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Systemic Failings: Murder in the Mental Health System


Snot overload! I have a heavy cold and am ever so slightly annoyed…

Headlining last night’s television news was the story of a woman with severe mental health problems who, having previously been detained in a secure unit for the murder of her Mother, had, subsequently, been discharged into the community only to have committed a second murder. Murder is rare, murders committed by people with mental health problems are even rarer.
For me, this story yields two central issues. Firstly, it highlights the inability of the mental health system to meet the needs of those who are unfortunate enough be served by it. Secondly, media coverage of the story (and other similar stories) has led me to consider the effect of negative publicity upon the public’s perception of people affected by mental health issues.
Having presented at a hospital, the aforementioned woman, vocalised her murderous intent. The staff let her leave, without attempting to detain her. Had she been admitted to hospital a murder would have been prevented and the distress of the offender, possibly eased. When sentencing the woman to 37 years of imprisonment, the judge claimed that she was responsible for her own actions. How can someone who so evidently lacked the fundamental mental filter of a conscience, be deemed in possession of reason and therefore, responsible.
Whilst, for many, mental health issues can be a life sentence, they should never lead to death.

For a fictional account of the mental health system. My novella “The General Paralysis of Sanity” (published by Chipmunkapublishing) can, now, be purchased. Although it is not autobiographical, the content has been influenced by my own experiences of the British mental health system.

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