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Confidentiality and the mentally ill
REBECCA ANNA STOIL, RUTH EGLASH and JUDY SIEGEL
05/17/2007
Information-sharing on mentally ill people is rare and complex because of the need to to protect their privacy.
In the past week, Israel has watched as two people, both discharged from military service for psychological incompatibility, have been arrested for headline-grabbing murders. Although it might seem like these are instances of people who have fallen through the cracks, government representatives said Thursday that information-sharing on mentally ill people is rare and complex because of the need to to protect their privacy. Hundreds of teenagers are exempted from IDF service every year on the basis of what is known as a "Profile 21" - psychological incompatibility. Although both Rostislav Bogoslevsky and Julien Sufir are suspected of murder, the vast majority of Profile 21 cases are functional members of society. Adjustment problems, severe eating disorders and depression are all possible criteria for psychological discharge from military service, and few of those who suffer from those diseases are dangerous to society. "In accordance with the law on safeguarding privacy, the IDF is forbidden to pass on personal details or other information pertaining to any specific soldier," an officer in the IDF Spokesman's Office said. Nahum Ido, spokesman for the Welfare and Social Services Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post that information collected by the army was confidential and not passed on to social services. "We only take on the cases of people who approach us asking for help or people who are referred by the courts system," he said, adding that it was not the ministry's responsibility to deal with mentally ill individuals. "People suffering from mental illness need to be diagnosed by medical professionals, only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication or propose hospitalization," he said. Ido also pointed out that teens turned down for army service on the grounds of psychiatric instability were not considered children but rather young adults. He said there were numerous prevention programs in schools able to identify youth at risk, but ultimately new immigrants and those with problems beyond the scope of welfare officer's training often did "slip through the cracks." A Health Ministry representative said the name of any person who is hospitalized in a psychiatric institution was stored and kept confidential. Legally, only the IDF or a handful of other institutions, such as the Interior Ministry (which issues weapons licenses) are allowed to obtain information on mental patients. The information may not be shared with any other institution, including the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services.
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