Violence and Schizophrenia

Following are an overview of the predictors of violence in the mentally ill, and excerpts from recent news articles on incidences of violence. The news story excerpts are predominantly from September of 1997 (as a representative sample) but every week I get news from people of more incidences and more sad stories.

Predictors of Violence

The most common type of violence associated with schizophrenia is violence to oneself - usually in the form of suicide. But violence to others is also not uncommon when a person is severely delusional and has a past history of violence.

To quote from Dr. E. Fuller Torrey - a well known researcher, psychiatrist and author in this field, - From his recently published book "Out of the Shadows - Confronting America's Mental Illness Crisis" - page 49:

    "There appear to be three primary predictors of violence and three other less well-defined predictors. The most important one is a history of past violence; this is the most significant predictor of violence no matter whether a person is mentally ill or not. In trying to predict future violent behavior, the person's history is the single most critical piece of information.

    The second important predictor is drug and alcohol abuse, and this is also valid whether the person is mentally ill or not. In 1994, Jeanette Smith and Stephen Hucker reviewed studies of substance abuse in persons with schizophrenia and noted "a growing body of research suggesting a significant link between schizophrenia, substance abuse, and violence"

    The third important predictor is the failure to take medication... Those who do not take prescribed medication appear to be much more likely to commit violent acts."

    ...Another factor that may have predictive value is the specific type of delusions, a common symptom in people with severe mental illnesses. Professionals have long assumed, based on comon sense, that paranoid delusions are likely to predispose to violence. An example of this is the man who, while walking down a crowded street, suddenly turned and struck a woman behind him because he believed she had a laser beam aimed at his testicles and was making him sterile.

    Emerging studies, however, suggest that the association between paranoid delusions and violence may be less straightforward. Pamela Taylor, Burce Link, et al have reported studies that: Strong predictors of violence in the mentally ill are the feeling that others are out to harm them and a feeling that their mind is dominated by forces beyond their control or that thoughts are being put into their head"

    The final factor that may predict violence is the specific type of hallucinations. Command hallucinations, in which voices tell the schizohprenic person what to do, may be compelling predictors of violence"

There is much more, but this is the main idea. You can purchase the book (which I highly recommend) on the internet at the following web address:

Recent Violence and Schizophrenia/Neurobiological Brain Disorders

Following are just a few of the news excerpts on incidences from Sept. 1997:

Sept. 30th, 1997 - Jurisdictions face costly claims by dead firefighter's kin

by Linda Keene Seattle Times staff reporter

A month after Seattle firefighter Stan Stevenson was slain while walking to his car from a Mariner game, the city,county and state are now facing a costly legal claim and pressure to reform laws dealing with mentally ill offenders.

Yesterday, Stevenson's widow and five daughters gave notice that they will sue each jurisdiction if a settlement is not reached within 60 days. The family is seeking $10 million from each government, claiming each failed to control the actions of a criminal known to be dangerous and mentally ill.

Dan Van Ho is charged with stabbing Stevenson to death on Aug. 24 only 11 days after Ho was eleased from jail. Leading up to that, officials had several opportunities to retain and treat him, but failed to do so, according to the claims.

Standoff with Paranoid Woman

CHICAGO, Sept 27 (Reuter) - A standoff between Illinois state police and a 51-year-old widow in southern Illinois entered its sixth day Saturday with negotiations continuing but no progress seen, the police said. Sgt. Flynn Hanners of the Illinois State Police said negotiators have been contacting Shirley Ann Allen every 15 to 20 minutes to try to get her out of her house in Roby, about 15 miles east of the state capital Springfield.

The standoff began Monday when Christian County sheriff's deputies and a family member attempted to serve court-ordered commitment papers for a psychological exam on Allen, he said. "Our whole design behind this is to get her out of the house and get her the medical attention she needs because she obviously has some mental illness that needs to be treated," Hanners said.

Sept. 20th, 1997 - Death of Policeman in Wichita, Kansas

There is a case in Wichita, Ks. involving a young man who name is Penn. He killed a police officer in a domestic violence situation. He sees lepracons, thinks he has a job at Boeing for 30 dollars an hour. Please refer to Wichita Eagle Beacon for details, today and several other days. I live close to Wichita, and read the Beacon.


Statistics on Homicide and Mental illness

Dear Brian:

In Out of the Shadows, published by John Wiley & Sons earlier this year, I estimated that there are now approximately 1000 homicides a year committed by individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, almost all of whom were not taking medication at the time of the homicide. My estimate was based on all cases in a metropolitan area of 4 million people for 1 year, then extrapolated to the whole country. Anecdotal evidence suggests that such cases are not unique to urban areas so I think such extrapolation is reasonable. To date, nobody has challenged this 1000/year estimate. Altogether in the US there are approximately 24,000 homicides a year.

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey


I've also asked Dr. Fuller Torrey about suicide figures for those with NBD and got the following response:

In answer to your question about suicide, I reviewed this in Surviving Schizphrenia (3rd ed., 1995), pp. 271-273. Since this was published, there have been at least three pertinent papers:

Heila et al., American J. Psychiatry 154:1235-1242, 1997

Amador et al., American J. Psychiatry 153:1185-1188, 1996

Fenton et al., American J. Psychiatry 154:199-204, 1997

Teenager Kills Two Childrean

Japan - KOBE, Sept. 29 (Kyodo) -- The Kobe teenager suspected of killing two children and assaulting three others has a mental disorder and should be sent to a medical juvenile training school, sources familiar with the case said Monday. Psychiatric tests suggest the 15-year-old suspect, whose name has been withheld, should be treated by psychiatrists, according to the sources.

Man Kills Father

Sept. 23rd, 1997 - By PA News reporters The horrific details of how a man cut off his 60-year-old father's head in a frenzied attack were told to a court today.

The High Court in Kilmarnock heard that Gregor McGurk hit his father Bernard with a cricket bat, then used the serrated edge of a kitchen knife to saw at his head.

August 30, 1997 Saturday Final

Woman Beaten to Death. State cites nursing home Officials say staff wasn't properly trained in intervening in altercations


SOURCE: Journal Sentinel staff

BODY: The nursing home where a 91-year-old woman was beaten to death by her roommate July 20 has been cited by the state for failure to provide staff training on appropriate intervention in altercations between residents.

The investigation, however, did not find that the nursing home did anything that contributed to the woman's death.

Although the victim, Catherine Louise Dedert, had been involved in an earlier incident with her 72-year-old roommate, the citation was not directly related to the case, said Tony Oberbrunner of the Milwaukee office of the Wisconsin Bureau of Quality Compliance.

Dedert, a longtime resident of the home, was beaten about the head by her 72-year-old roommate, who suffers from dementia and schizophrenia, according to police reports.

September 23, 1997 PAGE ONE --

Novelist Blames Depression In Son's Apparent Overdose Danielle Steel says he was manic-depressive

Trish Donnally, Chronicle Staff Writer


When Nicholas Traina was found dead of an apparent overdose during the weekend, his mother, novelist Danielle Steel, was heartbroken but not entirely surprised. Though her 19-year-old son had a history of drug use, the problem was much deeper: For his entire short life, Traina was tormented by mental illness.

``The only time he messed around with drugs was when his medications failed him and he was desperate,'' Steel told The Chronicle in the first interview she has given since her son's death Saturday. ``This was not some wild kid, this was a very sick kid. The awful thing is I knew for years.''

Traina apparently died of an overdose, according to the Contra Costa County coroner's office. He was found slumped on the floor of his Pleasant Hill home early Saturday.

The Toronto Sun

September 17, 1997, Wednesday, Final EDITION


Paranoid schizophrenic Ron England believed he was the Messiah ridding the world of evil when he murdered his mother and six-year-old daughter, a psychiatrist says.

Dr. Ian Jacques told a coroner's inquest yesterday England still does not believe his daughter, Jenny, and her grandma, Marian Johnston, are dead.

Jacques said England - who'd sworn off medication treating his severe mental illness - was "almost functioning on auto-pilot and getting his instructions (to kill) from television."

England called 911 on April 2, 1996, to report he'd killed his mom and daughter at their Duke St. home in Bowmanville.

Marian Johnston, 79, was found slumped on her bed in pyjamas, housecoat and black boots. The former public health nurse, who'd helped England win supervised custody of Jenny over her biological parents, had been stabbed 34 times.

On the floor lay Jenny with a knife embedded in her heart. She'd been stabbed 89 times.

The Evening Post (Wellington) September 4, 1997

Psych patient injured officer

Parents of a psychiatric patient had been unable to get him help on the day he assaulted a police officer, a court judge heard on Tuesday.

One of the officer's arms was seriously injured in the assault.

Wellington District Court Judge Anne Gaskell sentenced Timothy Francis Coakley to 200 hours community service. She said that not long after the incident Coakley had to be admitted to an acute psychiatric hospital ward.

Coakley, 38, an invalid beneficiary of Waikanae, was found guilty of assaulting a police officer with intent to obstruct him on December 13, 1995.

Judge Gaskell said Coakley had broken the glass doors on his mother's china cabinet. His mother called police, hoping to get him taken to hospital for treatment.

She said Coakley's father turned up after the police and was angry about the damage. When Coakley began advancing on his father, police intervened and arrested him.

Coakley had then put his hands around the constable's throat and pushed him back through a plate glass window before pulling him back through the broken glass.

Judge Gaskell said the officer suffered cuts to his back and shoulder and upper arm. The tricep muscle was nearly severed. Coakley was pulled off the officer but had to be restrained from attacking him again.

Judge Gaskell said Coakley had a long history of psychiatric illness and a report written for sentencing said Coakley did not think he was ill or that he needed treatment.

"However, if you don't comply with your medication then you are a serious danger to yourself and others," she said.

The Stuart News/Port St. Lucie News (Stuart,FL) August 30, 1997, Saturday


Eric Alan Barton of the News staff

The parents of a man killed in a standoff are still going after Port St. Lucie and the officers involved.

FORT PIERCE - Department brass will not be held accountable for the death of a mentally unstable man killed by police in a 1991 standoff, but the man's parents will continue their lawsuit next week against the city and the officers who shot their son.

Attorneys for Ruth and Hugh Anderson, the parents of Stacey Anderson, agreed Friday to drop their case against Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Skinner and other department supervisors.

Hugh Anderson testified Friday that he knew his son was falling into a bout with schizophrenia when he began acting strange on Christmas Eve in 1991. Stacey Anderson refused to let his parents into the home later that night, and police surrounded the house in an attempt to commit him to a mental hospital.

But Stacey Anderson refused to talk with negotiators, and police stormed the home 10 hours after the standoff began, officers testified. Several officers who were at the scene took the stand Friday in a defense effort to explain the difficulty of the situation the police faced.

Hendricks said he will call an expert in police tactics when the trial resumes Tuesday. That testimony will contradict the family's expert, who testified this week. The family's expert criticized the police department for making a hasty decision to storm the home and then "bumbling" the raid.

The jury will probably begin deliberations by midday Wednesday.

Hendricks said the defense's main argument will hinge on the police officers' testimony this week that Stacey Anderson, 35, was pointing a gun at them when they opened fire, shooting him at least 10 times.

Area woman sentenced for standoff with police

THE PANTAGRAPH (Bloomington, IL.)


A Forrest woman who held police at bay with a starter pistol outside a counseling center was sentenced Wednesday to a minimum of 30 days treatment at Cedars Mental Hospital in Texas.

Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Charles Glennon also ordered Kathy R. Cribbett, 35, to serve two years probation and 60 days home confinement for the September 1995 incident.

Cribbett pleaded guilty but mentally ill to four counts of aggravated misdemeanor assault for the incident which began as a suicide attempt.

Felony charges for aggravated assault and unlawful use of weapons were dismissed because the starter pistol does not qualify as a firearm.

Illinois state Trooper Greg Neumann and Pontiac police officer Hugh Roop opened fire on Cribbett after she pointed what appeared to be a working handgun at them. They were later found justified in a final report on the incident.

Cribbett suffered wounds to the legs, stomach and chest, underwent several surgeries and was hospitalized about two weeks. She will undergo knee and wrist surgery in the future as a result of gunshot wounds.

Cribbett has been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, commonly know as multiple personality disorder, and depression.


The Daily News of Los Angeles May 30, 1997, Friday,

Opting for treatment rather than prison, a judge reluctantly sentenced a mentally ill Simi Valley man Thursday to five years' probation for lunging at a police officer with a pocketknife in December 1995.

Judge Charles Campbell said although Mark Timothy Pedersen remains a danger to the community, the defendant should be given a chance to deal with his schizophrenia at a residential treatment home in Oxnard.

''I would hope this experience . . . would have alerted (Pedersen) to the fact that if you take your medication, these things won't occur,'' Campbell said. ''We'll have to wait and see if this was the right decision.''

Pedersen, 33, could have been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to assault with a deadly weapon - a plea he entered to avoid trial for the attempted murder of Simi Valley police Officer Dave Raduziner.

Pedersen tried to stab Raduziner with a pocketknife during a confrontation in the home of the defendant's parents on Dec. 18, 1995.

The attempted stabbing prompted Raduziner's partner, Officer John Hughes, to fire two shots, one of which wounded Pedersen before striking Raduziner in the thigh.

Raduziner later sued Pedersen's parents for not warning them that their son was violent and unpredictable. The case was settled out of court for the couple's $ 100,000 homeowners policy.

Officers had been called to that home 21 times before the shooting.

Despite his parents best efforts, Pedersen refused to take his medication during the month before the confrontation with police, Holmes said.


The Morning Call (Allentown) June 21, 1997, Saturday,

Two North Catasauqua brothers charged with trying to kidnap two young girls suffer from mental disorders and will be evaluated by psychiatrists over the weekend to determine where they should be housed.

John Wichie, 39, and Allen Wichie, 32, suffer from paranoid schizophrenia and bi-polar personality disorder, better known as manic depression, and should be committed to a state hospital or other appropriate mental health facility, according to a petition filed by attorney Anthony Bruneio.

The petition says the men have served as test studies for the drug Clozoril, which was described as "almost a miracle drug" for them. However, despite the fact that a police officer delivered the medication to Northampton County Prison with instructions to call their doctor, the brothers have not received their medication.

The Wichies were committed to the prison on June 10, each under $ 10,000 bail, after they allegedly tried to pull two girls, 7 and 9, off their bikes.

As John struggled with the girls outside the Wichie home at 1014 Fourth St., Allen went inside and pointed a gun at them from a second-floor window, according to police.

Because of the "cold turkey" termination of the medication, John's condition deteriorated to the point where he began hearing voices and suffering delusions. He also became ill from new medication he received at the prison, says the petition, and on Wednesday he had two seizures at the prison and was taken to Easton Hospital, where he suffered six more seizures.

Allen's condition also deteriorated, and according to the petition he became psychotic, believed he was living in a root cellar and was seeing pictures on the walls.

The Denver Post May 1, 1997 Thursday 2D EDITION

Dad found competent to stand trial Daughter, 10, raped, disemboweled

GOLDEN - A Wheat Ridge man accused of raping his 10-year-old daughter, stabbing her to death and then horribly mutilating her body last summer has been found competent to stand trial.

A psychiatrist recently determined that David Lynn Cooper, 33, who has spent time in the state mental hospital, was able to help in his own defense, allowing the criminal case to proceed. The doctor determined that as long as he continued to take medication, Cooper should remain competent, according to a prosecutor in the case.

But Cooper's attorney said previously that he will plead not guilty by reason of insanity at Cooper's arraignment, which is scheduled Friday. His attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Once that plea is entered, another mental evaluation will have to be done to determine whether he was insane at the time of the crime. Prosecutors have argued in court documents that someone outside the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo should do that evaluation because of Cooper's previous confinement there.

Under state law, a defendant can be deemed sane if he knew the difference between right and wrong at the time of the crime.

Cooper told a mental-health official a day after the murder that he raped his daughter before killing her. "David stated he had choked his daughter, had raped her, put her blanket over her and stabbed her. He stabbed her through the heart to make sure she was dead," Wheat Ridge detective Lila Anderson quoted Cooper as telling the official. Police received a 911 call from the home the day of the murder, but the caller hung up when asked what had happened. Responding to the hangup, police found Cooper standing outside. "He held out both hands and said, 'Arrest me, then go look in the kitchen,"' the first officer to the home testified.

Four months before the murder, Cooper was released from the state hospital, where he spent time for attacking his father with a knife in 1992. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to that crime, and he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Cooper was released on the condition that he continue taking anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medication. The Denver Post

Woman Kills Mother

Portland Press Herald

July 11, 1997, Friday,

A judge Thursday declared Virginia Green legally insane the November night she took a 28-pound rock and bludgeoned her mother to death, believing the elderly Peaks Island woman was Satan.

Justice Robert E. Crowley said Green was in a psychotic state that rendered her unable to understand that what she was doing was wrong. He found her not criminally responsible for the killing by reason of insanity.

The ruling means Green, 48, who has been an advocate for the mentally ill and has a long history of mental illness, will be committed to the Augusta Mental Health Institute until she can prove she is not a threat to herself or others.

Mardianne Green, 75, was killed with a rock in her oceanside home in the early morning hours of Nov. 26. After the attack, Green called the 911 telephone system and calmly told an emergency dispatcher: ''I just killed my mother.''

Before the incident, Green had shown no violent tendencies during her 20-year battle with manic-depressive illness and substance abuse. She adored her mother, police learned.

To support the recommendation, prosecutors played for the judge a videotaped police interview with Green that was made a few hours after her mother's death.

Seated across a table from Portland police Detective Daniel Young, Green in the video puffed on cigarettes and matter-of-factly explained delusions and hallucinations that drove her to kill her mother.

She told Young that she awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of her siblings' voices telling her she must kill their mother.

''I've been studying the Bible a lot and I really had come to believe that my mother was, uh, she was personified Satan, that she was really actually Lucifer or Satan,'' Green told Young.

(Raleigh, NC) August 21, 1997 Thursday, ORANGE EDITION

Psychotic Man Shoots Two Brothers

BODY: HILLSBOROUGH -- A Cedar Grove man was suffering from a psychotic disorder when he repeatedly shot two brothers and did not understand the wrongfulness of his actions, his former psychiatrist testified Wednesday.

Jerry Wayne Ray Jr., 23, likely will need long-term treatment for his mental illness to keep him from posing a danger to himself and others, psychiatrist Sandra Simmons said.

For more than a year before the October 1996 shooting spree, Ray had been in the grips of a disorder that, according to one diagnosis, combined depression and schizophrenia, leaving him with suicidal thoughts and paranoid delusions, Simmons testified.

His delusions have included voices, which he complained about after the shooting, that he said sometimes tell him to commit suicide. Family members who testified Wednesday said Ray was usually silent about his problems, mentioning the voices to them only once before the shooting.

"In this instance, given his perception of what was going on, I would say he was not able to distinguish right from wrong and could not appreciate whether society would disapprove of his actions," Simmons told Judge Coy Brewer Jr.

Joe Ganim, 28, was returning to his brother's truck when Ray opened fire with a Ruger 9mm semi-automatic handgun. Joe Ganim suffered wounds to his side, chest, abdomen, arm, hand and both legs. After months confined to a bed, he is strong enough to walk but is still in pain, has a weak knee and tires easily.

Bullets struck John Ganim in the right shoulder, arm and chest. While his recovery has been easier, both brothers said that they have nightmares, and that anxieties from the horrifying ambush plague them.

It was a scene Ray's family never envisioned for the once popular, active, outgoing student athlete who dreamed of going to college on a baseball scholarship, said his mother, Debra Ray.

Woman with Schizophrenia lights Fires

Raleigh, NC

September 3, 1997 Wednesday,

RALEIGH -- Over neighbors' objections, a judge agreed Monday to allow Carol Wilkinson, the mentally ill woman who set a fire at Cameron Village in 1993, to spend two nights a week at her parents' home.

At a hearing in Wake County Superior Court, Judge Robert Farmer changed Wilkinson's probation to permit the overnight visits, but Wilkinson, 44, must continue to spend the other five nights at her home, three blocks from her parents.

Once a National Merit Scholar at Broughton High School, Wilkinson was afflicted in her early 20s with paranoid schizophrenia, an incurable mental illness that causes delusions, hallucinations, feelings of persecution and sometimes violent behavior.

Medications allow many people with schizophrenia to lead relatively productive lives. Wilkinson is taking Prolixin, a powerful anti-psychotic drug, and she works for her father, Dr. James Wilkinson, a Blue Ridge Road dermatologist.

But in May 1993, Wilkinson was struggling and out of control. On May 24, she set fire to her parents' house and later started a fire at her father's office, then in Cameron Village's Bryan Building. The fire caused $ 5 million in damage. Merchants have sued the Wilkinsons in civil court.

Wilkinson's attorney, Wade Smith, said that the parents and daughter are devoted to one another and that neighbors have nothing to fear.

"She has become in their minds a monster, and she is not a monster, not in the least," Smith said.

In agreeing with Smith, Farmer told the family to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and he ordered a review of the situation in two months. (Raleigh, NC)


August 15, 1997, Friday, HOME FINAL EDITION

Suicide, children's slayings stun twins' family, friends; They saw signs of mental illness, had no idea tragedy was near

VAN BUREN, Ark. - In a two-story home on a bluff with a panoramic view of the Arkansas River, the Hopkins twins grew up as the best and brightest.

One would become a chemical engineer and a Harvard-educated businesswoman. The other would join a nationally known brokerage firm and rise quickly through Dallas' social circles. But beneath the success, relatives said, lurked a mental illness that destroyed Emily Jane Hopkins and nearly claimed her sister, Nancy Jean Hopkins Byrd.

Jane Hopkins, 41, fatally stabbed her 9-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter July 30 and then killed herself with the same kitchen knife in the family's University Park home. Almost three years earlier, a pregnant Mrs. Byrd tried to kill herself and her two young sons with an overdose of a prescription drug.

Dozens of interviews with the fraternal twins' relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances reveal nothing that would foreshadow the tragedy to come. Those closest to them did say that they saw signs of mental illness but could not prevent the heartbreak.

"Everybody is sick about it. Nobody understands it," said Bruce Neidecker, 41, who dated both twins and earned with Jean the title of Mr. and Miss Van Buren High School in the mid-1970s. "They are not vicious killers. I can't tell you what happened. . . . If it could happen to them, it could happen to anyone."

From their modest hometown to the exclusive Dallas-area neighborhoods where the twins settled, the slayings have stunned those who knew them and left many wondering whether Jane Hopkins' children could have been saved.

Mrs. Byrd was charged with attempted capital murder and found not guilty by reason of insanity in June 1996. Doctors say she had a bipolar disorder, a form of depression often shared by relatives and whose victims swing easily from excitement to despair.

The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.)

September 07, 1997, Sunday

Schizophrenia brings lifetime of scars for Fayetteville man

FAYETTEVILLE -- Jim Schroer huddles in the park, holding a box cutter and fighting the voice in his head.

"Just do it," the voice orders.

"I don't want to," Jim cries.

"You're going to hell," the voice shouts. "You're no good."

Jim, a film buff, remembers a movie playing at a theater across town. "I don't want to kill myself," he says. "I want to see 'The Untouchables.' "

Jim, like other schizophrenics, is caught between fantasy and reality. His illness is a psychotic disorder, causing him to hallucinate and withdraw from other people. The disorder affects one of every 100 people.

Anger cuts deeply

Medication has helped little. He's not sure death will, either. He's angry at himself and at others he feels have let him down in life.

He slices each arm from wrist to elbow with the blade of the box cutter. The blood runs slowly from his veins. As he loses blood, he feels euphoric.

He passes out, then wakes. It becomes a cycle. He looks at his bloodied arms. "Why am I not dead?" he wonders.

Ten years later, Jim's long white scars are hidden under plaid shirt sleeves, and he still struggles with paranoid schizophrenia. It is the most common type and causes feelings of unreasonable fear on top of other symptoms.

Those who work in mental health say schizophrenia is one of the most devastating illnesses a person can face. Many schizophrenics have severe depression, and there is a high rate of suicide.

Jim has tried to kill himself more than once.

He still thinks about death as a way of ending his mental illness. "People want to soften it. They shouldn't. It's terrifying. It's horrifying. It never stops," he says.

Jim's father, Herbert Schroer, did not spend much time with his wife and young sons. He stayed on the road, chasing get-rich-quick schemes for raising racehorses.

Jim was 8 years old when his mother gathered up the four sons and left Cincinnati. She moved in with her two sisters in Fayetteville.

Years later, after Jim's first hospitalization, Herbert Schroer told another family member that he blamed his weaknesses as a father for his son's illness.

Current research says environment may play a role, but genetics play a larger part.

One of his mother's sisters also suffered from mental illness.

Jim's memories of that time are hazy. He stayed at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center and was heavily medicated. Then he was sent to UNC Hospitals at Chapel Hill. He began to improve.

Doctors had few weapons for fighting schizophrenia when Jim's illness first was diagnosed. It was the 1970s, but they were relying on drugs developed in the 1950s. Thorazine and related drugs caused drowsiness, involuntary trembling and drooling.

Then came the revolution in antipsychotic drugs, starting in 1991 with Clozapine. It still had side effects, sometimes dangerous ones. Clozapine can make the number of white blood cells drop in a small percentage of patients, denting the immune system. Those using it must have frequent blood tests.

September 14, 1997 SECTION: Crossroads

Death of Brother - People shouldn't be afraid to ask for help with mental illness

The tragic death of John Ledvina and severe beating of his brother, Joseph, by their mother in August typifies the worst fears of families with a mentally ill loved one.

The Alliance for the Mentally Ill recognizes mental illness as a neurobiological disorder that responds to treatment. Although most people with these disorders are non-violent, a small percentage of people become violent when not using medication regularly.

If medication stops, family members have little legal recourse, because in Milwaukee County, homicidal or suicidal behavior must be imminent before a commitment for evaluation and treatment can occur.

Although a standard of deterioration and risk of danger to self or others has been added to the emergency detention criteria, Milwaukee County is awaiting a Supreme Court decision about its constitutionality.

AMI has consistently taken a stand to promote legislation that helps families and persons with neurobiological disorders in these catastrophic circumstances.

We hope that this community will view the Ledvina family with great compassion and support its healing in any way possible.

Jade Ponto

President, Board of Directors

Alliance for the Mentally Ill


The New York Times September 14, 1997, Sunday, Late Edition - Final

Halfway Heaven - Diary of a Harvard Murder.

By Melanie Thernstrom. Doubleday, $23.95.

On May 28, 1995, Sinedu Tadesse, a quiet Harvard junior from Ethiopia, stabbed to death her quiet, nondescript Vietnamese roommate, Trang Phuong Ho, then hanged herself.

Melanie Thernstrom, a Harvard alumna and a former writing instructor there, tries to explain the seemingly unexplainable: what lethal combination of cultural displacement, psychosexual tension and mental illness led to this event? Thernstrom flits from diagnosis to diagnosis; Tadesse at various times suffers from psychosis, depression and Schizotypal Personality Disorder. Most fascinating, if most debatable, is Thernstrom's interpretation of the murder through a cultural context: Tadesse grew up during the devastating Red Terror in Ethiopia, when wealthy families like hers were imprisoned and tortured; Thernstrom describes her as "having come of age in a society in which the murderers have the power." The real culprit, Thernstrom would have it, is Harvard, which is depicted in "Halfway Heaven" as a monster of arrogance, ruled by lawyers and bureaucrats who, in pursuit of maintaining the university's public reputation, are driving it to moral bankruptcy. Clearly Harvard did not want reporters -- least of all Thernstrom, a former insider -- poking into what they perceived as their business. But the university does have in place an abundance of mental health resources; Tadesse was in therapy, and despite her desperate loneliness, did have a number of people who cared about her. How much responsibility should Harvard bear for the mental health of each and every student? At the end, Thernstrom concludes the murder-suicide is a cosmic act of evil -- and evil can happen any time, any place. Judith Newman



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