Too Crazy to Be Anywhere

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Obama Administration

There’s a distressing story at Mother Jones about a schizophrenic man on death row in Texas. Titled “How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed?” the story explores how the Texas courts determine whether anyone is too mentally compromised to be executed. But there are a couple of other points that scream out of it.

One is that Texas has nothing that rises to the level of a “system” that identifies psychotic people and at least puts them somewhere where they can’t harm themselves or anyone else. And actual medical treatment would not be a bad thing, of course. The subject, Andre Thomas, had been identified as severely disturbed before the voices in his head compelled him to murder his ex-wife and their children. But, somehow, he remained under no supervision of any sort until he confessed to murder.

This reminded me a of Andrea Yates’s story. You probably remember that Yates was the Texas mother who drowned her five children in a bathtub. It turned out that not only was Yates massively psychotic at the time of the incident; she had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals a couple of times before the drownings. And at the time of the drownings her family had been taking her to see a doctor on a regular basis. But even then, the amount of help and supervision that she really needed just wasn’t available, somehow.

But I don’t want to pick on Texas too much, because the psychiatric “safety net” is pretty much nonexistent everywhere, from what I see. In the past such people might have been warehoused in a state psychiatric hospital, which often were awful places, but the only alternative we seem to have come up with is to just let them stumble around until they kill somebody. Or die on the street somewhere.

And this takes us to the subject of firearm purchasing. The walking crazy are among us. And it’s not always obvious at a glance who they are. The “system” is so porous that certifiably sick people go undiagnosed — or even if diagnosed, untreated — for years. So how does anyone think the “system” would be able to maintain a Crazy People Registry as part of a gun purchase background check? (Even if it were a good idea, which it isn’t.) There is no system.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Tom_B  •  Feb 12, 2013 @3:33 pm

    ..And I understand the zombie apocalypse started yesterday in Montana.

  2. joanr16  •  Feb 12, 2013 @4:22 pm

    What exactly is the NRA suggesting our mental health system needs? Is that a naive question, do you suppose? Is the answer, “They’ll get back to us”?

    I do wonder what the NRA has in mind to address this vast, complex and painful problem. They’ve mentioned compiling lists of mentally ill persons, although standards for mental illness aren’t described, unless it’s through Wayne LaPierre’s facial expressions when he appears before Congress. Instead of “death panels,” does the NRA propose “insanity panels”? Would they be local, state, national? In my neck of the woods, would I end up on the list simply for declining to go to church on Sunday? Would I be locked up, or just have to walk around with a red letter “I” hung around my neck?

    The tragedy of Andrea Yates is a perfect example of the problem’s complexity. A malfunctioning human brain can be dangerous even without guns nearby. And, as I recall, while Andrea’s husband did get some treatment for her, I had the impression he did so only because her behavior made her inconvenient as a wife and mother. Even after recognizing her mental state, Mr. Yates kept getting her pregnant and leaving her home alone with the children. I remember thinking at the time that maybe he should be in prison a while, for reckless endangerment at the behest of his own ego, or something.

  3. Swami  •  Feb 12, 2013 @4:42 pm

    Wow, that Andre Thomas story is just bizarre. But when I listen to people sitting around talking in all seriousness about whether or not someone is “saved”, I don’t see much difference in the mental state.
    I guess there’s a very thin line between faith and mental illness.

    I think if the voices in my head started telling me to pluck out my right eye because it offends me..I think I’d kick it into overdrive to start making excuses for my eye’s behavior. Or hone in on the difference between figurative and literal.

  4. maha  •  Feb 12, 2013 @5:48 pm

    Wow, that Andre Thomas story is just bizarre. But when I listen to people sitting around talking in all seriousness about whether or not someone is “saved”, I don’t see much difference in the mental state.

    Hallucinations and beliefs are experienced very differently. Schizophrenics really do see and hear things that aren’t there. Also, schizophrenia is considered to be a brain disease, and I understand brain abnormalities show up in an MRI.

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Feb 12, 2013 @7:18 pm

    maha,
    “Hallucinations and beliefs are experienced very differently. Schizophrenics really do see and hear things that aren’t there. Also, schizophrenia is considered to be a brain disease, and I understand brain abnormalities show up in an MRI.”’

    Uhm…
    Shouldnt’s we then make EVERY candidtate for office take that test?

  6. Doug  •  Feb 12, 2013 @9:17 pm

    And then what? There’s a few links to the chain missing in the plan for a ‘people’ registry (which the NRA suggests) as a substitute for comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loophole, and possibly licensing gun owners with mandatory training and demonstrated competence.

    Here’s the links that are missing – if you have a mental health system (which we don’t) and doctors can register patients not approved for gun ownership (and a system for taking them off the list – people can get healthy) HOW in hell will that system place any impediment in the way of a nut on the nut list from buying any weapons he wants at a gun show? If we HAVE a mental health system (and the GOP has been in opposition to ANY socialized medicine – physical or mental) that system has to fit with a system of restrictions and checks which the NRA opposes. The argument for a list of mentally ill people is a red herring – phony from the start – UNLESS there is also a comprehensive background check system.

  7. Buckyblue  •  Feb 12, 2013 @10:00 pm

    Felonies and such are public records. A medical diagnosis by a medical professional will be covered by all sorts of HIPAA regulations. LaPierre aint gonna sit in the nra`s basement and compile some list. More diversion from what the real issue is, which is guns. As for Andre Thomas, staying home and being the good christian wife and mother is enough to drive anyone psychotic, seriously. I truly believe that, the evangelical xian life is so riff with people lying to themselves they make themselves mentally ill. And I`m not talking about their belief system. Their culture is so, so fake, and full of such falsehood and disatisfaction, no wonder that the young kids are leaving in droves. There`s this stepford wife fakyness where no one really cares for anyone else. Just a giant blog of disingeneousness, which makes the Catholic Church seem genuine. Andre should have saved her kids, and shot her husband.



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