Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Brother's Keeper

A few years ago a man came up to the reference desk and said to me, "What water is under the table?" For a moment I thought I'd misheard him. I said, "Excuse me?" He replied, with an annoyed expression like I'd missed a rather obvious point, "If the after affects of radio news on one's clothes is forgotten, how are we to carpet the bear's house?" Later, a friend who knows about these things said this affectation is called "word salad" and is a common symptom of schizophrenia. I couldn't help but wonder at the time, and now, how this man could be walking about unassisted. How does he survive? The answer lies in the Supreme Court case O'Connor v. Donaldson that secured freedom to everyone not a "danger" to themselves or others, thus largely emptying the mental institutions across the United States. I have personally witnessed individuals in my library eating french-fries out of the garbage, wearing clothes soiled in their own waste, and with grossly untreated wounds. Are these people "enjoying" liberty as the rest of us are doing? Are they able? We can easily dismiss the mentally ill as a bother in our library, or after Virginia Tech and NIU, as evil. But they don't make me angry; they make me sad. When their allies force them to live on the streets uncared for, I wonder if their enemies could do worse.

Steve Bertrand
Assistant Director


Blogger Unknown said...

I just came across this news story about an alleged mentally mentally ill man who was banned from a public library in Massachusetts:


February 21, 2008 7:40 AM  

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