, helping, holding, and housing people who need help.
I live in California where the clearing out of mental health facilities, reduction of funding, and mental health professionals available for help has been continually cut for the most part since the late ‘60s. The reasoning and rationale for this social/cultural movement is another lengthy story but has been followed nationwide by most states. California prides itself on “leading the nation in change.” In this case there is no pride in the title.
Nationwide, help for mentally ill persons is still in decline. Many of the social violence issues we face today -- gun violence, stabbings, kidnapping, robbery, etc. -- are often perpetuated by people who need mental help. Many times, as in the instance of my daughter’s murderer, the person was known to have issues, maybe had a criminal record, but because of weak laws is not able to be held for more than 72 hours. Often they are turned back out on the street shortly after being brought in for minor issues.
Many times there is neither a place for them to go or people to help them professionally. I feel that many mentally ill people want help but don’t know where to go or who to talk to. I think many of these people know they need help, maybe medication, or had medication but have run out, but can’t get it due to the downsizing of mental health support systems these 50 plus years.
My solutions to my mental health concerns are:
1. Increase mental health funding at the national, state, and local level.
2. Re-visit current mental health laws to better help people.
3. Increase the number of facilities for mentally ill people to be able to utilize.
4. Increase the numbers of mental health professionals available to help people.
5. Develop a nationwide model for observing and holding mentally ill persons who have been identified as needing more help.
6. Provide an entry and exit model so mentally ill persons can get help and return to society once they are identified as safe.
I feel that today’s mentally ill are also saying “oh no, please help” but often are not heard. Let’s start helping them. My wonderful daughter who was a shining light for so many around the world would have loved a cause such as this. I take this crusade on for her.
Jeff Magill is the father of Margery Magill, murdered in August in Washington, D.C.