Letter: Laws for mentally ill

Dear Editor:
I have a daughter in her 40s who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and anosognosia (she does not believe she is mentally ill but others are). At this time she is in the Mental State Hospital in Terrell, Texas. The fact she is in a mental hospital is only by the grace of God and nothing I have done. As her parents we have no legal rights over our mentally ill daughter. Our daughter, as a mentally ill person, has all the legal rights to make decisions for herself even though she is mentally ill and cannot function in society.
As her parents we could not have gotten her committed and/or helped without her consent and approval in Colorado and other states, as well, unless she showed danger to herself and/or others! In other words, first due harm to one self and others and then your situation can be taken into consideration and maybe helped!
She ended up on the streets and in homeless shelters (much danger to herself) in Dallas and finally after being taken to the hospital many times (at least five) by the police for disrupting the peace (fighting/arguing with others) she was finally accepted long-term in the Terrell State Hospital last January 2010. Many of our homeless people are mentally ill and they have no place to go.
It took two years to get her located in a hospital. She did have to endanger her life and others before getting there! These laws for the mentally ill are not helping but creating much turmoil in society and communities as well. Many people do know these “crazy” laws exist unless they deal with mental illness in their families.
In recent months I was finally given permission by my daughter to speak with doctors and know of her status in the hospital.
Her father has not been given permission by her and cannot speak with anyone at the hospital! If she decides to take me off of her permission slip of people allowed to speak with doctors/social workers then I can no longer, as her mother, discuss her care with those caring for her or speak to my daughter.
There will be more shootings such as the one in Arizona unless major changes are made quickly by our society with the laws toward the mentally ill. These laws are not helping but hindering.
There needs to much more education to the public on the “mentally ill” and that those having mental illness need help just as much as those who have a long term illness such as cancer. There is much work to be done to help the mentally ill!
This information needs to go to our representatives and senators and anyone who can help make these changes.
Phyllis Henley

Editor’s note: Phyllis Henley wrote this letter in response to an article published in the New York Times, Jan. 18, titled “Getting Someone to Psychiatric Treatment Can Be Difficult and Inconclusive” by A.G. Sulzberger and Benedict Carey.