Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds works at the State Capitol in Richmond during his first public appearance since the attack and suicide by his son. (Jahi Chikwendiu/Washington Post)

State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds returned to the Capitol just seven weeks after enduring a highly public tragedy, when his mentally ill son stabbed him and then took his own life hours after mental-health officials said there was no psychiatric bed available for him.

A scar visible on his left check, the Bath County Democrat filed into the Senate chamber about half an hour before his colleagues, skipping a caucus meeting. He sat quietly at his Senate desk, looking intently at some papers.

In one of his rare public comments since the November tragedy, Deeds told his local paper via email that he would make it his life’s work to correct the systemic flaws that he blames for his son’s death. He has already proposed two bills intended to do just that. One would lengthen the time authorities can hold someone subject to a court order while searching for a psychiatric placement. The other would create an online registry that would provide real-time data on the availability of psychiatric beds.

But at least at the start of opening day, when Deeds was making his first public appearance since losing his son, he did not look entirely comfortable with the attention being paid to him, as photographers jostled to snap his picture. As his colleagues trickled into the chamber, many stopped by his desk to shake hands and express their sympathies.