Crazy People Do Kill, We Need Sane Asylums

This concept of a modern-day asylum -- a refuge -- could solve a multitude of problems for both society and the individuals themselves, and would be cheaper and more humane in the long run.

It doesn't have to happen.

Every year about 1,000 people in the U.S. are murdered by severely mentally
ill people.

Over 38,000 people in the United States die by suicide every year -- 90 percent of whom have a diagnosable mental illness.

Treatable mental illness destroys the lives of tens of millions of families
each year. The economic toll is enormous -- and mostly hidden. Untreated mental  illnesses in the U.S. costs more than $100 billion a year in lost productivity  according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The results are ubiquitous. Several times over the past few weeks New York
commuters confronted nightmarish stories of fellow subway riders pushed to their deaths by insane individuals.

Early in December a mentally ill drifter was arrested for shoving a Queen's
dad into the path of an oncoming Q train.

This weekend during her arraignment -- for pushing a hard working immigrant
to his death in front of a 7 line subway -- Erika Menendez was laughing
hysterically and shaking. She has been in and out of Elmhurst hospital 15 times.

"When she don't take her medication, she goes really wacky" said Menendez's doorman.

On a similar note, NRA Spokesman Wayne LaPierre said the following in Newtown's aftermath:

"The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of
genuine monsters -- people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and
driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day.

"A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even
guess how many, given our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?"

LaPierre's statements are atrocious, self serving to distract from gun control, and, sadly, true.

They are applicable to a whole range of homicidal behavior -- from Virginia Tech, Columbine, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, to Newtown, to the recent subway murders in New York City.

Unfortunately, NRA's LaPierre doesn't see that giving deranged people access
to guns and automatic weapons only skyrockets the death toll.

The problems of homicidal violence by the most serious mentally ill, who do
not take their medicines, must be addressed in a variety of ways. One size does
not fit all. And the majority of the mentally ill are not violent.

Control of handguns and assault rifles is a needed start. It is the low
hanging fruit.

The problems stem from the 1960s when an unlikely marriage between civil
libertarians and budget-minded conservatives begat an unstoppable coalition that  resulted in the deinstitutionalization of 830,000 thousands of mentally ill --
and in a national disaster.

By kicking out hundreds of thousands of mental patients, the government left
them to wander the streets, untreated and dangerous to themselves and to other people.

The figures are horrific:

• 2 million mentally ill go untreated
• One-third of homeless are mentally ill (200,000)
• 16% of incarcerated (300,000) have mental illness
• 1,000 homicides a year are committed by mentally ill
• 10-17% of seriously mentallyill kill themselves
• $15 billion is spent incarcerating mentally ill
• Random acts of violence by minority are tarring the majority

As many as 11,000 homeless psychotics may be wandering the streets in New
York City, according to D.J. Jaffe, executive director of the Mental Illness
Policy organization.

People with serious mental illness account for a disproportionate share of
suicides, homelessness, violence, and incarceration.

These figures are just tip of the iceberg...suicide and vehicular homicide by
the mentally ill (mostly uncounted) add to hundreds of thousands of deaths each


We must recognize, once and for all, that schizophrenics can be successfully treated or contained -- but they lack the capacity to make an informed decision about treatment. Many schizophrenics do not know they are sick and do not have the opportunity to make a meaningful choice between being sick or getting better. And their families are in a similar state of ignorance, bewilderment and helplessness.

Only 60 percent of people with a serious mental illness received treatment --
according to a recent report conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The laws around mental illness are built upon a delusion: that the sickest
among us know what they are doing and should always be in control of their own

In 1999 Kendra Webdale was pushed to her death in front of a 7 Train. Her
killer, Andrew Goldstein, recently said:

"Should you let a mental patient like myself be in freedom so an
incident like train pushing can occur? If you are a harm to anyone, even
yourself, you should be hospitalized

Andrew Goldstein is now lucid and rational, because he's forced to take his
medicine, in jail.

Schizophrenia cannot be cured, but it can be managed in many cases. Kendra's
mother got a law passed in New York State which is supposed to allow courts to
forcibly treat the seriously disturbed. But Kendra's law is widely ignored and
riddled with loopholes.

When mentally ill prisoners or patients are discharged, they are seldom
referred to local mental health facilities, nor are any officials notified that
they may need mandatory treatment.

According to E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist who founded the Treatment
Advocacy Center, a staggering 20 percent of the prison population is seriously
mentally ill. Around a third of the homeless are insane, too.

The answer: think about the Unthinkable. Asylums. When asylums were first
begun in 19th century England, the idea was to provide protection and care. And
they offered just that. Simply because many institutions degenerated into snake
pits in the past, does not mean that we cannot design caring, custodial
institutions today. Given the alternatives, asylums may be the only humane
choice, and the cheapest... in the long run.

There is a mean streak in the Christian values of the American character,
when it comes to the mentally ill, alcoholics and drug abusers. The idea of
taking care of the obviously sick and the dying doesn't seem to cut it. We would
never allow cancer or Alzheimer's patients to walk barefoot, with nothing to eat
and no treatment, but we allow schizophrenics to sleep outside in the winter and
forage from garbage cans -- and sometimes -- threaten, assault, and perhaps kill the rest of us.

When the mentally ill are released from prisons or hospitals there is often, no follow up, and are a danger to themselves and the rest of us. Almost
all of the heart wrenching homicides we have read about lately were committed by people everyone knew were crazy.

The Sandy Hook killer was reportedly treated for a mental illness and is said to
have had Asperger's. Jared Loughner, the Tucson, Arizona, shooter, was "mentally deranged" and had to undergo treatment before his sentencing hearing. The Virginia Tech killer had undergone mental health therapy in high school. JamesHolmes, the Colorado theater shooter, had been referred to a threat-assessment team. Both NYC subway pushers had been in and out of mental institutions for years.

If Andrew Goldstein, a diagnosed schizophrenic and convicted murderer, sees
the solution so clearly, then so should we.

Feedback? Write: jfleetwood@aol.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mary Beth January 02, 2013 at 09:40 PM
The mentally ill are more likely to be victims than perpetrators. From the Canadian Mental Health Association and it’s pamphlet – “Violence and Mental Illness”, ”In today’s media reports about mental illness, there is a tendency to emphasise a supposed risk between violence and mental illness. News stories regularly suggest that there is a strong connection between mental illness and crime. In fact, people with a mental illness are more likely to be the victims, rather than the perpetrators of violence.” “Recent studies have showed that alcohol and substance abuse far outweigh mental illness in contributing to violence. A 1996 Health Canada review of scientific articles found that the strongest predictor of violence and criminal behaviour is not major mental illness, but past history and criminality.”
Mary Beth January 02, 2013 at 09:41 PM
Here is what researchers say about the link between mental illness and violence: - "Although studies suggest a link between mental illnesses and violence, the contribution of people with mental illnesses to overall rates of violence is small, and further, the magnitude of the relationship is greatly exaggerated in the minds of the general population (Institute of Medicine, 2006)." - "…the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illnesses (American Psychiatric Association, 1994)." - "The absolute risk of violence among the mentally ill as a group is very small. . . only a small proportion of the violence in our society can be attributed to persons who are mentally ill (Mulvey, 1994)." -"People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime (Appleby, et al., 2001). People with severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are 2 ½ times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population (Hiday, et al.,1999)."
Mary Beth January 02, 2013 at 09:43 PM
Mentally ill need better care, not another stigma By James R. Van Norman, M.D.,Susan A. Stone, J.D., M.D. Media coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders in Connecticut has veered sadly off course. Too much emphasis has been placed on the idea that mental health issues are at the core of this event. Not having examined the shooter, Adam Lanza, we cannot definitively comment on any diagnosis. But, even if Lanza had a psychiatric illness, reportedly Asperger’s syndrome, it is our clinical experience and understanding of the literature that such a diagnosis is highly unlikely to lead to an individual seeking attention, committing violence or causing chaotic situations. A person with Asperger’s syndrome is more likely to isolate himself from society than he is to venture out into the community to create loud and violent situations. The urge to institutionalize those with psychiatric illnesses flies in the face of all scientific evidence and constitutional law. Calls to begin registering those with psychiatric illness out of a fear that they are somehow more dangerous are misguided. http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/mentally-ill-need-better-care-not-another-stigma/nTkS7/
Andrea Gurvitz January 03, 2013 at 02:52 PM
We need community based, small establishments for treatment. Thank you for explaining the facts of mental illness and the sorry state of care in America.
TAC January 03, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Mary Beth - Blake Fleetwood's article is spot on. Appreciate that you uncovered a lot of research but let me speak from experience; I have a schizophrenic in my family. This person's violence escalated from death threats over the phone, to showing up at my house ready to carry those threats out to showing up at my place of work armed with a bat to carry out those threats. That's just the short list....I could write a book on everything that happened in between. In summary I say to you and other readers don't let the research fool you.....mental illness is a very REAL problem that society has ignored for too long. These people can't function in society and should be institutionalized or monitored for life. There is a STRONG correlation between mental illness and violence (believe me i know). Action needs to be taken now or the list of incidents will sadly continue to grow.
Mary Beth January 03, 2013 at 04:27 PM
TAC, your personal experiences are real and I can see how they would lead you to conclude there is a "strong correlation", but, taken from the view of society as a whole, the evidence proves otherwise. There is a real danger is stigmatizing an entire group of people based on one or two isolated incidents.
frank peetrone January 04, 2013 at 07:40 AM
Thank you mary beth for makeing the case clearly --There is a dire need for institutions asylums for those with mental issues to go to .That way they would never be stigmatized or targeted. they would just be treated.
Linda Otta January 04, 2013 at 01:40 PM
If there is a real danger of stigmatizing any one group one way or the other isn't that what is happening with gun owners? Read the blogs. If you are a gun owner you are now being targeted in a way like I have never seen before. "right wing nuts clinging to their guns" "gunners" "crazy KKK gun lovers" it's sick. That in itself is a mental issue from the far left extremists trying to ban all gun while saying, don't worry, just the scary black ones. I can't believe or understand the shift I am seeing in America.
Preliator January 04, 2013 at 01:47 PM
Get use to it....it is painful to watch the decline and fall of a nation knowing that just enough citizens are willful participants in the the destruction of their own freedoms and liberties and the serfdom they are selling their children into. They are willing to enslave themselves under the false pretense of security and reliance on government. "A government big enough to give you everything you need, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have." Thomas Jefferson
Mary Beth January 04, 2013 at 01:56 PM
Linda, thank you for providing a perfect example of the complete, myopic intransigence of the gun lobby. "far left extremists trying to ban all gun(s)"?! Seriously? Please provide a statement from one elected official that called for banning ALL guns. Just one. Not from some lunatic on a blog, but an elected official. The left, the center and reasonable republicans are calling for a ban on ASSAULT RIFLES and HIGH CAPACITY CLIPS and end to the gun show loophole and real enforcement of laws. Period. This is why it is impossible to have reasonable responses to big issues in this country. Why completely misrepresent what this discussion is really about? How about not stigmatizing those calling for sane, reasonable controls? Maybe you could start there. By the way, your comment stands as a perfect example of why the gun-owner stigma exists in the first place.
East End Farmer January 04, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Guns kill. People who kill with them are called killers. Enough with the semantics of the gun lobbyists. Our nation suffers from too much violence. Not too many liberties. When did somebody die from being too liberal with freedom?
Linda Otta January 04, 2013 at 07:35 PM
I can actually name several elected officials who have statements floating around as that being their goal. People who lobby them and the people the are elected to serve call it "a good START". But I don't see why I need to go tit for tat with you and do your research for you. If your not interested in looking for it yourself you don't doubt it and nothing I can type will change your mind, it will only further cause you to nit pick on all my statements.
Linda Otta January 04, 2013 at 07:37 PM
Discussing her failure in passing a ban on semi-automatic weapons, Feinstein said on CBS-TV's 60 Minutes, February 5, 1995, "If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them . . . Mr. and Mrs. America, turn 'em all in, I would have done it. I could not do that. The votes weren't here." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_Dianne_Feinstein
Linda Otta January 04, 2013 at 07:51 PM
Mary Beth would you consider Ms Feinstein on the far right? Left? or right it the "reasonable" middle. I also find it amusing the Republicans are "reasonable" as long as they agree with you. This is something you said recently. Mary Beth 1:56 pm on Wednesday, January 2, 2013 The republican party is a sham. A disgrace. Even their fellow party members say that the teaparty has destroyed the party. Peter King and Chris Cristi agree: But only when it suits YOUR needs and agrees with you right? Your not jaded at all.
Blake Fleetwood January 04, 2013 at 11:34 PM
It may well be true that the mentally ill are more likely victims... But the reality remains that about 20% of people in jail for violent crimes are mentally ill and this is about ten times the percentage of people with mental illness in the general population,. These people need protection from themselves, from other people and we need protection from them.. they must be treated with medication .... we should not allow them to be thrown in jail or to wander the streets for our sake and theirs.


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