Journalist Pete Earley is an ardent mental health advocate. A journalist and author, he has written 13 books, including 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, an account about his exasperating struggles with the mental health system for his son with schizophrenia.
Pete produces an informative blog that is helpful to families in the maelstrom. His latest blog post is about the family ordeal of Virgina State Senator Creigh Deeds (l). Readers will remember with Deeds’ story. Last November Deeds was slashed and stabbed by his own son, Gus, who was suffering effects of an untreated mental illness. In the same tragic episode, Gus also took his own life. Local mental health officials had determined Gus to be in danger, but could not find him an available psychiatric hospital bed. The story crystallized the desperate dilemma many families in the maelstrom too often face. About Deeds, Earley writes:
Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds has spoken out bravely about his son’s mental illness. Sadly, his story and attempts to help his son, Gus, will sound familiar to many of us.
The senator returned to the legislature this week for the first time since being stabbed last November by his son who then killed himself. The attack made national headlines after a local mental health official acknowledged that Gus had been deemed dangerous but not treated because there were no local hospital beds available. The next day, three hospitals said they had empty psychiatric beds but each was more than two hours away. This raised questions about whether local mental health officials had put sufficient effort into finding beds or whether Gus could have been taken to one of those facilities in time before the six hour mental health hold on him expired. Regardless, this family tragedy exposed weaknesses in Virginia’s system. (I’ll write more about the Deeds case in a future blog.)
Senator Deeds told his family’s story this week to a reporter at The Recorder, his hometown newspaper in rural Virginia. I salute Sen. Deeds’ bravery in speaking out and admire his determination to honor his son’s life by using his considerable political clout to help improve out system.