Editorial Rant: The case for involuntary committal of certain politicians

Sara Golling
By Sara Golling
December 17th, 2019

Many years ago, I helped the parents of a seriously disturbed young person by obtaining a court order for his involuntary committal. He had been delusional, and doing things that could easily have resulted in his own death.  The parents had made one attempt on their own, but had failed to convince a court of the need to protect their son from his mental disorder, so they appealed to me for help.  I obtained the court order, the RCMP picked him up and took him to a psychiatric facility for assessment, and he spent some time confined to the psychiatric ward.  He was diagnosed, treated, and released after the treatment had performed its work. He has been living a productive and reasonably normal life ever since.

Recently, reading certain news items, I’ve been reminded of that episode. I have in mind several candidates for involuntary committal to psychiatric facilities.  Most of them are elected politicians, and it seems to me that they are delusional and endangering many lives.

In BC, involuntary committal – or “commitment” – can be accomplished for mentally ill persons who pose a danger to themselves or others.  The “Dial-a-law” website describes it as follows:

“Anyone, including family members and neighbours, who reasonably believes a person has a mental disorder that requires hospitalization for the safety of themselves or others can apply to court for an order to have the person hospitalized. Also, the court can issue a warrant allowing the police to take the person to hospital for assessment.”

Arguably, there are political leaders whose irrational beliefs and actions pose a real and increasing danger to all of life on earth, including other humans.  Perhaps that should qualify them for involuntary committal to a secure psychiatric facility for assessment and treatment.

Granted, one would need to assemble a dedicated phalanx of concerned medical and legal professionals to accomplish this feat. 

Irrational beliefs? There’s a difference between irrational in the sense of “believing something without sufficient evidence” which many people do most of the time, and irrational in the sense of believing something in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

We have political leaders (to use the term loosely) who either deny that climate change is happening, or that it’s caused by human activity, or who seem guided by a religious belief that climate change is not a problem, and that God will fix everything, or that God is using climate change to bring on the eschaton they desire –  “the end times” they await and welcome, so that they, the righteous, can be whisked up to heaven for their gift of eternal life while the rest of us deservedly burn in hell. 

We have other political leaders who simply ignore the whole science of climate change and the increasingly evident results of climate change — and other unfortunate developments such as the pervasiveness of plastic pollution, growing dead zones in the oceans, diminishing supplies of freshwater, the accelerating rate of species extinctions  and so on — and focus on growing the fossil fuel industry for the sake of the economy, which they believe not only can but must continue to grow continuously and endlessly, regardless of the inevitable and ultimately terminal damage this is causing to the web of life which supports us all.  

Is that sufficient evidence of minds so disordered as to justify involuntary committal to protect the rest of the world from their ecology-destroying,  climate-change-accelerating actions?  Are we laughing at the very thought, because we’ve become so accustomed to such irrational behaviour from so many politicians that it seems normal to us? – that we expect stupidity and jaw-dropping recklessness?

Let’s examine the term “insanity” for a moment. 

In an article titled “The definition of insanity” in Psychology  Today, its author, Ryan Howes, PhD., states: 

“To be clear, insanity is a legal term pertaining to a defendant’s ability to determine right from wrong when a crime is committed. Here’s the first sentence of law.com’s lengthy definition:

“Insanity.n. mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.

“Insanity is a concept discussed in court to help distinguish guilt from innocence. It’s informed by mental health professionals, but the term today is primarily legal, not psychological. There’s no “insane” diagnosis listed in the DSM.”

So “insanity” is a legal term,  not a medical term.  Let’s leave it to the courts, then. A person could research and write many volumes about how courts have interpreted and applied definitions of insanity to determine whether a person accused of a crime was guilty, or not guilty by reason of insanity, or guilty but mentally ill, or . . .

The question here is:  are the actions of some of our political leaders so irrational, so at odds with reality, that they should be apprehended and committed for evaluation and treatment to preserve the rest of us from their lunatic actions?  Do they show that they cannot distinguish fantasy from reality?  It seems that way to me, all too often.

Isn’t it a sign of mental illness – of living in a fantasy world — to deliberately encourage the emission of more greenhouse gases by the petroleum industry (and others, such as the automotive industry) in the face of repeated warnings from all the world’s most highly qualified climate scientists?  And to avoid doing things that will effectively reduce emissions?  Or is it just a sign of low intelligence? If the latter, why do we elect people of such low intelligence?

No, I don’t seriously think we could convince the powers that be to apprehend these people (“I’ve got a little list”) and put them in a rubber room, but the idea has huge appeal sometimes.  Usually after a morning read of the news.  Yes, this was written tongue-in-cheek . . . partly. But with a nugget of serious frustration and anxiety at the core.  Perhaps excessive anxiety will put me in the rubber room instead, pounding my fists harmlessly on those padded walls. And maybe screaming.

If they don’t let me read the news in there, it  might provide a bit of relief. Especially if they pump me full of Prozac, or some calming generic equivalent. 

Here’s a piece of music to go with these ramblings:  Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage,” in case you haven’t heard it just recently. Smile – everything will be JUST FINE.  Right?


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