In the New York Times article “A Schizophrenic, a Slain Worker, Troubling Questions,” Deborah Sontag details the factors that led to the murder of a social worker by a schizophrenic patient who had been released from a community care home. As a result, questions have been raised about the quality of care given to the mental health community, and the budget shortfalls that may have led to the murder. The Department of Mental Health has reached the point where some patients were getting released much earlier than was potentially safe; they were not recovered or rehabilitated enough to get the help that they needed, or to be secure enough to keep people from getting hurt.
Departments and hospitals all throughout the country are losing cases left and right because there is not enough money to support them in the health care system. As a result, they are being turned out constantly, often before they were ready to be around others. Often, it is even troublesome to get into a mental care facility – therefore, people with severe schizophrenia do not get the help they need whatsoever. Even those with violent pasts are not as closely monitored as they should be. In the case of Mr. Chappell, no one knew about any potential violent past that he had due to a lack of criminal background checks.
There are also staff shortages, due to underpaid staffers who are not given adequate pay to support a living, leading to situations where some mental health workers are left alone with their patients. This can often make them vulnerable to attacks from increasingly hallucinating and demented individuals who are not in control of their actions. The article advocates for policy change related to increasing mental health care budgets. This would allow for the money to hire more people, and keep patients in health care facilities for a longer period of time, allowing professionals to ensure lasting progress.
Schizophrenia is a dissociative disorder wherein people are increasingly removed from reality, through paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and the like. It can often lead to violent behavior in some, as they think that they are in danger, or that they must take this action to relieve the anxiety and paranoia they feel. Schizophrenia often comes about as a result of overactivity of dopamine receptors in the brain – this can lead to the paranoia or hallucinations that schizophrenics receive (Myers, 2005).
Schizophrenic symptoms are often exacerbated by the presence of cocaine and amphetamines in the bloodstream, as those increase dopamine levels (Myers, 2005). This level of abnormal brain activity can lead people to take drastic actions that often turn violent. This is due to the lack of attention and trouble with sensory input filtration that schizophrenics go through; they simply do not know how to process the information that is given to them, and it often manifests itself in these acts of violence.
In the case of the murder detailed in the article, the man attacked due to his increasing paranoid delusions, and believing he had voices in his head. He had experienced these kinds of attacks previously, and since he had proven to still have them, he should not have been released from medical care, particularly around a single person who could not defend herself. By the nature of schizophrenia itself, it is impossible to predict how that person will react, due to the unstable nature of their view of reality.
Myers, D. G. (2005). Exploring psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
SONTAG, D. (2011, May 16). A Schizophrenic, a Slain Worker, Troubling Questions – NYTimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved June 26, 2011, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/17/us/17MENTAL.html?_r=2