60 Minutes: Steve Kroft Report On Untreated Mental Illness
The recent tragic shooting at Washington D.C. Navy Yard was the 23rd such incident in the past seven years. But how many of these horrific events were “preventable tragedies?” Steve Kroft reported on why untreated mental illness may be to blame.
Dr. E. Fuller-Torrey: Half Of Killings Committed By Mentally Ill
Psychiatrist and schizophrenia researcher Dr. E. Fuller-Torrey described why untreated mental illness is so dangerous, and so prominent. Many people who commit horrific crimes are young males with many similarities, including schizophrenia. “In their mind, it wasn’t crazy behavior,” Dr. Torrey said. “It was a response to something their delusions were telling them.”
Dr. Torrey revealed that roughly half of all major killings are committed by untreated schizophrenics. D.C. Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis had told police that he heard voices. Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho had previously been ordered to receive mental health treatment, but the order was never carried out. Campus police at University of Colorado had warned that Aurora shooter James Holmes was potentially dangerous, but obviously, no one heeded their advice.
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman: Schizophrenia Symptoms
Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, President of the American Psychiatric Association, believes that schizophrenia can change the nature of just about anyone’s behavior. There is a genetic component to the disease, which causes structural abnormalities in the brain. The disease usually lays dormant in childhood, later emerging in adolescence and early adulthood. Schizophrenia– which affects several million Americans– results in many potentially dangerous symptoms. Schizophrenics hear multiple voices from the inside of their heads, which send dangerous messages about hurting themselves and others.
This is the case for seventeen-year-old Jacob Bowman, who documents his struggles with schizophrenia on YouTube. Though he rarely goes out because he fears that people are trying to kill him, he makes videos in order to assure fellow schizophrenics that their terrifying voices aren’t real.
Mike Robertson was diagnosed during college, and now undergoes treatment for his disease, including heavy doses of anti-psychotic medication. His mother worries about who will care for her son when she’s no longer around.
60 Minutes: Majority of Schizophrenics Are Untreated
However, the majority of schizophrenics are not being treated at all. Duane Luco is a man who’s been in and out of jails and mental institutions for much of his life, but refuses to enter treatment. His sister, Sandra Luco, is a documentary filmmaker who has spent years trying to help him. She explained how Duane creates disturbing videos that he believes will exonerate him, proving that society is crazy, not him. However, after an extremely threatening email, she’s since kept her distance from her brother. She has no idea where he is, or what he could be doing.
60 Minutes: Jails Are The New Asylums
During the mid 20th Century, many schizophrenics were involuntarily committed to state-run asylums. Documentaries like Frederic Wiseman’s Titticut Follies helped lead to reform, and eventually, these asylums being shut down one by one.
Since these giant asylums no longer exist, many mentally ill people end up in jails and prisons. Cook County Jail in Chicago hosts the largest number of mentally ill people, a statistic that Sheriff Tom Dart is none too happy about. Cook County Jail hosts 2800 people with mental illness, some of which have entered and re-entered literally hundreds of times. When asked if prisons and jails were “the new asylums,” he responded, “Absolutely.”
“People are falling through the cracks all the time,” Sheriff Dart explained, and emphasized that there is a “huge connection” between these mass shootings and how mental illness is handled in America.
How many mass shootings and innocent victims must we accumulate before something is done? “These are the consequences when you allow people who need to be treated to go untreated,” Dr. Torrey closed with.