I blogged a few months ago about one of those tragedies of deinstitutionalization compounded by what seems at first glance to be an absurd lawsuit. A mentally ill man named Eddie Mies had murdered his father, and then was killed by police in a gun battle. The experience was traumatic for the police officers involved--and some of them filed suit against Mies' mother for failure to keep her son disarmed--and includes the bizarre allegation that:
Eddie Mies should have known that he was "afflicted with certain mental health conditions" that would result in dangerous and violent behavior.In short, a person with a severe mental illness should have known that he was dangerous and done what? California was one of the "leaders" (if you want to call it that) in deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill, and making it very difficult to get treatment for those who are so disturbed that he don't realize that they need help. And this is one of the consequences.
Now, Treatment Advocacy Center links to a December 9, 2008 Sacramento Bee report that one of the police officers who did not file suit, and has been out on medical retirement since she was injured in the shootout, took her own life.
Suicide is a surprisingly common problem among police officers, in spite of the considerable efforts to screen out the psychologically unstable sorts. Police officers are supposed to exercise enormous restraint when confronted with sometimes severe provocations. We hear about policemen that lose self-control, as well we should. But most police officers take an enormous amount of abuse, hold it in--and as often happens with repressed anger, they turn it inward. Often this leads to divorce, and too often to suicide.
Deinstitutionalization has been a disaster for many of the mentally ill. For the society as a whole. And for 28 year old Melissa Meekma, the officer who killed herself.