How America's mental health system fails to protect you from murderers like this man

Bruce Williams, seen in jail, is a symbol of a system so gutted it fails to protect the public from the dangerously mentally ill. (Hyunsoo Leo Kim | The Virginian-Pilot)


Bruce Williams, seen in jail, is a symbol of a system so gutted it fails to protect the public from the dangerously mentally ill. (Hyunsoo Leo Kim | The Virginian-Pilot)

A riveting multi-part investigation in the Virginian-Pilot about how an increasingly broken mental health care system in the U.S. fails to protect the public from people too sick to not be institutionalized. People like convicted killer Bruce Williams, a diagnosed schizophrenic who grew up in an extremely violent alcoholic home. He hears voices in his head instructing him to kill people, and with multiple victims over the course of his life, he has. Through Williams' story, we are able to understand more about how and why the system is so broken.

The vast majority of the mentally ill are not like Williams – even those with schizophrenia, probably the most volatile disorder. They’re a bigger risk to themselves than to anyone else, shadowed by a spectre known as suicidal ideation, or SI for short.

Williams’ medical records are peppered with “SI,” plus a chilling addition: “HI” – homicidal ideation. In between his two murders, he says, he asked to be sent to an institution. No one committed him, despite his history.

Here and across the country, there’s been a philosophical and legal shift in mental health care. Home-based treatment is in, monitored by social workers who try to mainstream every patient. State institutions are out, reduced to skeletons with few beds.

"There’s little appetite for reviving the institutions," the report continues, "Even though they’re the only places someone like Williams can get the intensive treatment – not to mention the level of confinement – he obviously needs."

Read the entirety of the profile: PART 1, "Can't hold him." PART 2, "Can't fix him." PART 3, Can't stop him.

An interview with Williams, below.

[HT: Liz Szabo]