Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wrong Laws

It is commendable that we have new laws trying to stop the mentally ill from being able to purchase guns. But all they have to do is lie about whether they have been in a mental institute. Maybe the background checks will get better. I still think that if a person has been diagnosed by a licensed medical doctor to have a mental illness, and stops taking his/her prescribed medications, then that should be enough to have them involuntarily placed into a mental health facility for long term observation and made to take their medicine. I am sorry if that sounds harsh and a turn into the past, but if it were your child sitting in a lecture room at college getting an education, and a gunman walks into the hall and kills your child, then I think you would be ready to vote for these laws to be more stringent. This has been the saddest line of stories posted. One after another of people shooting others because they are probably in a manic phase and are acting out a delusion that lives only in their individual sick minds. Enough already!

Law enforcement sources confirm that Northern Illinois University shooter Stephen Kazmierczak struggled with persistent mental illness that, at times, had the potential to make him a danger to himself, but he was, nevertheless, able to legally purchase the guns he used in his campus rampage.

After the shootings, NIU parents expressed outrage and disbelief over his access to guns, echoing grievances brought up by parents after last April's shootings at Virginia Tech.

"Why was this tormented young man able to carry out this massacre?" NIU parent Connie Catellani asked. "How could he legally obtain a weapon, designed to kill so many people in such a short time?"

Law enforcement officials told ABC News that Kazmierczak's parents placed him in a Chicago mental institution, for months of intensive treatment, when he was a teenager, and that he remained on medication as an adult.

Despite past treatment for mental health problems, Kazmierczak, 27, was able to purchase four guns in three visits to a gun store in Champaign, Ill., over a six-month period. Each time, he filled out a federal form, which asks two critical questions:

"Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective (which includes a determination by a court, board, commission or other lawful authority that you are a danger to yourself or to others, or are incompetent to manage your own affairs)?" the form asks, "or have you ever been committed to a mental institution?"

Federal law says that if a court orders a person's commitment to a mental institution, that information is supposed to go into a federal database. A background check against that database would flag such a gun buyer, who would not be legally allowed to buy a firearm.

Police believe Kazmierczak's parents — not a judge — voluntarily committed him. Under current law, that voluntary commitment by his family would not make it illegal for him to purchase guns.

Gun control advocates say the law presents a gaping, potentially dangerous loophole.

Campus Shooting Highlights Legal Loophole

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mental Illness with Families

Improving Knowledge About Mental Illness Through Family-Led Education: The Journey of Hope

Susan A. Pickett-Schenk, Ph.D., Richard C. Lippincott, M.D., Cynthia Bennett, M.A. and Pamela J. Steigman, M.A. OBJECTIVE: Families often do not receive the information that they need to care for their adult relatives with mental illness. This study examined the effectiveness of a family-led education intervention, the Journey of Hope, in improving participants' knowledge about mental illness and its treatment and decreasing their information needs. METHODS: A total of 462 family members of adults with mental illness in Louisiana participated in the study; 231 were randomly assigned to immediate receipt of the Journey of Hope course (intervention group), and 231 were randomly assigned to a nine-month waiting list for the course (control group). Participants completed in-person, structured interviews assessing their knowledge of mental illness and problem-solving skills and their information needs at study enrollment (baseline), three months postbaseline, and eight months postbaseline. RESULTS: Random regression analyses indicate that at three and eight months postbaseline, compared with participants assigned to the control group, those in the intervention group reported greater knowledge gains (beta=.84, p≤.01) and fewer needs for information on coping with positive symptoms (beta=-.63, p≤.05), coping with negative symptoms (beta=-.80, p≤.001), problem management (beta=-1.00, p≤.001), basic facts about mental illness and its treatment (beta=-.73, p≤.01), and community resources (beta=-.07, p≤.05). These significant differences in knowledge and information needs were maintained over time and were significant even when controlling for participants' demographic characteristics and their relatives' clinical characteristics. CONCLUSIONS: Participation in family-led education interventions, such as the Journey of Hope, may provide families with the information they need to better cope with their relative's mental illness.