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Mental Illness in America

            June 21, 2000, a police officer is shot dead in Flagstaff, Arizona. This violent crime was committed by 17 year-old Eric Clark. In the Supreme Court case of Clark vs. Arizona, Clark argued that his paranoid schizophrenia gave him the inability to understand the nature of his acts at the time they were committed. According to law, this is a sufficient basis for showing he lacked the requisite mental state required as an element of the charged crime. The Court upheld Arizona's restriction of admissible mental health evidence only to the issue of insanity in June 2006, the first time since John Hinckley's acquittal in the 1981 shooting of President Reagan. Did Eric Clark deserve life in prison? His claims of aliens taking over and the end of the world made the highest court beg to differ. Though with the proper treatment and mental health services, two lives may have been saved, the police officer shot and Clark's. It cases like these that bring about the issues in the treatment of mental illness. .
             The treatment of mental health in the United States is an issue with many facets. In order to create the safest, healthiest environment for its citizens, the federal and state governments, health professionals and local communities need to participate in a reform that will help protect people from violent crimes, make mental health services more accessible and reduce stigma surround mental illness. Stigma is the largest barrier to improving lives for the mentally ill.
             Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. United States mental institutions have become inadequate due to the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Writer Amy Maxen reviews the documentary Kings Park: Stories from an American mental institution, directed by Lucy Winer. Winer was admitted to Kings Park Mental Institution in New York at age 17.

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