When someone’s choices are dangerous to self or others:
The issue of personal choice is perhaps far more interesting than many realize. For instance, it was one of the core considerations of our founding fathers, specifically involving the rationality of expecting the typical citizen to be individually knowledgable and capable of making constructive and beneficial decisions for the collective society, while simultaneously observing the reality that some percentage of citizens exhibit difficulty making good decisions even for themselves (due to some educational deficit or psychiatric issue, either of which resulting from their childhood experiences or lack thereof).
Granted, some or many decisions will need to be tested by trial and error, ignoring for a moment those who cannot or refuse to ever accept that they once made a poor or wrong decision (their ego or self-esteem may be just too fragile to handle it, etc.), but there are indeed people who don’t have the time, resources, interest, or even the capacity to fully understand what is likely a very complex problem with both immediate and lasting effects on themselves and their communities, and, perhaps even more frustratingly, no “right” answer. Everyone wants easy and decisive “black or white” issues while the vast majority of issues are the loathsome “gray” areas. Note, the primary function of law and regulation is to limit or “control” people, and other entities, like corporations, but only to a degree that is designed to impede destructive, self-indulgent/narcissistic, or harmful actions, and facilitate constructive, mutually-beneficial, and peaceful coexistence. It is indeed crucial that society protect itself from those who are *only* interested in short-term self-serving benefit *regardless* of any current or future cost (which they may not even be able to adequately comprehend, and/or will simply deny or try to shift blame elsewhere).
Now, one could break decisions down into several categories in terms of positive or detrimental effect including degrees of the same, but what has most interested me lately is when a person’s decisions become decidedly dangerous to self and/or others.
Clearly, when someone shows disregard for the rights and safety of their neighbors and community, for example by having recently threatened others, or repeatedly doing things that endanger others, or threatened or attempted suicide (particularly in ways that are both specific to how they would do it *and* that would place innocent lives at risk), or effected some serious bodily injury on self or others, it should be obvious that they suffer some psychiatric problem, temporary or not, that makes them a danger.
However, what about those who are squandering away their funds and assets, perhaps even while denying they are doing so, and family will suffer consequences when they run out? What about those who cannot or perhaps intentionally refuse to cater to their own nourishment, shelter, or medical care? Without supervision and assistance, it is probable that the individual may succumb to death, substantial bodily injury, or serious physical debilitation or disease. Additionally, one might also consider those who *deliberately* cause harm to self, or deliberately cause problems for self or others (for attention, or because they feel entitled to having other people take care of them and support them, or out of spite due to jealousy or envy, or out of vengeance for things they *erroneously* believe someone did to them out of deliberate neglect or spite, etc.)
Moving forward, if the person refuses to help themselves even though they have the capability to do so (perhaps due to self-pity, etc.), and refuses the help of free services offered to them (how could it be possible that *I* could need services needed by the ill and infirm?!?), the only way to TRY to help them is to seek the appointment of a guardian. It’s a thankless job, but here’s a short article of what happens when nobody does or attempts to do what needs to be done.
P.S. In connection with Friday’s school shooting, it’s interesting and sensible to hear psychiatrists speak about a need for early identification and reporting of those who are or may be dangerous, particularly to others (so they might be offered help before they commit a crime or, if necessary and in the worst case, appointed a guardian so they may be forced into treatment), but unsurprisingly neglect to offer even suggested answers to any of the obvious questions that result (who, how, cost to family/society for attempting something versus cost to family/society for not doing anything, etc.).
And… “When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.” … No one wants to send a 13-year-old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options.”