Monday, December 12, 2011

Jared Loughner -- a "textbook" case paranoid schizophrenic -- and why that really matters.

Verne Strickland: A personal story about family and the toll of paranoid schizophrenia:

Paranoid schizophrenia has visited my close relatives at least twice. It attacked my mother's lovely younger sister Anne during her early twenties in Baltimore. She spent the rest of her life in mental wards, and she died there, a broken, lonely woman old beyond her years.

It attacked my younger brother Bruce -- also in his twenties, which is typical -- and drove him mad. He lost his wife, a promising career in art, and his bright, lively mind. He spent the rest of his ruined life fighting away the taunting voices that wouldn't stop. He died in a rest home at 52. All of our family suffered with him.

So I have known schizophrenia up close and personal. It's ugly and incurable and is a wrecker of lives. It seems to be genetically linked. Any of your loved ones who are targeted may be be reduced to an emotional shell. Violence might be lurking in their future -- especially if prescribed medicines are missed.

Paranoid schizophrenia makes monsters of people like Jared Lee Loughner. It is sheer cruelty and a miscarriage of justice to prop his mind up with chemicals so he can be imprisoned or killed. He is not responsible for his acts, as reprehensible as they may be. He should be deemed not guilty by reason of insanity.

The article I am presenting here is one of the most lucid treatments of the ravages of this disease that I have read in recent years. People like Loughner, to most, have no redeeming virtues, garner no sympathy, and will likely be given no cogent defense.

They are hard to understand, and harder to love. But they do not belong in a courtroom being tried for murder.

Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 8:01 PM Eastern Standard Time
Jared Loughner
Jared Loughner

It wasn’t long after news of the Tucson, Ariz., tragedy broke that the words “paranoid schizophrenic” entered the conversation. Armchair psychiatrists across the country looked at Jared Loughner — 22, history of antisocial behavior, with a cache of rambling YouTube videos on government mind control — and diagnosed him. But is there any truth to this? And if so, how does it help make sense of his horrific actions?

To try and untangle the influences that might lead one lone gunman to fire his Glock at a political rally, we turned to Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, respected psychiatrist and one of the foremost experts on paranoid schizophrenics. Torrey has written several books on the mental illness, including the bestselling classic “Surviving Schizophrenia.” He is founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Virginia, a national nonprofit for the mentally ill.

Quite early in the news cycle, the media more or less diagnosed Jared Loughner as paranoid schizophrenic. Do you think that’s accurate?
Sarah Hepola is an editor at Salon.  
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