SUBWAY PSYCHO’S DEADLY SHOVE screamed the headline in the New York Post. “Subway Death Stirs Call for More Curbs On Mental Patients” says the demure New York Times.
Curb your dog. Curb your mental patient. Mentally ill chemically abusing people are “double trouble killers”, according to one columnist. The attractive blond with whom I was sharing a cab said, simply, “They’re animals!” What would she think if she found out she was seated next to a mentally ill chemical abuser? I guess dinner and a movie would be out of the question. Woof.
“Why is it always the good people who die?” she mused. I pointed out that over the course of the winter many homeless drug addicts and mental patients would freeze and some would probably die. But that isn’t news. Not like escaped mental patients roaming the streets of New York, pushing people under subway cars. Zombies. Wild men. Psycho killers.
James Ledbetter, in a column in The Village Voice, points out that “a New Yorker is far more likely to die in police custody than be pushed under a subway car.” But the police aren’t seen as mentally ill, because they don’t seek treatment, because if they did they would jeopardize their careers, because then they’d have a history of mental illness. As a result, they commit suicide in record numbers.
Or they commit acts of violence against others. Recently a New York City police sergeant was cited for beating the precinct’s own mascot, a beagle, to death. In California, police beat Rodney King almost to death. Yet, none of these violent offenders is labeled mentally ill, because they never sought treatment.
The irony is that as more people are treated, more people will carry the label of mentally ill or mental patient; thus the increased likelihood that someone who has committed a destructive act will have such a label. Negative news stories about mental patients will proliferate. A man on Prozac blows up a subway train with a fire bomb. A man with a long history of depression and violence is put on Prozac, then shoots up his former place of business. Medications are seen as inciters of violence, and millions of people who have had psychiatric intervention are seen as dangerous and deserving of compulsory treatment and incarceration.
And if we aren’t dangerously crazy, we’re charmingly so. “Mad About You: King George tests loyalty to royalty gone off the deep end” reads the title of a review of The Madness of King George. This motion picture asks the interesting philosophical question: how can a truly grand figure, such as a monarch, have delusions of grandeur? Unfortunately, viewers of this film may come away with the idea that the repeated use of restraints is an effective cure of mental illness. I assure you it is not.
Sick people walk around untreated all the time. Alcoholics get service in bars, people with asthsma smoke and obese people line up for Big Macs. No one does anything about them, despite the damage they do the themselves or others. Only mental patients can be treated against their will. I don’t wonder why.