CBS' 60 Minutes on mental illness and lack of beds, attention

I frequently get alerts from friends about shows that will discuss issues involving mental illness That happened this week, and I am glad I tuned in to watch the segment of 60 Minutes on the heart rending story of Sen. Creigh Deeds of Virginia and his son Gus.

.. The vast majority of mental patients are not violent. But this is a story about the fraction who are a danger to themselves or others. Parents of mentally ill children in crisis often find, as Sen. Deeds did, that they have nowhere to go. Creigh Deeds bears the scars of this failure on his face, his body and his soul.

Creigh Deeds: I really don't want Gus to be defined by his illness. I don't want Gus to be defined by what happened on the 19th. Gus was a great kid. He was a perfect son. It’s clear the system failed. It's clear that it failed Gus. It killed Gus.

Here is a link to an early story on the attack on Sen. Deeds by his 24 year old son who was diagnosed with bipolar and dropped out of William and Mary. Gus Deeds died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in November.

(CBS) - The story of Gus Deeds, who police believe stabbed his father and killed himself on Tuesday, has brought two major problems with the nation's mental health care system - lack of beds and poor communication - to the doorstep of Wash., D.C.

Deeds, the 24-year-old son of Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds, had reportedly undergone an emergency mental health evaluation the day before the attack. And although doctors apparently thought he should be admitted for impatient treatment, Deeds was reportedly released because the facility was unable to find a psychiatric bed for him in the area.

However, the Washington Post reports today that at least three hospitals within an hour's drive of where Gus Deeds was evaluated say they had beds Monday night and were not contacted.

"These kinds of communications breakdowns can be life or death," says Ron Honberg, the policy director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). "The mental health system is horribly fragmented and coordination and communication across different entities and systems is at best inadequate and at worst non-existent..."

The 60 Minutes show also included excellent interviews with emergency room staff at Yale Medical Center's ER and a group of mothers, who created a support group after their children were left in ERs for lack of beds in Connecticut. Kudos to 60 Minutes for a job well done.


Inhumane At the same time they want to blame every shooting incident on mental illness and amidst all the calls to improve treatment and access to care, refusal to expand Medicaid aggravates the problem, forcing closure of hospitals etc. The cruelty and callousness of these policies is inhumane. (Further proof that Corporations are not people, once these politicians have sold their souls to their corporate donors they are no longer even human.)

'there's so much stigma attached,' Creigh Deeds

Deeds said there's a lack of information and communication about mental illnesses.

"My concern is that because there's so much stigma attached, there's a lack of overall awareness," he said. "You know, there's an inequity in the way we treat people with mental illness.

"If you've got a heart attack, if you've got cancer, you're going to get treatment. There are protocols developed," he said. "But the mentally ill struggle in silence, often. And I'm afraid because it's a soft science, in lots of respects, people who are trained to provide the service to the mentally ill aren't always given the respect they need and the resources, and frankly, I'm not sure that the best students are going into the care for mentally ill. I think they're going to where the money is. Cardiology, surgery, you know."

He said, "It's -- it's difficult."

Creigh Deeds
on mental health legislation: "We've got some hard work to do" from CBS This Morning today.

Martha Brock