Crazy Talk

By Bill Maher

People magazine reported that Amanda Bynes was out and about with her parents and that she looks good. I mean crazy good. I’m speculating but it seems apparent that she suffers from some sort of mental illness, that she self-medicated and exacerbated the issue with street drugs, as so many do, and then she received five-star treatment and follow up. It’s the kind of happy outcome you can expect if you’re Amanda Bynes.

But what about all the other mentally ill people and their families? When you’re Mr. and Mrs. Middle America and your college-age son or daughter begins to hear voices and maybe has a few bizarre or even violent episodes over the period of a year or two, what do you do? You might not have health insurance that covers mental illness or enough money to pay for proper treatment and meds. And even if you do, you can’t make a disturbed, over-18 adult go to therapy or take their meds, so really you’re just on a collision course with the law.

The New York Times recently had an article about how the prisons at Riker’s Island are struggling to adapt to a world where a greater and greater number of their inmates are people who suffer from mental illness:

Inside, the tension is acute. Rival gangs — the Crips, the Bloods, the Latin Kings and Trinitarios — wage bloody power struggles like a cellblock game of thrones. Vicious fights erupt over the telephone or the television channel… The officers, wearing body armor and armed with pepper spray and clubs, resort to force frequently… In this environment, mentally ill inmates are particularly vulnerable… The proportion of inmates with a diagnosed mental illness has grown to 40 percent, from 20 percent, over the last eight years, according to the Correction Department. These inmates are responsible for about two-thirds of infractions at city jails…”

Unless you’re rich, we don’t provide adequate and accessible treatment for the mentally ill, so it’s just a case of Mom and Dad winging it until there’s some inevitable form of acting out in public – and then what should be a patient becomes a prisoner.

Isn’t this just another example of our shortsightedness when it comes to budgetary priorities? We save a little now by not investing in proper treatment for the mentally ill but pay a much higher price down the road in funneling them into our ill-equipped criminal justice system.