Mental health is not a big priority in our country. Mental illness is so misunderstood because of this. Schizophrenia is one of this biggest misunderstood mental illnesses that you can find. They are written off as completely crazy. Dangerous. Insane. Useless. If you are walking down the street and hear a homeless man talking to himself, do you think, “wow, I wish there was a way to help this poor man?” Sadly, most people usually just think really horrid things. But this man is someone’s son. Someone’s brother. Even someone’s father. As the years progress, medications are getting better. But there’s no where near as much funding as other things. I mean, just look at erectile dysfunction. That got cured quite fast by viagra.
Medication for schizophrenia works but the side effects are sometimes too much to handle. They leave people feeling sluggish. Too tired to care. It can make them gain weight. Muscle spasms that might become permanent. Many people cannot afford these medications or the treatment and monitoring that goes with them. Have you ever seen medication prices without insurance? Just regular birth control is $90. Try finding a free mental health clinic that isn’t booked solid. Which leaves erratic monitoring. Feeling how bleak that future might be, someone with serious issues might just quit going all together. They fall back into their disease. They can’t keep a job so they can’t pay their bills. It’s not long before they are on the streets, wandering around, talking to themselves. With passers by mumbling about how crazy and useless they are. No one ever thinks about what those people go through to get to that place, to get homeless. Do people really think you want to be homeless? Sure, it’s so awesome not knowing when you’ll eat or if you’ll be attacked or if you’ll freeze to death.
Added to that is the recently released inmate population. In jails, the mentally disordered inmate can be stabilized. They have health care readily available (at prisons and jails that have the budget, some do not and some do not care about the mental health needs of their inmates) and they are given medication. They have three meals a day. They have a dentist and a doctor to attend to their needs. Many of these men and women are there for simple offenses. Victimless crimes. You rarely hear about these. You only hear about the select few who during a psychotic break, hurt someone. They get released and are given two weeks of medication. Only it’s a three month wait for the free clinic. How is that supposed to work? There’s no job waiting for them. No home. No help.
Which brings me to Kelly Thomas. Kelly was murdered by police officers. I cannot even bring myself to say possibly murdered because it was 6 against one. And if the photo online is Kelly, that poor man had no chance. He was tasered on video 5 times. He was screaming that he was sorry. And the heartbreaking end, he was screaming for his father. Kelly was simply sitting on a bench at the bus stop. Officers got a call about cars being burglarized and approached Kelly. He ran. He ran like any schizophrenic would. There was no, absolutely NO reason to attack him. It’s absolutely not his fault that his brain creates thoughts of paranoia and panic and delusions. He died from being beaten in the head and in the neck. Pack mentality, surely. One officer starts beating and the rest join in. I’m starting to think that tasers need to be taken away from the police. It’s too easy to use it because it’s not a deadly weapon in most cases.
Ignorance fuels anger. Kelly was known to the police. And most likely annoyed the police patrolling this area. If police officers were trained to deal with mental disorders, and the insensitive assholes were weeded out, I’d feel a lot more protected. Then again, the police have a really high rate of domestic violence because that’s acceptable so why wouldn’t they have a high rate of ignorance towards mental illness? But annoyance is NO excuse to attack an unarmed and harmless man. He wasn’t attacking anyone. He wasn’t starting trouble. He was sitting on a bench. Since when are SIX officers called out to handle someone breaking into cars?
I’ve seen this before. I was on the Caltrain, riding home from a hockey game. There was a young, very drunk man sitting two seats behind me. I’d heard him boasting and bragging but that’s typical for after a game. But he was being very vulgar and the older gentleman sitting behind me with his wife had enough. He hushed the guy and the guy freaked out and in about two seconds, the old man had the boy scruffed, like a very bad puppy. He didn’t hit, he didn’t do anything other than subdue this rowdy asshole. When it was clear that his pride had been wounded, the older man let him go. And the drunk asshole twatted out and called the police. The entire train was telling him to stop and give it up. The 911 operator knew that it was a very stupid situation but I guess it was a quiet night because when we all got to our stop, there were at least 10 police cars. They get the call and all run out so they can play hero. Sure, I want them on my side when there’s real danger but by the time we got there, there was no way they didn’t already know the entire story and that there was no threat.
When will this madness stop? When will this field be better screened for hero seekers and violence and ignorance? The person who tried to take my life, is a police officer so I might be a bit biased. Unless there was zero follow up on his background, if the people hiring him actually cared, they would have listened to the 911 call and NEVER hired him. But hey, what’s a little attempted murder right?
And what absolutely makes this case beyond sad, in the video I saw, some asshole actually said “oh yeah, youtube!” Really? You just saw a man get tasered over and over and you do nothing but film it? And brag about Youtube? What kind of society are we? So not one person watching that had the balls to say, this is NOT right, you will NOT do this. Six trained police officers should be able to subdue someone without beating, without tasering them. Even if Kelly was the one breaking into cars, that’s a victimless crime. That’s broken windows and stolen cds or whatever. My heart just absolutely breaks about this.
And what of the six officers involved in the murder? Sent home WITH PAY. How is that possible? There’s no question that a man died. An unarmed man. Against SIX police officers. Terminated immediately is the only answer. No pay. No pension. No nothing.
I’m asking all of you who read this, tell people about Kelly’s story. Research schizophrenia. Be kind to the people who might not have any kindness in their life. Be understanding towards them. Their life is not easy. Kelly should not have died. Try not to judge parents of people with mental illness either. Kelly’s dad is getting a lot of judgment about how he could let his grown 37 year old son be homeless. Parents can only do so much after their children turn 18. His father got him treatment but he could not force Kelly to stay medicated. And there’s no budget for the state, any state, to take over and intervene into people’s lives.
My absolute heartbreaking condolences to Kelly’s family and friends.