Senator seeks mental health reforms
Virginia State Sen. Creigh Deeds sounds like any other proud father. His son,
Gus, could read simple books at age 3, played varsity soccer for four years
and absorbed foreign languages with ease.
And that’s not all, Deeds said at a National Press Club luncheon in
March. “He could sing and dance with the best of them. He was handsome
and witty. He had it all going for him.”
All but good mental health.
Last November at age 24, Gus attacked his father before taking his own
life. The tragedy could have been prevented, said Deeds, who still bears
physical scars and chokes up when he says he wants Gus “to be remembered
more for his living than for his dying.”
Violence is rare among people with mental illness, but mental illness is a
common denominator among people who die by suicide. According to the
National Institute of Mental Health, more than 90 percent of suicides are
associated with mental or addictive disorders.
Since the loss of his son, Deeds has led mental health reform legislation
in his state, including a law that ensures people in psychiatric crises aren’t
denied care due to an inability to find a bed in time — a scenario Gus
encountered the day before his death.
More significantly, in Deeds’s view, he sponsored a resolution that calls
for a four-year, comprehensive study to examine the gaps in Virginia’s
mental health-care system. The resolution was passed in March. Deeds
hopes his state will serve as a leader for other states looking for effective ways
to reform the mental health-care system.
“Through the loss of my son, I was face to face with deficiencies of a
system that I and other legislators created,” he said. “Far more simply, I could
either be lost in my grief, or I could act. I chose to act.”
APA supports such state-level efforts that address mental illness
by establishing a continuum of care ranging from prevention to crisis
intervention across the lifespan, says Ellen Garrison, PhD, senior policy
advisor to APA CEO Norman Anderson, PhD.
APA also stands behind Deeds’s commitment to fighting the stigma
related to mental illness. “To effect change, we have to bring mental health
out into the daylight and have an open and honest discussion about the
successes and failures of our mental health laws and services,” Deeds said.
— ANNA MILLER
How much less
women are to
die from heart
unmarried women, even though
they are equally likely to develop
the disease, finds a March study in
BMC Medicine. Spouses may make a
difference because they can respond
to symptoms, help partners seek
treatment and provide emotional
support, the authors speculate.
How many intensive care patients
report at least mild depression
one year after being discharged,
mostly due to physical rather than
psychological symptoms, according
to an April study online in The
Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
than in 2011, according to an April
study in the American Journal of
Preventive Medicine that tracked
American magazine, TV, Internet,
newspaper and radio ads.
By the numbers
To watch a video of the speech, go to