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Mental Illness and Crime

Posted Aug 24 2008 10:56pm
I recently finished the book Crazy: A Father's Search through America's Mental Health Madness by Pete Early. I also recently volunteered to speak to local police officers in the Crisis Intervention branch of the local police department. This is a program through which people who have mental illnesses speak to officers to help educate them about mental illness. This has been shown to result in lower numbers of people with mental illnesses being shot by the police, as the book I just finished indicates. It probably also results in fewer arrests of mentally ill people who really belong in a hospital and not a jail.



I will mention something here, in this vein of educating people about how mentally ill people may end up committing crimes. Some of the things I may have done when I was psychotic, would be deemed illegal. I believe that the reason I was never arrested when I was psychotic was because I did not fit the stereotypical image of a criminal. I am white, female and was, at the time, very thin. I fit in with society's sexist and racist beliefs that a white female is less likely to be a criminal than a black man, who is (in fact) much more likely to end up in prison.



At one point when I was psychotic, I may have stolen a car. I will not admit or deny that this happened, I will just say it might have happened. I don't know what the legal ramifications would be of me saying it did happen. I may have had the following experience:

While getting off a bus because I saw a sign that said JC on it, and being so delusional I thought I was Jesus Christ reincarnated (this thought explained the bizarre experiences I was having), I got off the bust because I believed that sign was not a business sign but a message for me, Jesus Christ, that I belonged at that auto repair shop.



Somehow I ended up wondering into a nearby grocery store though, and walking around. What I was doing was hearing voices that told me I was going to be sent to a concentration camp if I did not get a car and stop riding the bus. I had many reasons why I honestly believed there were real concentation camps in the US which people were being sent to. The voices told me there was a car waiting for me in the parking lot. So I walked out into the parking lot and as I was Jesus Christ, I saw the car meant for me - a Chrysler. The voices said that car was named after you, it is meant for you, you have a DUTY to take it, and if you do not take it you are going to a camp. I walked up to the car and saw that the key was in the ignition. The doors were unlocked. I may have taken this car. If I did - it is because I THOUGHT I WOULD DIE IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP IF I DIDN'T TAKE IT. If I did take it, I also abandoned it in a parking lot a day later.



Other times when I was psychotic, I thought that I was supposed to have a job, for which I would not be paid. I thought that everyone "won" things, like the way I won that car, so people only worked for free, not because it made them money. I thought this for a long time. I went to stores, like a grocery store, and a department store and walked right into the areas that were for employees only. At the grocery store, I put on an apron that the people working in the deli wear, and I went behind the deli counter. But I felt confused, because I did not know how to do the job, and I was afraid that I might not be in the right place, so I left. I did not get into any trouble, because I did not get caught.



At one department store, I did get caught. A manager asked me who I was and what I was doing. I said, "I was sent here". She said, "by who??" I said, sensing she would not believe me if I told her the voices sent me, "I was told I am supposed to be here...by the other store in Palm Harbor". She said "who at that store told you to come here to work??" I said, "the manager". She asked my name. I said, "Michelle" (this is not my name). She called the other store and asked if someone had sent a person named Michelle to work here. This was not happening like it was supposed to. The people were supposed to KNOW that I was there because I was sent there by the New World Order way of sending people to work in places that needed help. I did not expect to be paid, I just wanted to work, to avoid going to a concentration camp.



When the manager picked up the phone, I bolted for the door and quickly fled the area, to avoid problems that seemed likely to happen because these people at this store were not "Theta" and could not read my mind and understand I was meant to be there.



I could, especially if I was another race, or a man, easily have been arrested for this. If I had stayed in the store, I feel quite sure I would have been sent somewhere, either jail or a hospital. But I didn't stay there to find out if that would happen. What I thought was, everybody being sent to jail or a hospital is actually sent to a concentration camp. I wanted to avoid this fate at all costs.



Another time, when I was psychotic, I thought my brother's friend had telepathically told me, or told me in double speak, that I should take his bike and it was mine. So I took it, and left it in front of my apartment thinking that it belonged to me, and it was my new mode of transporation. The next day my brother an my mother, and my brother's friend showed up and they said something like, "what the hell is wrong with you?" I didn't understand what was happening because I thought the friend had given me the bike, but evidently I was incorrect. To this day my mother says I should apologize to this guy for stealing his bike - as if I knew what I was doing at the time. I would apologize if I had contact with this person but I would not say I knew what I was doing, because that would be a lie. This is another example of something I could have gone to jail for, if it had been reported.



I also had the delusional belief that people did not really work for money, nobody got a paycheck, and everybody got things by 'winning' them. For this reason I stole small items that the voices told me I won. I never took anything worth more than a few dollars, but every time I took something I heard someone tell me to take it - a real per son, but I probably was hallucinating what they said. I am sorry about this too, but it happened years ago and after I got on medication, I never took anything again. Obviously, if I had stood out more or if I had been more obvious about what I was doing, I could have been arrested for it. I am very likely that never happened.



So, you see that I have had many experiences where my mental illness led me to do things that are not exactly legal or honest, and I did them because I THOUGHT I HAD TO. Anybody who truly believes they have to steal lipstick, because the won it, and Anderson Cooper told them that they would go to a concentration camp if they did not take it, is most likely going to take it. I was so delusional I was living in a world where the rules and laws of the real world did not exist. I had a delusional world with its own rules and regulations.



If I had been caught doing these things and someone had reported them, I might have ended up with legal problems, and I might have been thrown into a jail cell while I was delusional and thinking it was a concentration camp. I am very lucky that this did not happen.



The incident that landed me into the hospital long term, where I finally got the help I needed, involved me having bought, learned to use, and loaded a .357 magnum. I was picked up by several police officers, and put in handcuffs and taken to the hospital. I got out about five months later. T hat was the best thing that could have happened to me. If the police had found me with this gun without a suicide note and a living will lying next to it, they may have thought I was going to use it on someone else, not myself. I could have - in that situation - been shot by the police, if they thought I was going to use the gun on them. I am lucky that they knew, from my family informing them, that I was mentally ill and that I was going to commit suicide, so they took me to a hospital and not a jail. I had legally purchased the gun and kept it in my trunk, which is not illegal, so there was nothing illegal that they could charge me with.



I think it is very important for police officers, who have frequent contact with people who have psychiatric illnesses, to know what psychiatric illnesses are like, what they might lead someone to do, and why they could lead a person to do things that the person would not do if she was not mentally ill. I look forward to a few months from now, when the next CIT training takes place, so I can become one of the people who educates the officers in order to help other people who are mentally ill who might end up having contact with the police. Jail is definitely NOT the proper place for people with mental illnesses, and unfortunately with the overcrowding in hospitals and the expense of hospitalization, I don't know what the proper place is.



Pete Early, in his book, suggests that people with mental illnesses were better of when there were state hospitals to take them in. I don't agree with this because the conditions at most of those hospitals were horrific - the stuff of nightmares, and no one with a mental illness deserves to be mistreated like people often were inside those hospitals.



Please add your thoughts on this issue in the comments area, if you have any ideas.
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