I have been a special education teacher for nearly 30 years. During my career I have worked with students with all types of identified disabilities. Currently I work with a group of students identified as having severe emotional disabilties. Many of these students have diagnosed mental illness, requiring the collaboration of teacher, mental health workers and the juvenile justice system.
My cause for concern is the number of these individuals that end up in situations where they are convicted of petty crimes (public intoxication, shop lifting) and are sentenced to a jail term. Also, those individuals that do not have the means of the ability to seek treatment.
People with mental illness do not belong in jail. Certainly I do not advocate for these people to be excused from the crimes they committ, what I do advocate is that we do not throw them in jail and offer no treatment.
These illnesses are often treatable with the right kinds of drug therapy. However, help must be offered. This might mean a stay in a treatment facility, rather than time in jail.
Many of you know such indviduals. You recognize that they have undiagnosed mental illness and comment on how spending time in jail does not help.
Please get yourself involved in helping these individuals. As you look at these friends, acquaintances and think how you can help? Ask, what should I do? The answer is to speak up. Become advocates and spokesmen for people with mental illness. Work to bring them to treatment.
Your intervention could save a life.