We read with interest the article (Nov. 21) regarding Dr. E. Fuller Torrey's testimony to a U.S. Senate panel in which he called schizophrenia the most neglected disease in the United States.
We believe few diseases so completely debilitate those in the prime of their lives (usually late teens to early 20s) as does schizophrenia. Because of the stigma attached to mental illness, little attention has been focused on it. As a result, the funding on federal, state and local levels for research on the cause and for treatment of and care for mental patients is terribly inadequate.
We have a 36-year-old daughter who developed paranoid schizophrenia when she was about 20. When she became ill she was a brilliant, artistically talented girl, at the top of her high school class, on a California State Scholarship to Scripps College in Claremont. Her illness has become more severe as she has aged.
Now our daughter thinks she is dying of a heart condition brought on by voodoo spirits and by laser beams directed toward her. She is ill-kempt and hostile toward everyone. Occasionally she causes public disturbances and gets abusive, both verbally and physically. She cannot hold a job.
The situation is complicated because she completely denies her illness. She refuses to take medication, which would control her symptoms, or to go to a doctor, who could authorize disability insurance payment to her.
Because current California law allows involuntary hospitalization only when a person can be judged severely disabled (being caught by a law enforcement officer in the act of attempting to hurt herself or someone else), there is no way we can force treatment on her. She has, however, been hospitalized six times.
She cannot live with us because of her anger toward us, which has been expressed physically at times. We cannot afford to support her financially, as we are retirees living on pensions. We feel we are in a no-win situation.
Our only hope is that the California Legislature will change the present "patients' rights" law to allow the patients' families to intervene in their behalf.
We also hope the federal government will allocate more funds for research into the causes and possible cures for this terrible disease so we can prevent more young people from going through the hell our daughter has gone through.
We also urge the state and local governments to provide more funds for treatment and care of the mentally ill, both in institutions and, preferably, in the communities.
We know for a fact that the acute (72-hour) ward at Harbor General Hospital is impossibly overcrowded. The conditions at Metropolitan State Hospital are deplorable.
MR. & MRS. KNOX JOHNSON