Where does the violet tint end and the orange tint begins? Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but where exactly does the one first blending enter into the other. So with sanity and insanity.
Herman Melville (1819 – 1891)
The lead story at Madison.com today is about the the man who committed the “Onalaska Church Murders” that took place on February 7, 1985 at St Patrick’s Catholic Church. Bryan Stanley was eventually charged with those murders and found not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced to Mendota Mental Health Institutes’s (the State Hospital) Forensic Unit which is what they call the area of the hospital where they confine the criminally insane.
Mr Stanley is now receiving medical treatment that enables him to live a productive life and he has managed to produce a book in his field of study. Apparently it has been a successful endeavor on his part and those he has hired to help him.
Now the questions come into play about the criminally insane that always rear their ugly heads when a successful treatment is found that allows them to lead “normal” lives. Word has reached Onalaska that Mr Stanley has written his book and gotten it published and that he is being given privileges to move around the Madison community at will. Worst of all, in their minds he even received permission to visit his family in Onalaska without an escort recently and no one in town was notified that this “dangerous criminal” was in the vicinity.
The victims of the families and the town’s residents are angry that this man who caused so much pain in their lives 22 years ago might be going to be allowed to walk free. Where is the justice in that, they want to know. They are angry he enjoys so many privileges in the mental hospital. This is not punishment in their opinion and he deserves punishment for killing, doesn’t he? Who can blame them? Their loved ones are dead.
Their understanding of the mental illnesses that rob a person of the ability to control his or her own thoughts and actions is probably nil. As someone who suffers from such an illness that isn’t nearly as debilitating as schizophrenia, I understand their frustration and their anger. Coping with my own mood disorder frustrates and infuriates me and my family at times. Understanding what is happening inside my own skin is difficult.
I have also dealt with the delusional. I inherited my Bi-Polar mood disorder (manic-depressive) from my father who was Bi-polar with schizo affective tendencies. In other words, his manias would become so acute he would become delusional and paranoid. Sometimes he was violent. Coping with his blind rages and the abuse he perpetrated against me when I was a child has been a lifelong endeavor.
Luckily I live in an era where there are medications to control my manic episodes so that I don’t become so manic I become delusional. Sometimes I do get a little more paranoid than usual but just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean there aren’t people out to get me! ;^) Most of the time I’m perfectly stable. Occasionally I have to tweak my medications. Full moons are problematic. <heh>
My father lived in a time and place where such luxuries were not available and he was certifiably insane. Truth be known, I have a deep seated fear of going crazy like my father. It worries me to no end. I’m seven years older than he was when he died so I no longer have a frame of reference to judge myself by–to say “well, I’m not as insane as he was then.” I’m on my own with this disorder.
I’ve also had/have a few friends with schizophrenia. I’ve sat with them, holding their hand when their medications weren’t working adequately and talked them down when the voices in their head were taking over. I’ve tried talking them into calling the doctor on their own and sometimes that works but sometimes you have to call the doctor or the paramedics and tell them your friend is going off the deep end and that feels lousy because your friend is going to see that as a betrayal. It isn’t easy for them or you.
The chemical balance in their brains gets all messed up and then their minds turn on them. No one wants to be like this. It’s a horrible thing to be delusional, fearful of everything and everybody, caught up in the harrowing world of hallucinations. It’s a horrible thing to watch someone you care about getting taken over by the schizophrenia as their delusions grow stronger and ever more present. To watch the wild crazy look in their eyes get brighter and stronger. To listen to the crazy thoughts that come pouring out of their mouth.
But worst of all is when they will no longer talk to you, when you have become the enemy. When they cringe away when you reach out to touch them. When they accuse you of plotting against them. Then you know they are lost in their own world and that you cannot enter.
You can only hope they don’t hurt themselves. That is what is far more likely to happen than what Mr Stanley did. People in the grips of a schizophrenic delusion are far more likely to hurt themselves rather than someone else but the potential for violence towards others is always there and it’s a frightening reality. One that needs to be addressed by legislation in the treatment of the mentally ill that currently makes it difficult to get help for people who can’t understand they need help because their brains and minds are not working properly.
When someone is judged not guilty by reason of insanity they are sentenced to the State Hospital until they are judged to be well and able to participate fully in society once again. Soon, Bryan Stanley will go before a judge to determine if he can be released from Mendota as a free man. Medical science has made great strides in treating schizophrenia in the past 22 years. Mr Stanley is now taking a medication that has kept him sane and capable of participating in society in a productive capacity for quite some time.
He was 29 years old when he committed these murders and he has spent 22 years in a psychiatric hospital setting. Nearly half his life. Apparently he has been cooperative in every facet of his treatment. He has proven that he is willing to accept treatment and that he can handle transition into the community.
He has written a beautiful book that apparently will contribute to the understanding of the geological formations of Wisconsin for years to come and proven he can be a productive member of society. He has realized that he probably shouldn’t enjoy the proceeds from that book and set it up so that he won’t. His understanding that he should not benefit from proceeds of a book written while he was incarcerated is laudable.
The families of the victims disagree with his choice of benefactors and maybe they have a right to be angry about that too. Maybe the victim’s families should benefit. Mr Stanley might want to reconsider that choice since he snuffed out the lives of the husbands who would have provided for these wives and mothers who have suffered financially because of his actions.
Should Mr Stanley go free? If he’s now legally sane, then yes he should in my opinion but he should be closely monitored for the rest of his life to be sure he stays on the medication that keeps him sane. He will always have a dangerous mental disability and he must never forget that.