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Are people with mental disorders being treated properly?
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 29 - 03 - 2014

Ali Al-Khuzaim
I can cite several tragedies that have occurred in the recent past involving people suffering from a mental disorder, some of whom are roaming about freely because no relatives are willing or able to take care of them. Many of these people drive vehicles, mingle with people on the streets and commit traffic violations, and the police take action against them without taking into account the state of their mental health.
Since people with mental disorders can pose a danger to others, precautionary measures should be taken to prevent them from harming themselves and others. There is no justification in ignoring them or depriving them of their rights. Members of their families and society have a role to play in addressing their problems and providing them with proper care. The rights of their family members must also be protected.
There have been several examples of tragedies that have drawn our attention to this grave issue. The horrific crime committed by a 42-year-old Burmese national in Jeddah last month is one example. The man, who was suffering from severe psychological problems, killed his wife and four daughters. He told police that after he stopped taking his medication, he began hallucinating and believed that he would die soon and that his family would suffer alone in his absence.
In another incident north of Qunfudah in Makkah region, a young Saudi man shot himself dead after killing his wife and two daughters in the family car. This psychologically disturbed man was allowed to carry a gun and drive a car despite the risks he posed to his family and others. And in Riyadh, a gunman attempted to break into the regional office of a satellite television channel in order to teach a woman broadcaster a lesson for ignoring his tweets. Security guards overpowered the man, who was also found to be suffering from a severe mental disorder. This man was also carrying a revolver with him.
In another case, a mentally ill man in his 40s attempted to commit suicide by climbing up to a high place in Baljurashi in Al-Baha region. However, Civil Defense officials were successful in convincing him to climb down. According to sources, this was the third time the man had attempted to commit suicide. Security authorities attended to his case on all three occasions and allowed him to go free without referring him to the concerned health and security authorities. Had the case been addressed properly the first time around, the suicide drama would not have been repeated. The same applies to the other cases as well.

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