The recent horrible mass killings in Connecticut and other states are heartbreaking, and we mourn for the victims and their families. While the details of the mass killings differ, they have one thing in common: the shooter is believed to be mentally ill.
While the vast majority of mentally ill persons are not violent, studies show that persons with untreated mental disorders accompanied by substance abuse do pose a danger. We often receive calls from family members who are afraid that their loved one will kill them or someone else but are unable to obtain treatment.
There is no easy answer to this problem. I have pointed to the need for much greater resources to be provided to mental health treatment agencies. Many are doing a fine job with limited resources, but could do so much more.
Washington needs to change its laws regarding involuntary commitment. They make it very difficult for potentially dangerous persons to be involuntarily committed to a hospital. The current criteria are too narrowly defined.
(Williams is president of the Pierce County chapter, National Alliance on Mental Illness.)