Less than a day after Gus Deeds, 24, was released from an emergency hold at a Virginia hospital - reportedly because no psychiatric beds were available - the young man stabbed his father, Senator Creigh Deeds, in the head and torso before fatally shooting himself. Deeds, a former gubenatorial and attorney general candidate, is recovering.
While it remains unclear whether Gus Deeds suffered from a diagnosed mental illness, this tragedy appears to be yet another incident related to our failure as a nation to provide adequate treatment options for those in psychiatric crisis. The continuous emptying of state psychiatric hospitals for the past half-century has reduced the number of public beds for acutely or chronically ill patients by more than 90% nationwide while the US population nearly doubled. Virginia only has 37% of the beds considered necessary to meet the needs of its population, according to our study, “No Room at the Inn: Trends and Consequences of Closing Public Psychiatric Hospitals.”
Even though most individuals with serious mental illness are not dangerous, there is a correlation between lack of treatment for mental illness and certain violent crimes, including 10% of all homicides and countless suicides.
“The elimination of hospital beds for people who need help in a psychiatric crisis is a driving force behind a long list of terrible consequences, including preventable violent acts,” said Doris A. Fuller, executive director. “We will keep seeing tragedies until we provide sufficient inpatient beds to meet the needs of people in psychiatric crisis. If a hospital bed had been found for Gus Deeds during the limited time of a psychiatric hold in Virginia, he might be alive today, and his father would not have been grievously wounded.”