Thursday, December 15, 2005


Bipolar Mom Kills Baby Daughter

In Eugene, Oregon, a mother suffering from bipolar disorder "killed her 17-month-old daughter to protect the baby from spirits."
Young was arrested on November. 23 after she crashed her pickup truck into parked cars at a Red Bluff lumber store. Police found her covered in blood from self-inflicted chest wounds.

She later confessed to killing Ruby by suffocating her with her hand, police said. She led Red Bluff detectives to an area near the Sacramento River, where Ruby's body was found.

Young had practiced both Voodoo and Santeria, the affidavit said. She told detectives that she had paid religious practitioners in California and Florida to "cleanse" Ruby.
No mention is made of the child's father or other family members. This case further demonstrates the danger some of the mentally ill pose to themselves and others as we saw last week with the mistaken terrorist case. It appears this woman was largely unsupervised.

Treatment for the severely mentally ill is critical for preventing violent acts. Mentally ill persons under going treatment are not any more dangerous than the general population while those are more likely to commit murder and/or be a victim of murder. This link also compares mentally ill persons under treatment vs. those who are not.
Several early studies in the 1970s suggested this fact but were not well controlled. For example, a 6-year follow-up of 301 patients discharged between 1972 and 1975 from a California state hospital reported that their arrest rate for "violent crimes" was 10 times the rate for the general population.
Sosowsky, L. Explaining the increased arrest rate among mental patients: A cautionary note. American Journal of Psychiatry 137:1602-1605, 1980.
Many other studies are cited, interesting reading.

Suicides rates for bipolar and other mentally ill persons (requires free registration) rank much higher than for the general population.
Bipolar disorder is associated with the highest suicide rate among all major psychiatric illnesses, with an international incidence averaging 0.31% of patients per year. This rate may slightly exceed the suicide rate of patients with major depression, which averages 0.29%/year.
This reference contains a very enlightening table:

Suicide risks in selected psychiatric disorders* Condition
 Relative riskIncidence (%/year)Lifetime risk (%)
Prior suicide attempt38.40.54927.5
Bipolar disorder21.70.31015.5
Major depression20.40.29214.6
Mixed drug abuse19.20.27514.7
Obsessive-compulsive disorder11.50.1438.15
Panic disorder10.00.1607.15
Personality disorders7.080.1015.05
Alcohol abuse5.860.0844.20
General population1.000.0140.72
* Estimated relative risks compared with the general population,2 with recently updated information about bipolar disorders.6 Annual rates are based on international general population average (14.3/100,000/year) × standardized mortality ratio; lifetime estimates are based on annual rates × 50 years as an estimate of lifetime exposure for years at major risk.

Obviously, the severely mentally ill need more help.
While I abhor further governmental control over private lives, the severely mentally ill need more support from families and community. Should we be freer with court ordered treatment? Maybe, but this has potential for abuse. While we search for better answers, do your part in making sure family members, friends and acquaintances that suffer from mentally illness obtain and continue treatment. Psychosis and disorders are treatable and manageable but not curable. The severely mentally ill need treatment and support throughout life.

Really well said.

The key to all of that is making sure that there would be plenty of oversight to mental health facilities to prevent the kind of abuse we saw in the past (the kind of abuse that Mr. Kennedy was able to use against the mental health profession).

But you are right in the fact that this starts at home where families can support their at risk members and help prevent the abuse of such a system.
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