Schizophrenic Voices

The woman who tried to breach the barricades around the White House (and perhaps the Capitol building) allegedly had a history of mental illness. You can tell that there was insanity going on: She fired seventeen shots at an unarmed person.

Well, actually, that was the police. But in any event, Miriam Carey was not in her right mind, and is no longer in her body as well.  After she slammed into the barricade, knocking down one officer, then slamming into a police care as she sped away, I can understand the officers’ excitement. They are charged with protecting President Obama, and it is a credit to their professionalism that they take this job seriously.

As many of the articles about this incident mention the mental illness and note that it was only two weeks ago that the Navy Yard killed went on his killing spree. The news media, perhaps a bit cautious, managed not to allege that the Infinity sedan was an AR-15, nor did they suggest that Ms. Carey was a conservative.  Good for them.

Mistakes were Made

With the Navy Yard shooting, the progressive media were not so cautious. They had him using an AR-15 in the attack, then “spraying bullets” from a shotgun (these people are obviously unfamiliar with weapons), and other bits of silliness that has sometimes been corrected, sometimes not.  Some stories suggested that he tried to buy an AR-15.

The NYT eventually did a correction, sort of, but still misses the mark:

From the New York Daily News cover Tuesday saying the Aaron used the AR-15 in the killing to CNN’s Piers Morgan repeatedly citing the weapon as the cause of death on Monday night’s show, the left-wing media has done everything it could to demonize the weapon in order to build support for a federal “assault weapon” ban.

The public deserves to be given accurate information from journalists so they can decide for themselves if a crazy, evil person is to blame for the Navy Yard tragedy or a specific type of firearm.

Of course, it wasn’t an AR-15, it was a “Joe Biden special”: a shotgun. So they moved on … then, somehow, it was the “pre-Obamacare” health care system at fault:

But he “never sought an appointment from a mental health specialist, and had previously either canceled or failed to show up for primary care appointments and claims evaluations examinations he had scheduled at VA Medical Centers,” the VA said in a statement.

Late last month, Alexis showed up a VA emergency medical center in Providence, R.I., and another in Washington, D.C., seeking medication for insomnia. After medical exams at both centers, he was given small doses of medication and told to follow up with primary care providers.

“On both occasions, Mr. Alexis was alert and oriented, and was asked by VA doctors if he was struggling with anxiety or depression, or had thoughts about harming himself or others, which he denied,” the VA statement said.

Weeks earlier, Alexis had called Newport, R.I., police to a hotel where he was staying and told them that voices were speaking to him through the wall, floor and ceiling, that three people were following him and keeping him awake with microwave vibrations, and that he had left two other hotels because of that. He also denied any history of mental illness.

A Converation with the Problem

In that context, I thought this article was just about in the right spirit, so to speak: Obama Meets With Nation’s Schizophrenic Voices To Urge Less Violence

WASHINGTON—With the nation still reeling from Monday’s mass shooting inside the Washington Navy Yard, President Barack Obama held a bilateral meeting with the country’s schizophrenic voices earlier today, urging the disembodied auditory hallucinations to join him in helping to reduce violence.

The special summit, which was open to reporters, began at 9 a.m. in the White House’s East Room, where the president and over 2.5 million schizophrenic voices of various degrees of intensity from all across America engaged in an open dialogue covering issues as varied as violence in America, mental health care, the incessant wriggling of worms, gun control, the tearing of the flesh, and the passage of meaningful legislation.


In the hours since the meeting, political experts have called the White House’s efforts to reach an agreement with the schizophrenic voices “an unequivocal failure,” with many suggesting the president never managed to adequately appease the concerns of the irrational and angry voices and may have even driven them closer to the brink of violence.

This non-satirical article seems reasonable, suggesting that screening would solve the problem:

It is untreated mental illness that is to blame. Our response to a tragedy such as this must not be to make people afraid to seek help, but to propel such people toward the help they need. And that requires reducing the stigma attached to seeking treatment, not exacerbating it, as always seems to happen in the wake of such tragedies.

Screening is virtually nonexistent. Alexis was clearly depressed, and he was also delusional. The story of his complaining that microwaves were being sent through the hotel ceiling to keep him awake is a story of someone with escalating psychosis. The story of his fight at the airport in Virginia, where he accused a woman he didn’t know of laughing at him, reflects acute symptomatic paranoia. The issue of his getting so angry that he fired bullets into the tires of the car of someone who had disrespected him is indicative of extremely labile mood states. And on and on. Not long ago, he went to a V.A. hospital with acute insomnia, which is sometimes a sign of underlying mental disorders, and yet no one screened him there for mental illness, not even for P.T.S.D., which should be a standard procedure at V.A. hospitals.

Hard to Pick Up

Except that he was screened for this, according to the previous story.

We can castigate perpetrators and their families all we want; we can tighten security procedures; we can subject those among them who survive to extreme punishments. We need to address gun control, which would help to curtail the ability of such tortured souls to ruin the lives of others and themselves.

But until we develop a social model that includes finding and treating those who suffer from these complaints, we will be subjected to scenes like the one at the Navy Yard over and over again. Some shootings, like Columbine, are perpetrated by people of whom no one would ever have expected such violent acts. Those events, which appear random, will be difficult to contain. But many are perpetrated, as this one was, by people who are clearly disturbed. Some cases are hard to pick up. Alexis’s was not.

Note the suggestion that “gun control” would be at least a partial solution. But Alexis had passed background checks at both the state and federal level. Also, his mention of the Columbine killers as people “no one would ever have expected” reflects a complete lack of familiarity with that evil pair.

But why, then, was Alexis himself “hard to pick up”? The answer lies in the history of mental illness, and particularly of mental hospitals.

A History of Mental Problems

The Supreme Court of the US in O’Connor v. Donaldson (1975) decided that states could not hold persons in institutions except under narrow circumstances. This followed a movement from the mid-sixties, and a veto-proof California law passed by an overwhelmingly Democrat state house and senate, that set the standard for the nation: From O’Connor:

A finding of ‘mental illness’ alone cannot justify a State’s locking a person up against his will and keeping him indefinitely in simple custodial confinement…

SCOTUS rulings preceded and followed O’Connor, but this was the case that had the largest impact nationally. But this movement did not start with the Supreme Court in 1975, or even with the Democrats in California challenging Governor Ronald Reagan in 1967. While the story begins much further back, de-institutionalization became a national priority for John F. Kennedy.  Here are excepts from his speech “the Dream”, which was evidently motivated by his experience with his mentally challenged sister Rosemary:

Prevention is far more desirable for all concerned. It is far more economical and it is far more likely to be successful … if we launch a brand new mental health program now, it will be possible within a decade or two to reduce the number of patients now under custodial care by 50% or more … reliance on the cold mercy of custodial isolation would be supplanted by the open warmth of community concern and capability.”

Unintended Consequences … of course

He was right, of course on the reduction in patient numbers; that goal was exceeded. But unfortunately, the great majority of the patients dumped out (more than 75%) became homeless vagrants, or were incarcerated for various crimes. This pushing of seriously ill people into the street, and leaving them there, was an attempt to be “humane.” It was not, of course, and has been the source of endless cruelty.

And it has led to the circumstances described here — today, two weeks ago, in Aurora, in Tuscon, in Newtown, in Virginia Tech, and in 68% of the mass killings since the 1970s. With a Supreme Court ruling in place, a workable solution is not obvious. But this (and on criminal traffickers) is where attention should be placed, not on sane and law-abiding citizens with private weapons.

An aside: I just noticed that the photos being displayed by a number of major media outlets like CNN are labeled [Edit: Not Al Jazeera, but Al Hurra, a US-funded Arabic language news feed. Thanks to KERoss in LJ comments for the note.]


===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle