Re: Mental illness and More than a gut feeling

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From:Sarah Christo <>
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Dear Victor and all,
   I did not mean to ruffle feathers, but initiate a discussion which I felt would better serve the Histonet than the subject of gun control.
   I appreciate that all things were done "by the book".  My suggestion is that maybe "the book" isn't working anymore.  In our situation, we also ran up against an employee who refused the free help offered here at the University.  Eventually a case was made against the employee and she was let go.  Fortunately for us there have been no other repercussions from her.  My supervisor was afraid of a lawsuit.  She appeared to have the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.  
  All I am trying to say is that the problem is not being addressed by the community as a whole.  We seem to wait until horrific events happen and then wonder why.  Others working with this individual noticed a mental problem, but nothing was able to be done to help him or protect others.  I wish there were some stop gap measures in place that could have prevented the tragic murder of Dr. Haggitt.  People are quick to jump to gun control and metal detectors which are controls on our freedom, but will not think about a mandatory psychiatric evaluation when mental illness is suspected.  Possibly this individual needed court ordered inpatient treatment.  Surely, murder and suicide are the ultimate forms of self hate.  
  Also, I am not stating that all personnel problems are due to mental illness, only that in this particular case it most certainly was.  One does not commit murder and suicide in a healthy state of mind.  A healthy individual would have evaluated the situation as to whether the accusations of his work performance were true, (if it was a communication problem only) and if it was true, gone for help with communications or possibly changed professions if it was overwhelming him.  Only a very sick individual would blame someone (obviously trying to help him) with his own failures and then go to the ultimate extreme of murder and suicide.  Some how this individual fell through the safety net.  All I am saying is more needs to be done to help people suffering  and protect others from them if needed.  
  Thanks for listening.  

Sarah Christo, HT (ASCP)
Research Associate, Histology Lab
Texas A&M University
College of Veterinary Medicine
Dept. of Vet Anatomy & Public Health
College Station, TX  77843-4458
phone: (979) 845-3177
fax:  (979) 458-3499

>>> Victor Tobias <> 07/05/00 02:39PM >>>
To All,

Both of these topics are serious things to consider, but are irrelevant in the
case of the UW situation. In the case of hiring this particular resident, he had
to undergo many interviews and they all felt the same way. They all felt that he
would have some challenges, mainly due to language, but that he appeared
motivated to meet those challenges. Did he con everybody? When might you or your
co-worker snap?

With regards to supervisors not taking an active role. When a problem started to
show with the resident, everything imaginable within the law was done. The
University contacted social workers, mental health experts, lawyers, police. The
resident was offered counseling of which he did not participate. It probably
sounds easy to just lock up the person and throw away the key, but we do have
rights as citizens. Everything was done by the book and he could not be
involuntarily committed, because there never were any outright threats toward
anyone. He was a US Citizen and was able to purchase a gun legally. It was
always the fear that he was going to harm himself. Even in today's paper, there
is no evidence that he had premeditation in mind. We will never know the truth.

Let's not group every co-worker with "problems" as a mental case. There are
health issues, divorce, etc. that might make them more quiet or seem different.
These are just my thoughts as they relate to our situation and your comments.

I would like to thank all of you that have sent email of support and

Victor Tobias
Histology Supervisor
University of Washington Medical Center
Seattle, WA

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