Skip to comments.Mental Illness and Mass Murder
Posted on 01/10/2011 2:43:47 PM PST by Kaslin
How many more tragedies like the Tucson shootings will we have to watch before we start facing the harsh truth?
For the last three years, Ive been trying to find a publisher for a book about the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill and the destructive effects on our society that it has caused. I keep getting told that no one is interested in the topic. The tragedy in Tucson on Saturday like dozens of other such incidents over the last three decades involving mentally ill persons who made headlines is the reason that people should be interested. Watching the YouTube videos the shooter made and reading news accounts of his odd behavior leaves no doubt in my mind that the final diagnosis will be paranoid schizophrenia. (I have an older brother who suffered a schizophrenic breakdown in the 1970s. He has never recovered.)
When I was young, random acts of mass murder were shocking. In 1966, Charles Whitman went to the top of a building at the University of Texas and methodically murdered 13 people with a rifle. Such crimes were largely unthinkable until 1984, when James Huberty went into a McDonalds in San Ysidro, California, and murdered 19 people with a shotgun and an Uzi.
We are not shocked anymore. We are saddened but the days when gun control advocates could dance in the blood of victims to get another useless gun control law passed are over. Americans are now used to this and that is the biggest tragedy of all. We just accept this, and dont ask, Whats causing this? Can we fix it?
It is not just Americans who are sitting on the sidelines wondering what happened. In spite of much more restrictive gun control laws in Europe, they have a lot of these mass murders over there also. In Finland. In Germany. In Britain. Of course, since these countries have somewhat restrictive to very restrictive gun control laws, the correct response to laws that did not work is more of the same.
What changed? Our mental health system is what changed a movement towards emptying out mental hospitals and making it difficult to commit someone against his will. This is called deinstitutionalization. This is an idea so theoretically elegant that it has been taking place everywhere. In America. In Canada. In Britain. In Finland (which has experienced one of the most rapid movements towards deinstitutionalization in the Western world). And probably in those other European countries as well.
In 1950, a person who was behaving oddly stood a good chance of being hospitalized. It might be for observation for a few days or a few weeks. If the doctors decided that this person was mentally ill, they would be committed, perhaps for a few months, perhaps longer. Hospital space was always at a premium, so generally, if someone was kept, there was a reason for it. The notion that large numbers of sane people were kept for no reason just has not survived my research efforts.
I will not claim that the public mental hospitals back then were wonderful places. They were chronically underfunded from the 1930s through the 1950s, and even into the 1960s, conditions in some were the shame of civilized people everywhere. (Ken Kesey wrote the novel One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest after taking LSD and going to work at a mental hospital, and the film by that name is not a documentary.) But it did mean that many people who were mentally ill were either locked up (where they did not have access to guns, knives, or gasoline) or at least not sleeping on a park bench, catching pneumonia.
Let me tell you a story. In the late 1990s, a rather strange character showed up at the church we attended in Rohnert Park, California. Jim had been sleeping in the fields on the edge of town with his dog, getting around by bicycle with a little trailer for the pooch. He carried an impressive wad of cash, the fruits of a $600 a month Social Security disability check and no rent to pay. Our pastor had worked in a homeless shelter, but this man did not quite fit the mold, so he asked me to talk to Jim.
Jim told a story of governmental oppression that for the first few minutes, while far-fetched, was not utterly impossible. His kids had been taken from him. His wife was locked up in a mental hospital. It was all a vast conspiracy! The more we talked, however, the more apparent it was that his thought processes, while not completely chaotic, were scattered and confused. Then he showed me the paperwork that had taken away his children. Jim was so confused that he did not realize what it showed.
Jim’s wife had been committed to a mental hospital, apparently because she had physically abused their children, and been found not guilty by reason of insanity. After her hospitalization, Jim had been showing pornographic films to his five year old and his three year old, then molesting them. Jim’s parental rights had been permanently terminated by court order.
Why didnt the district attorney prosecute Jim? The documents provided no information, but my guess is that the prosecutor realized that a trial would require two small children to testify about sexual abuse by their father having already lost their mother to mental illness. Under the best of conditions, this would have been a hard case to win in court, and it would certainly have been traumatic for the children.
In 1950, Jims mental illness would very likely have led to a commitment to a state mental hospital for the criminally insane. A judge would certainly have committed Jim based on the testimony of a psychiatrist and the evidence of even a few minutes of conversation. Not today. Instead, Jim wandered the streets, telling his tale of woe. The best that we could hope for is that his mentally disordered thinking would be obvious enough to prevent anyone else from putting their children at risk.
As I said, Ive written a book about the subject. I knew that there were a lot of mentally ill mass murderers out there but even I was shocked at the dozens of examples that my research unearthed over the last three decades. People like Larry Gene Ashbrook, a mentally ill person who gave plenty of warning. He wrote letters to local papers that referred to encounters with the CIA, psychological warfare, assaults by co-workers and being drugged by police. His strange behavior brought him to the attention of the police who were helpless to take action, until Ashbrook murdered seven people in a Fort Worth church in 1999.
Or Russell Eugene Weston Jr., who was the gold standard of violent mental illness. After he shot two police officers at the U.S. Capitol in 1999, he explained that it was to stop the epidemic of Black Heva, a disease spread by the cannibals that were feeding on corpses all part of an elaborate government conspiracy that Weston was going to stop. Weston, too, had previous mental health problems that were recognized but he could not be held, in spite of his obvious dangerousness at least to himself, and probably to others.
I could give you a complete list of mass murderers who were recognized by family and friends as mentally ill and who refused treatment. Authorities were helpless to hospitalize them because of our wonderfully beautiful but completely absurd theories of civil liberties. This list would run on for very many pages.
How many more of these tragedies do we have to watch before we say, Wow! Great theory! It didnt work. Lets reconsider this matter. Im afraid it is going to be a lot more tragedies before we start facing the harsh truth.
Someone has crazy to spare...
“a book about the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill and the destructive effects on our society that it has caused. I keep getting told that no one is interested in the topic.”
It’s more like they’re saying, “Nyahnyahnyahnyah...I can’t hear you!!!!”
“Normalizing” people is another mantra of the Left that just doesn’t work AND that no one in power wants to dismantle. “Heavens, we can’t imply that they’re *gulp* abnormal!” Same old story in about every subject area.
Cuckoo’s Nest did more to harm us than any other single book that I can think of (with the exception of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and to turn America on it’s head. And the crazies and untreated addicts and alcoholics (as usual, the ones the looney left says they bleed for) suffer the most. Schizophrenics shivering in their winter coats on the streets of LA are NOT having fun and enjoying life. They used to be protected ... now many of them are prey.
You know our good buddy Sheriff Dupnik, after he got done blaming Sarah Palin, mentioned this issue.
I just saw that on t.v. OMG! He looks like pure evil. Sick! Gives me the creeps. This is one very sick individual.
Mental illness and the mainstream media.
You are so right....I was working for Medicaid in the seventies when the institutions were being emptied without any workable plan for these people. Some of them had been institutionalized since childhood and suddenly they’re turned out. Nursing homes were supposed to take them but quickly found out they were not equipped to handle that level of need....so, the nursing homes began to discharge them...where?....to the streets...and voila...we have what we have now!
The mental health system in this country is totally screwed up but I have the belief that our rulers do not want us to have good mental heatlh....if we do...then we will get wise to them....and that is now happening. If you let drugs destroy people and families and you allow mentally ill people to continue without adequate treatment...then you are too wrapped up in your own needs to pay much attention to Washington. I hope you will find a good historian type to publish your book. One that wants the truth to be known. Good luck!
This another in a long list of failed brainless liberal schemes they now want to blame on "evil" conservatives. Liberals never seem to pay a political price for their failures and stupidity.
It’s not society’s problem. This case is just like the Virginia Tech shooter. In that case the parents simply dumped their child in college knowing he was mentally ill and did nothing to report it which would have probably stopped that tragedy. This case is starting to look the same. Society is not the problem except in the general sense that the society has promoted and condoned bad parenting.
Britney Spears has really let herself go!
Our “mental health professionals” are too busy normalizing sodomy and pedophilia to bother with psychos who shoot up schools and shopping centers. I would venture that 99.9% of them are registered Dems or worse.
Wrong! There is absolutely NOTHING parents can do about the psychotic behavior of their adult children. The lunatics have “rights” that trump those of the sane.
I’m afraid you are right, in general. But around the country there are still lots of parents who take their responsibilities seriously and don’t let their adult children living at home become mass murderers even if it means the “rights” of the lunatics get trimmed back.
Thanks for posting this. I will be getting his book. The left in this country are the ones who insisted that the criminally insane and nutters be left on the streets and thrown out of hospitals.
Many, many of these mentally ill people are not capable of taking care of themselves, and the hands of others, including their parents, are tied. Once the adult "child" reaches legal age, the parents have no rights at all. I worked with a lady a few years ago who had a schizophrenic son. She took him to his regular psychiatric appointments, but was never allowed to talk with the psychiatrist, to tell him what she saw or what she thought about how his meds were or were not working, because he was an adult. Never mind that the definition of schizophrenia includes loss of touch with reality; the psych went by the young man's self-assessment of how he was doing, only. His visits, BTW, took about 5 minutes.
One hallmark of schizophrenia is a lack of insight into their condition. Schizophrenics think that they are fine and that their thought processes make perfect sense; it's the rest of us who are crazy. Yet they are let loose to take care of themselves, while sometimes totally lacking the ability to do so. Stopping their medications is a very common occurrence; they don't think they need them, because they are doing just fine (even though the rest of us may think the individual is crazy as a bedbug). Some can do very well, inside a sheltered institutional setting. They do very poorly outside of that.
As the author points out, mental hospitals had a bad reputation. Is what we have done to these people any better? Many, many mentally ill individuals have been killed on the street, been abused and victimized, been killed by law enforcement to prevent their harming others, and have committed murder and other crimes. What has happened to the mentally ill since "deinstitutionalization" is as much a shame and disgrace as anything that was done to anyone in any mental institution.
The Left lionizes everything that is not human, inhumane or subhuman.
Deinstitutionalization is wrong on so many levels. It is not beneficial to either the ill person or society. BY FAR, the people who suffer most because of it are the mentally ill people. The vast majority of mentally ill people are not dangerous to anyone but perhaps themselves. The mentally ill should not, as a rule, be feared nor treated as though they’re dangerous. They need to be loved and cared for. Allowing them to wander the streets disconnected with reality and unable to manage their own personal affairs does them no favors.
One of the things that I did not like from Reagan is he cut the final funding to these hospitals. The flood of crazys has been unrelenting ever since.
Why would that be a federal funding issue?
The little bit I’ve heard about Loughner’s parents, especially his father, seems to indicate that the young man is not the only one in his family who has mental health issues.
The mentally ill are treatable. Sociopaths aren’t.
Maybe now is a good time to retry getting your book published. I said on another thread how it’s interesting
that the parents haven’t come forward to apologize for
their son’s behavior, which is usually the good and heartfelt thing to do. But, I think they have been told
to keep it quite, to not mention all the problems that
they have had trying to get help for their son. The Mental
Health issues are a big problem in our society. The ACLU
comes in and tells these nuts they can get out, nothing
wrong with them, its everybody else...
I was introduced to someone’s boyfriend last summer; the guy could easily become one of those written about in this book. He had a story about being in the Army and being sent to Korea. Since he was doing intelligence, he was locked up in a cage while on duty; off duty, shady Koreans followed him around and would have killed him for spying, except that he had friends who protected him. He now gets a disability pension from the Army—I wonder why (I ask rhetorically)? Someone who is that delusional should be confined in a hospital. Talking to him, I got a strong feeling that the best place to be is somewhere far away from him—he’s creepy.
I have a friend whose mother is schizophrenic and has been taking drugs that poorly control it for years. This woman, whom I’ve known for most of my life, however, is not dangerous. She lives alone but my friend checks on her and talks to her every day.