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Misdiagnosis of mentally ill in Illinois may lead to violence

The second shooting at yet another military base has again focused the nation's attention on consequences of mental illness. The National Institute of Mental Health reports there are more than 50 million Americans over the age of 18 who suffer from some type of mental disorder. The vast majority of these individuals lead uneventful lives, but countless numbers end up incarcerated, homeless or in nursing facilities.

The sister of one troubled young man stated that in the 1940s, mental illness was a topic no one talked about. The sister was a nurse and father a physician, but he could not help his son, who spent most of the time sleeping in his room.

The family decided a change of scenery might be helpful so they moved to neighboring Wisconsin. When his mother took him to a doctor, the diagnosis was sleeping sickness.

On one occasion he was evaluated by a psychiatrist and found to be bipolar. Another diagnosis, several years later, concluded he was schizophrenic. He was prescribed medication, but according to the sister, stopped taking medication when he started to feel better.

The man claimed one doctor told him a drink before dinner would do no harm, a comment that led to the exacerbation of a drinking problem. Since many mentally ill people self-medicate and abuse drugs and alcohol, the symptoms frequently receive more attention than the underlying health problem.

As with many of the mentally ill, the man ended up in a nursing home, with elderly patients diagnosed with dementia. The sister attests that the staff is not equipped to deal with patients like her brother, and it is unlikely he will ever get better.

In Illinois, and in many other states, mentally ill individuals never get the help they need due to a missed diagnosis or poorly-trained staff at facilities. If you or someone you love have been the victim of a missed diagnosis or a victim of inadequately trained staff at a nursing home, you can get help. Providing appropriate treatment for a mentally ill patient may go a long way in preventing a violent episode that can endanger the individual as well as innocent bystanders.

Source: Southtown Star, "Kadner: A mental illness in the family" Phil Kadner, Apr. 03, 2014

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