A response on mental health

Dear Editor, In her letter (IC 24/10/13) Sorcha Lowry of Headline misunderstood and then misrepresented what I had written about mental illness.

My main point was that we should not lump together problems such as depression – which indeed many people will suffer during a lifetime – with a serious disorder such as schizophrenia and paranoid schizophrenia.

Mental illness should never be stigmatised, but serious disorders must be taken seriously, and not brushed aside or dismissed: “Look after yourself” is not a sufficient counsel for people with a serious brain disorder.

At no point did I suggest that, in general, people with a serious mental problem were routinely violent: but I did cite well-documented and established cases where a disturbed paranoid schizophrenic had killed innocent persons because the health authorities had failed in their responsibilities to exercise proper supervision. One of my oldest friends, the art gallery curator Nick Waterlow, and his daughter Chloe, were brutally slain because the local authorities would not take his very ill son into safe custody. (Google ‘Nick Waterlow’ and you will see the case documented worldwide.)

Ms Lowry dismisses the tragic killing of a father and daughter – as well as the recent terrible killing of the Birmingham schoolgirl Christina Edkins by a very ill patient with a history of violence – as “anecdotes”. This shows a want of respect for dead victims and their families and a frivolous attitude to the public’s entitlement to be protected.

Ms Lowry’s letter does not inspire me with confidence in Headline, which monitors the media about mental health issues: the principle of helping individuals is commendable, as is the aim of encouraging society to be open, compassionate and kind to anyone – and that can be any of us – with mental health problems. But that should not extend to the hippy attitude – the message in that very wrong-headed movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – that there is no such thing as a serious mental disorder which requires continuous care and attention, and, in some cases, safe custody.

Yours etc.,

Mary Kenny,

The Irish Catholic.