Take a quick look at my blog, and you’ll see that I ardently advocate all things mental health related. In my last article, “Mental Illness Falls by the Wayside,” I spoke about the comparisons between mental health and other diseases. (Examples included cancer, diabetes, and AIDS.) The conclusion spoke volumes-society in general does not view mental illness as a serious health concern, and beyond that, our society is genuinely uncomfortable seeing, hearing, or being around anyone or anything associated with mental illness.
A shining example of some of the revolting behaviors displayed towards mental illness aired on Fox News’s Studio B yesterday. ( Just to clarify-I am not Fox New’s biggest fan, I generally abhor what they air, but I have to give them due props for getting this one right.)
During the segment, Studio B reported that mental patients at a state-run facility in Corpus Christi, TX were forced into a personalized version of the movie “Fight Club” by night shift employees. Local police found out about the abuse after a lost cell phone was turned in. The cell phone contained video footage which showed patients being forced to fight one another. Thankfully, the viral video led to the night shift employees being fired- but, this incident is far from over.
According to John Richardson, a former prosecutor, the defendants could get less time than NFL quarterback Michael Vick did in his dog fighting case. The standard punishment for a case like this is two to ten years in prison, but it’s at the judge’s discretion, which could lead to a contemptible sentence of only probation. “I think these people are cowards, and should be charged with torturing mentally disabled people, but unfortunately, that law is not on the books in the state of Texas,” says Richardson.
Texas seems to be a breeding ground for abuse and neglect where it concerns mental illness. In 2004, 800 employees of mental institutions were either fired or suspended for abuse, according to statistics aired on Studio B.
Mr. Richardson was quick to reply with some statistics of his own, “In 2007 alone, there were a reported 53 deaths related to abusing mentally disabled patients. Abuse included people sitting in their own feces, rapes, beatings, killings, and in one instance, throwing a mentally disabled person into a pool with a straight jacket.”
As a person who is both directly and indirectly affected by mental illness, I’m used to seeing all the stigmas attached to the disease, which in and of itself is heartbreaking, but this, this is an abomination.
I have to echo the sentiments of the host of Studio B and say to the Governor of Texas, “How can you sleep at night?”
If you’d like to see the whole 5 minute segment, go back to my main page and go down to the middle. You’ll see my Vod Pod there, click on the video and a separate window will pop up- but I warn you, the cell phone video images are disturbing.