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August 01, 2007


bob friedman

I hope that at some point in the context of these horrendous and unthinkable events, there will be public discussion, preferably by experts in the various fields of mental health, that focus on how such a tragedy could only be explained adequately by addressing the factor of mental illness. Children come into the world with multiple factors that are already established and all too frequently, despite the most heroic efforts by parents, professionals and a loving community, a predisposition to mental illness emerges. Disorders of conduct, personality disorders, brain dysfunction, (and in some cases, actual brain disease), converge such that antisocial behavior becomes inevitable. The tragedy is further intensified when these individuals enter our penal system, which is often woefully inadequate at addressing mental illness. Dangerous (and often deranged) individuals are often placed in prison environments where there are poor or no mental health services. The incarcerated are then exposed to conditions that allow their antisocial personalities to fester, their anger to become further fueled, and often they encounter abuse that is unimaginable. The end result, unfortunately are crimes that are equally unimaginable. But mental illness of this sort is not unimaginable. It is all too real. I therefore hope that as the dialogue about these crimes occurs, the role of mental illness will be included and explored, rather than simple discussion of how there is no explanation for such events. This would not be to excuse the reality, but to inform the public and raise awareness about a very real and prevalent set of issues–Our penal system and the care of the criminally mentally ill.

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