For decades, I’ve encountered NAMI’s anti-professional, illogical, uninformed and self-serving gobbledygook in multiple venues in which I served (private practice in Oakland, Waterville and Augusta; as president of the Maine Psychological Association; as an officer of the Maine Board of Examiners of Psychologists; as a member of the Governor’s Mental Health Advisory Council).

Now, NAMI-Maine’s executive director, Jenna Mehnert, opines that “it is wrong” to hold involuntarily committed individuals criminally responsible for their actions, and that such persons “should have complete immunity from being seen as a criminal.”

Does Mehnert propose that being involuntarily hospitalized as being a danger to one’s self for attempting suicide gives that person a free pass to rape a nurse or strangle a doctor while in the hospital? Does she think that the involuntary commitment of a compulsive child sex offender bestows on him the right to assault a hospital official as she walks through the unit?

Most ridiculous of all is Mehnert’s very broad pronouncement that “punishing people with mental illness for their acts against society is a complete waste of taxpayer’s resources.” She apparently does not understand that there is a very wide range of mental illness, and that not every act by every mentally ill person is the result of their condition.

Having a psychiatric disorder does not afford a royal prerogative to violate our laws.

Since its inception, NAMI has played both sides of the street, wanting equity and fair treatment for the mentally ill — a very good thing — but demanding a startling array of special privileges that make a mockery of that very equality. It’s time for Mehnert and NAMI to get real.

Lewis F. Lester, psychologist


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