Feature

The price of ignoring mental illness

The saddest thing about the family tragedy of Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds is that it was preventable.

Michael TomaskyTheDailyBeast.com

The saddest thing about the family tragedy of Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds is that it was preventable, said Michael Tomasky. Deeds was repeatedly stabbed in the head and chest last week by his mentally ill son, Gus, who then committed suicide. “Gus Deeds should have been in a psychiatric ward,” but health workers couldn’t find a psychiatric bed for him anywhere in a wide area of Virginia. That’s probably because Virginia cut funding for psychiatric beds by 15 percent between 2005 and 2010, and is now considering deeper cuts. Tragically, this is a nationwide trend. States cut $4.35 billion from mental health services between 2009 and 2012, even though 10 percent more people sought care during that period. The U.S.’s per capita psychiatric bed population is now the same as it was in 1850—“yes, 1850, around when the very idea of caring for mentally ill people first started!” When budgets get tight, psychiatric care is always one of the first things on the chopping block. Who cares about the mentally ill and their families? As a result of this indifference, Gus Deeds is dead, and his father—though alive—is heartbroken. Shame on us all.

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