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After Seattle Mass Murder: ‘We Could See This Coming’

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seattle-memorial Courtesy of the Seattle TimesThe headline sums up the too-familiar story: “Suspect’s family: We could see this coming.”

The consequences are too familiar as well: On Wednesday, Ian L. Stawicki, 40 – who didn’t get treatment for “the mental-health problems that he refused to deal with” – shot and killed four victims and seriously wounded a fifth before fatally shooting himself in Seattle’s University District (“Seattle shootings: day of horror, grief in a shaken city,” Seattle Times, May 31).  

The tragedy that timely treatment might have prevented stands out like a deadly exclamation point to a string of other mental health stories out of Washington lately.

What we call “preventable tragedies” do not occur in a vacuum. Though rare, they occur when we as a society fail to recognize that nearly half of individuals with severe mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are unable to recognize their own need for treatment. 

To help them and to protect the public, court-ordered treatment can be a life-saver because – without their treatment – those of us who live and work with mental illness can see the consequences coming. For tragedy to be prevented, the public and elected officials need to see the consequences, too, and take action. 

For a dramatic illustration of the lack of awareness that prevents individuals with untreated mental illness from seeking help, see our video, “Anosognosia.” Click here to read " 'We could see this coming,' brother says of man ID'd in Seattle killings" (NPR, May 31).

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