If only his mind were as easy to fix as his body. Han Nolan
National Institute of Mental Health
Please forgive the cut and paste nature of this post. We had a little hiccup with the administrative feature of this blog.The spell checker is still not working so beware! I also have family in from out of town and time has slipped away.
I want to continue the discussion on sin and evil as it relates to the tragedy in Newtown. Today I will throw out a few ideas for debate and will discuss the issues in more depth tomorrow.
Let me propose a scenario to you. Assume that there is a new virus which is highly contagious and about 95% fatal.There is no known cure. With ongoing research on biochemical weapons, this scenario is not so farfetched. Suppose your neighbor contracts this disease. Would your first response be that he is sinful? Of course not. However, should he be allowed to remain in the general population just because he is ill through no fault of his own? In fact, he will need to be quarantined until a cure is found or he is no longer contagious.
The following is a true story.Link
On Jan. 9, US Airways Flight 401 from Philadelphia to San Francisco had a pretty uneventful cross-country flight. However, a man on-board who had just been added to the Transportation Safety Administration’s “Do Not Fly” list still made it on board the aircraft, despite the fact that he has a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, a nasty airborne disease.
So, for approximately six hours, this still unidentified man, who knew he had a deadly bacterial infection, still boarded the plane, putting passengers and crew in jeopardy, droplets of his infected breath circulating in the confines of the cabin.
This man was eventually found, quarantined and the passengers tracked down and watched. Thankfully, the man, and all passengers survived. He said he needed to get home and was willing to risk others in order to do so. he made a sinful decision to put his needs over others. He should be tried and convicted for his wanton neglect for the safety of others. However, it was not his fault that he became sick.
Just because someone is mentally ill and is not delberately or knowingly doing evil, does not mean that he/she should be allowed to live in the general population. Unfortunately, we do not have a sufficent numebr of treatment facilites that are able to contain the dangerously insane. Even worse, we have limited means to actively treat and/or cure many forms of mental illness. So, until we get serious about research into the causes and treatment of those afflicted, incarceration of the dangerously troubled will contune to be necessary to prevent them from hurting others.
Also, I believe that it is appropriate to use lethal force, if necessary, to prevent a mentally deluded individual from harming others. I believe one reader said that they would not hesitate to shoot a person who was killing others, even if they were mentally ill.
The point I am trying to make is this. The outcome for a mentally insane person is not significantly different from a criminal who makes a rational, sinful decision to hurt others. Our first priority is to provide for the safety of others. However, I do think it is important to diiferentiate between the mentally ill and the sane. One is to be offered treatment, if available, for their disability. The other is to be punished while hopefully coming to understanding of the error of his ways.I hope that one day we will find cures for those who have broken minds.
I thought it might also be interesting to look at a couple of tragedies in other countries to see how they view mental ilness and crime.
1. The Dendermonde, Belgium nursery attack.Link
The Dendermonde nursery attack was a stabbing attack on the Fabeltjesland daycare centre in the village of Sint-Gillis-bij-Dendermonde in Dendermonde, Belgium, inJanuary 2009.
He then entered one of the rooms and began attacking small children before moving up some stairs, where he continued in another room.[The man was reported to be wearing black and white makeup with his hair vividly coloured in red, similar to that of The Joker.
A total of eighteen infants under the age of three and six adults were in the nursery at the time of the attack.Two infants and one adult were killed, six children, between one and three years old, were seriously injured, another four suffered minor injuries . that some of the surviving children have needed plastic surgery due to serious mutilations.[
De Gelder confided in his attorney, stating that he had been troubled by depression as a teenager and at one point heard voices in his head. Regardless, a psychiatrist had concluded that he did not need to be sent to a mental institution.
DeGelder is serving a prison sentance. There is no death penalty in Belgium.
2. Andres Breivik, Norwegian mass murderer. Link
In a sequential bombing and mass shooting on July 2011, he bombed government buildings in Oslo, resulting in eight deaths, then carried out a mass shooting at a camp of the Workers' Youth League (AUF) of the Labour Party on the island ofUtøya, where he killed 69 people, mostly teenagers. He was convicted of mass murder, causing a fatal explosion, and terrorism.
Two teams of court-appointed psychiatrists examined Breivik prior to his trial; in the first report Breivik was diagnosed with paranoidschizophrenia,and a second evaluation was commissioned following widespread criticism of the first report.The second psychiatric evaluation was published one week before the trial, concluding that Breivik was not psychotic during the attacks nor during the evaluation;he was diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
Oslo District Court found Breivik sane and guilty of murdering 77 people. He was sentenced to preventive detention.
Norway considers prison to be rehabilitative, not punitive and he will be eligble for parole when he is 53.There is no death penalty in Norway.
Both of these men had distinct psycholgical issues. But, in both cases, the local courts did not find their psychological issues precluded them from standing trial and being sentenced to prison. However, Norway will provide intensive counseling for Brevik.
I found both of these incidents applicable to the Newtown tragedy. All three men had significant psychiatric issues which had not been diagnosed or treated properly. It is evident that all nations have a long way to go in the understanding and treatment of mental illness. Until we do, further tragedy is inevitable.
Finally, a post "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother-A Mom's Perspective on the Mental Illness Conversation in America" Link is well worth the read. It chronicles one mother's struggle to rase a child who has an undiagnosed, serious mental illness. Once again, it is a story that leaves me praying that we will do more as a nation in dealing with mental illness. We have sent the Rover to Mars. Surely we can use our resources to help the hurting among us. The following is a short excerpt from this mother;s heartbreaking story.
A few weeks ago, Michael(13 years) pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan — they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.
That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.
We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.
Lydia's Corner: Numbers 6:1-7:89 Mark 12:38-13:13 Psalm 49:1-20 Proverbs 10:27-28