Friday, April 11, 2008

Roanoke Times Has Great Story--Stupid Headline

Oy vey. Here's the link.

Overreactions Unfairly Stigmatize Mentally Ill

Annie Austin

Austin is retired and lives in Wytheville.

In the news recently were articles about an expelled UVa-Wise student. I do not know all the story, but what caught my eye was the police saying the man was committed to a mental institution from Feb. 29 to March 3, at which time his evaluators found nothing wrong with him. Yet his permit for a gun had already been suspended.

My concern is how out of control law officers and all law personnel are with fear, and then how the media can ruin a person's life in his or her neighborhood.

I feel something should be done, but what? I have horrible anxiety attacks to where I must call someone to come in and sit with me, all because I wrote a letter to Gov. Kaine on Aug. 20 and asked someone to read it and tell me if I should change anything. She either did not read the entire letter or mistook the last lines as my being suicidal.

She got a restraining order. I was picked up, hauled away and no family member knew where I was for three days. When I saw a doctor, judge and others the third day, they understood it was not a suicide note but a letter asking for help.

I was sent home to a burned supper and pans that had cooked for three days. Most horrible is the attitude I get from the neighbors. In their opinion, the police surely would not have hauled me off if I hadn't been crazy. The anxiety attacks are so horrible; I have days I do not go out or answer the phone. And, yes, I take medication and therapy.

If this young man has even a ghost of a chance finding a lawyer to sue, I wish him good luck. Most of all I pray someone can start classes to teach government officials, police officers, lawyers or whomever that there is a difference between real honest threats and just written words for a class paper or a letter asking for help.

I agree they can take immediate action in case of danger; however, within an hour, no longer than two, they should call in family or relatives to understand, especially if it is a written letter. Coming in like vultures and having no reasoning is just as bad or worse than what slaves went through.

I am not a doctor, lawyer or anyone of importance, but I can tell when someone is a danger by watching that person.

The actions of a person who commits suicide or kills someone should be compiled along with their history, and classes given at all schools and colleges to help people see the signs. Just the few details the media give us after a tragedy shows there were signs long before and no one took notice. Did the man stand out as angry or odd?

In past generations, people in my family have committed suicide. They were angry and short-tempered for days, then suddenly one day everything was so great the family couldn't understand. They did however a few hours later when the person was found dead.

The whole point of this letter to the editor is that often there is a serious disconnect between the person's actions (asking for help/writing an essay) and the reaction (TDO, etc.). In my case that this person cites and in their case they were adjudicated to NOT be mentally ill.

Didn't stop the Roanoke Times from monkeying around with the headline. Sheesh.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bristol Herald Courier Publishes Good Letter To the Editor?

Apparently so.

In the editorial, “UVa-Wise made the right call,” the writer implied that not knowing the outcome of Steve Barber’s mental health evaluation is equivalent to Barber being found a danger to himself and others. First, some education for the lazy journalist.
The record of Barber’s hearing is on file at the General District Court clerk’s office and it should be open to the public. If Barber was judged to be a danger to himself or to others, he would have remained in state custody. That he was released after his evaluation speaks for itself.
If Barber was judged to be a danger to himself or others, recent changes in state law would mandate the forfeiture of his 2nd Amendment rights. Barber still has the right to keep and bear arms. Do the math.
Barber lost his concealed carry permit not by operation of law, but by the fearful overreaction of the commonwealth attorney doing some good old-fashioned CYA.
I agree that Barber’s choices that lead to his predicament were questionable. However, it is now apparent in this post-Virginia Tech world that fear, not freedom, rules on our college campuses.
Barber did not shout “fire” in a crowded theater. A dark and sinister essay does not even compare to that classic example of where the Supreme Court has drawn the line on the “freedom of speech.”
Instead, UVa-Wise is showing classic overreaction based on the fear of what might be. So, now students are best served if they never write anything that might be controversial or perceived as threatening to anyone who might read it.
I suppose UVa-Wise (and the Bristol Herald Courier) believes that freedom of expression is a small price for feeling safe on a college campus, right?
Jack Smith
Bristol, Va.