NY advocates: mentally ill are maligned

Jan 4, 2013

Advocates say the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of violence than to be attackers, faulting media reports and gun rights interests for perpetuating inaccurate stigmas following recent crimes. More from Capital Region Bureau Chief Dave Lucas

Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Rehabilitation Services, says referring to the mentally ill with phrases like "violent psychotics" and "monsters" vilifies one-fifth of Americans who have various psychiatric disabilities.

Rosenthal is concerned that defamatory media will shame and deter many from seeking help, though most can substantially recover from disabling conditions with personalized services.

The New York Post did not respond to requests for comment.

Glenn Liebman, director of the Mental Health Association of New York State, agrees that labeling mentally ill people with what may be perceived as derogatory words and phrases, serves no good purpose.

The advocates agree that recent emphasis on 24-hour emergency phone lines, peer support, housing, family services, managed care and outreach ARE showing results. Harvey Rosenthal says they are encouraged by health reforms in New York initiated through Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration.

Rosenthal criticizes suggestions calling for forced treatment under expansion of Kendra's Law, which lets courts order mentally ill people with histories of violence into outpatient treatment: Rosenthal says it would cost a hundred million dollars to implement, send the wrong message, and drive more people with mental illness "underground"