"A sensitive, beautiful child" who was "full of love," is how Creigh Deeds, Virginia State Senator, remembers his son. Two months ago, at the age of twenty-four, Austin "Gus" Deeds, "stabbed his father multiple times before taking his own life."
Why did this sensitive, beautiful child commit such a heinous act? Mental illness. Gus Deeds was no longer in control of himself when he used the knife to stab his father. The mental illness that had been brewing for several years took over.
Creigh Deeds's son displayed "a pattern that was on-again, off-again for months." Mr. Deeds discovered his son was having severe issues the day before the attack and obtained an emergency custody order, a Baker Act, which was enforced by the local sheriff's department. "Mental health professionals at the Community Services Board evaluated Gus Deeds and determined that the boy was not suicidal, and Gus was released." Mr. Deeds had a sinking, ominous feeling that his son was coming home to him frustrated, unhappy, and untreated. The following morning the ominous feeling turned into reality. Creigh Deeds said, "The system failed my son."
The system often fails the mentally ill. Unless you have money and status or commit a crime it is extremely difficult to be heard and helped. "Deeds says he knows that part of the law won't change, but he is determined to get legislation passed that mandates an up-to-date database of psychiatric beds available in the state. Deeds has also introduced a bill that would mandate a 24-hour period during which a mental evaluation must occur. Right now in Virginia, it's four hours with a two-hour extension."
I feel lucky to have received support and help for my son during his most difficult times. Unfortunately it came with a price and pushing to get what he needed. The fight is not over, and sadly is never over for the mentally ill. It is a lifelong illness that needs constant monitoring, but a happy and fulfilling life can be obtained with determination and support.
"Life goes on. Now there's a little bit of focus on mental illness. If we can make a change that will save lives, we have to do it. I've got no choice."--Creigh Deeds
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