- An internal watchdog ripped a Washington, D.C., VA emergency room for abusing and sending away a mentally troubled patient who then killed himself.
- And House members demanded to know why institutionalized and elderly vets were treated for Covid-19 with an antimalarial drug promoted without evidence by President Trump.
The national outage over authorities’ excessive use of force, especially against black men, may take law enforcement, first responders, politicians, and critics into a murky and nightmarish area — call it the unfounded medicalization of official control.
Two fatal flash point cases — involving African Americans George Floyd in Minneapolis and Elijah McCain (shown, right) in a Denver suburb — already have raised disturbing questions about “excited delirium,” a mental health description or diagnosis manufactured by authorities, and whether paramedics should be asked and then if they should administer powerful narcotics to individuals at police request.
As the nonprofit, independent Marshall Project on criminal justice reported about excited delirium:
As Americans have hunkered down to safeguard themselves from Covid-19 infection, too many people also have stocked their homes with potentially harmful items — and the nation soon may be reckoning with the health consequences.
Will consumers come to regret that officials, locality by locality, deemed “essential” and chose to keep open marijuana shops, gun dealers, and liquor stores? Will doctors rue their decision to support patients, understandably unnerved by the pandemic, with a spike in prescriptions of potent and problematic anti-anxiety drugs?
Experts are sounding the alarms — with reasons worth wide public reminder.
While alarms have been raised about the nation’s ever-increasing numbers of suicides, mental health experts, educators, and medical researchers also are making urgent pleas for grownups to pay heightened attention to the spike in cases in which youngsters are taking their own lives.
“[S]uicide by children ages 10 to 14 has gone up and up. The suicide rate for that age group almost tripled from 2007 to 2017. Newly released 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a 16% increase over the previous year. While experts point to a host of explanations for the alarming rise, scientific proof about cause isn’t conclusive. Some research shows correlations with social media use, cyberbullying and the internet, but studies citing them as a suicide cause are less decisive.”
Politicians and police may need to step up their crackdown on drug- and alcohol-impaired drivers, targeting repeat offenders with substance-abuse and mental health problems who also are “disproportionately responsible for fatalities,” a leading traffic safety group recommends.
As the Wall Street Journal reported of new work by the Governors Highway Safety Association and its consultant Pam Fischer:
“Nearly 30% of all vehicular-crash deaths in the U.S. last year were alcohol-related … Last year, 10,511 people died in crashes involving at least one driver with a blood-alcohol concentration of at least .08%, the legal cutoff in every state except Utah, federal figures show. While that represented a 3.6% drop from 2017, alcohol-related fatality levels have largely stagnated for the past decade. ‘What we’re failing to do is get to the root cause of why they’re doing this, what’s behind the behavior,’ [said Fischer].”
Clinicians drew in a postmortem conference a full portrait of patient K-0623, based on a detailed questionnaire and research they had conducted into his life. They learned all about the deceased’s happy childhood, his early high school graduation, and his athletic prowess, including his stardom in an elite collegiate football program.
The neurologists, neuropsychologists, and psychiatrists also learned that the subject, known to them for now only by a number, had taken painkillers at one point, so he could keep up an all-too-brief NFL career.
With mental health services stretched thin and failing to fill significant need, it may be more distressing still for the public to confront growing evidence of big problems in existing facilities that try to treat those with serious psychiatric ills.
The Los Angeles Times, based on its investigation, has found “nearly 100 preventable deaths over the last decade at California psychiatric facilities, including at La Casa Mental Health Rehabilition Center (shown here). It marks the first public count of deaths at California’s mental health facilities and highlights breakdowns in care at these hospitals as well as the struggles of regulators to reduce the number of deaths.”
The newspaper said it “submitted more than 100 public record requests to nearly 50 county and state agencies to obtain death certificates, coroner’s reports and hospital inspection records with information about these deaths.” Reporter Soumya Karlamangla said she had to look far and wide for data on problems in psychiatric facilities because, “No single agency keeps tabs on the number of deaths at psychiatric facilities in California, or elsewhere in the nation.”
Dogged medical detective work combined with public advocacy to dispel the shame that surrounds suicide — these may be productive ways to attack the public health nightmare of increasing numbers of Americans taking their own lives.
This is a crisis that can’t be hidden or allowed to keep going up, with some experts estimating that roughly 47,000 Americans commit suicide annually. That’s about 129 lives lost each day. Suicide, hitting a record-setting pace, also is a significant problem for the U.S. military.
If you are in crisis or know someone who may be, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to 741741. Both work 24/7. More resources are available at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.
Doctors and medical scientists have their hands more than full these days, struggling to get out vital, evidence-based information to benefit the public’s health. They must cope with challenges ranging from battles with the growing problems of infections and vaccine “hesitance” to how to debunk celebrity humbug on diet and well-being.
The medical establishment’s communication nightmares, though, may be especially bad with women — a group that makes up half the population and plays a huge role in most households with medical decision making. Just consider two recent news reports, including on:
With back-to-back-to-back incidents of mass gun violence killing almost three dozen children, women, and men, can this nation muster the political courage to treat this lethal scourge as a public health menace?
Can it, finally, green light and fund rigorous research that could inform public policies that both could protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights while also reducing the estimated 40,000 or so firearm deaths that occurred in 2018 alone?
For what it is worth, there is considerable and (what should be) convincing evidence that: