The Washington Post

Discussion: Mental illness gets increased attention

Our Readers Who Comment are engaged in a serious debate about mental illness and its treatment (or absence thereof) in the aftermath of the stabbing of Virginia state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, apparently by his son, who then fatally shot himself, police believe. The young Deeds had undergone a psychiatric evaluation but was not admitted to a hospital because no bed was available.

We’ll start with EternalOptimist1971, who wrote, “This is just so sad. A young man is now dead, a father lying in a hospital bed injured and devastated by the loss of his son, all for the lack of a bed at the local psychiatric hospital operating under a limited budget.  Something needs to be done to prevent this type of event from ripping another family apart. A better funding formula with more heart and a reduced “bang for the buck” attitude should be re-examined.”

CA_DixieMay said, “This exemplifies the depth of people’s not understanding mental illness…”State investigators said Tuesday that they were still trying to establish a motive and the sequence of events that led to the violence, which they said appeared to begin with an altercation between the men.” A motive? He was ill…he was irrational and in serious need [of] hospital care. Condolences and well wishes to the family. These situations are terrible and I wish nobody had to go through them. We need to do a better job of aiding the ill person and protecting the rest.”

clausgehner wrote, “An investigation of mental health services is overdue in the whole country, not just in Virginia. The other question, however, which also bears some investigation, is, how did the son get hold of a firearm?  This seems to be a recurring issue, that the parents/guardians of young adults with known mental issues seem to allow, or at least not adequately prevent, access to their guns.  I am very much in favor of universal background checks, but even the most stringent of these would not prevent this kind of tragedy if the gun-owners do not act responsibly. Not to blame the victim at this point in the tragedy, but this could easily have cost other innocent victims their lives.”

Desertdiva said, “Coming from a medical care background if there are no beds there are no beds. Either there wasn’t adequate staff to open new beds or there weren’t new beds available. Either way you can’t produce something that doesn’t exist. I used to be in the homes with these people and I know first hand what it’s like to try and find someone a bed. The Deeds family incident isn’t unique but because of their name recognition it became public knowledge. Many of these people go on to kill their family members and it’s only a blip on the evening news.”

CynicalRant wrote, “Yes, the mental health system is a failure. We have people on meds who shouldn’t be, people without meds who need them, and people on treatments that will later prove to be harmful. The foundation is broken because of the health care system as a whole being run like a medication industry seeking higher profits. Simply put, people’s health ought to come before corporate profits. When will we start caring more about life than money?”

Lilmisspunky quoted the article, which said, “The attack on the senator brought new scrutiny to Virginia’s mental-health system,” then asked: “Is the senator’s son so much more special than another person who has mental health issues? Why won’t the media ever write this type of ‘hype’ story about some unknown person?”

Which prompted InMcLean2.0 to reply, “It’s not a ‘hype’ story. Famous people get more coverage because they’re, well…famous. That’s how fame works.”

JMUgrad wrote, “Completely agree, InMcLean. I don’t understand why people would comment on something when they have no idea what they are talking about, especially after a tragedy like this. Deeds does have a public record of advocating for broader mental health availability and treatment.  I feel that those who do not have compassion for others in times of intense loss, such as this, need to reevaluate what it means to be human.”

But lilmisspunky insisted, “yes, it is a ‘hype’ story because it involves a senator’s son. otherwise we wouldn’t hear about an unknown person with the same problems. its no more of an important issue because it now includes the senators son. it was an important issue BEFORE the senator’s son died.”

JPRS said, “Hopefully this incident refocuses attention on the issue of mental health services, so that legislators in Richmond finally take some serious action to expand access and treatment. If so, something positive might come out of this tragic situation.”

jackyk wrote, “It is inexcusable that in 2013 this country still dismisses mental illness as something that should stay locked in the closet. I recently supported a family from my church whose daughter was highly suicidal and she was only kept inpatient for four days because that’s all Medicaid would pay for. She is not well, she can’t afford her meds and she is not receiving the help she needs. I am saddened by the stories I’ve read and the people even in my own neighborhood who should be receiving comprehensive long-term help. God help us all.

TigerMil replied, “Of course it’s excusable. We elect and reelect the legislators who cut these programs and feed other programs with more political capital than mental health.”

We’ll close with m.a.mestek, who said, “More goverment spending that’s how we fix this. BS. it is priorities. If you go to a hospital bleeding they make room for you. Mental illness needs the same priority.”

All comments on this article are here.



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Greg Barber · November 18, 2013