Letter: How the system fails the mentally ill on the streets

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The Independent Online
LAST Sunday's article 'She was obviously disturbed and dangerous', served to highlight an issue with which I am unfortunately all too familiar - the chronic lack of emergency care for the mentally ill.

As the friend of a manic- depressive, I have failed to secure emergency treatment for him during times when his illness has been most acute, despite alerting his GP and mental health social workers to his condition. Ultimately, it has been left to the police to detain and section him, after he has been found wandering the streets in a confused state.

Although my friend poses no threat of violence at these times, he does continue to drive his car in an erratic and dangerous manner, therefore presenting a very real hazard to the public. Why do the mental health authorities choose to ignore my warnings, allowing him to imperil the lives of motorists and pedestrians?

The more I learn about my friend's illness, the more dismayed I become at the glaring inequalities which exist between emergency provision for the physically and mentally ill. As a consequence my friend is languishing in the high-security ward of a local mental hospital. This could have been avoided had supervision and medication for his condition reached him

in time.