Approach to mentally ill/psychopathic/evil people

So in my rotations, I’ve learned there are some seriously sick people out there in the world. I won’t go into details, but there are some folks out there that are genuinely dangerous to the public. Many times this is due to some mental illness and despite modern medicine the neurological patterns are so deep set that there is nothing we can do for them. But given the chance these folks will kill strangers without any second thoughts.

As its stands society’s best attempts are to lock these souls up and throw away the key and honestly I find it very hard to dig up any compassion within myself for them. My question is what is our duty to these people, who by no personal intent or fault, are essentially born evil or with a condition that predisposes them to evil acts? Also when the time comes, will God judge them on the same scales as normal folks even though they may have done unspeakable things?

thanks and have great evening:)
-Michael

I am sure my experience with this differs from yours in many respects, but I have dealt with those who were deemed by many to be evil.

I believe our obligation is to treat them as we can, and protect society from them. In some cases there is nothing that can be done. Others as you know respond to medications and other therapies.

God knows the what and why of their conditions. Most did not ask for their plight and suffer from some sort of neurological or chemical damage. I don’t think we can do anything but guess about life for them in the hereafter.

For those who sought out and embraced evil, never looking back, who even intellectually if not emotionally knew that what they were doing was evil the answer is simple and obvious. Even these people though might have a condition in some cases we are not aware of.

I believe at some point, medicine will go a long way towards emptying prisons of people who have DNA mutation caused by environmental poison or contamination. We are not there yet, and when we are, there is always the danger that genetic therapies will not stop at the point of healing.

Oh by the way… compassion… I know it is hard while in the thick of it. When someone has bitten you or spit in your face or is doing lewd things… it seems impossible to feel anything for them in the moment. You have to get away if you can… the later reflect. While in it… you are in a defense mode for your own survival, otherwise you could not work there or would be at risk of injury.

I think when there is a true defect such as hormonal imbalances, biochemical imbalances, other illnesses that can cause the person to lose the ability to have compassion, empathy or even an obvious conscience, I can find it easy to forgive them. However, that does not mean they should be running lose in our streets. We should at a minimum keep them in a high security mental health institution.

I also think that there is a difference between those who are like the above described and those who are actually evil. I see no reason to think that some people are of the devil or totally under his control and influence. To me these individuals are almost soul-less and there is a distinct difference in their nature compared to those who are suffering from a form of mental illness or defect.

Some that come to mind include Charles Manson, Serial Killers in general, those who of course engage in demonic worship and the dark arts, and others who are ruthless in their dealings and general life habits. They don’t have to look crazy, and in fact may appear ultra normal. But something in their spiritual nature will make one’s skin crawl if left alone with them, or even when first meeting.

God I am sure can make the best judgement of who is who, and does understand the difference when there is a true mental illness involved. Those who are truly insane I don’t think would be culpable for their actions no matter how horrible. Those who are simply evil will be held accountable.

My question is what is our duty to these people, who by no personal intent or fault, are essentially born evil or with a condition that predisposes them to evil acts?

Your duty, in your profession, is to treat the symptoms and make sure there is a full and accurate account of their thought process and behavior so that they may be observed, and then perhaps committed if deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Also when the time comes, will God judge them on the same scales as normal folks even though they may have done unspeakable things?

As Fr. Serpa often relates, the mentally ill have a heavier cross to bear. It could be chemical, biochemical, disease, or defect. Some lack full knowledge or consent and are dangerous. They will be judged according to their capacity to understand, just like anyone else lacking in full understanding of their words and actions.

This is not “fair,” the same way the folks in Matthew 20 thought it wasn’t fair that latecomers were paid the same amount as those who starters working before dawn, but it illustrates the infinite compassion of the the owner of the vineyard which we cannot always comprehend.

Your duty, as a Catholic, is to commend thesethese people their actions to God, medical personnel to the Divine Physician and St. Raphael, and all EMTs, FFs, and POs to St. Michael.

God will judge them with His perfect justice. He may take into account their difficulties, but! that does not mean they will attain Heaven thereby. It may only mean that they will be an extra level of Hell away from the center than they otherwise would have been. God can see into their hearts and knows precisely what is there.

As to demonic influence or possession… I have heard that a yound priest was assigned to a mental asylum in Italy and he suspected some of the patients were possessed. With permission, he began to exocise them. Within 6 months, 80% had left.

So I think there’s a lot more of that going on than we normally think.

I’m not Catholic.

However, I believe people irredeemably evil should be put down.

I find it odd that the “humane” thing to do is to lock a human being in a tiny cage for the rest of their lives.

Some would argue that they are “safely” locked away. “Safely” unless you are in jail/asylum with them that is. Such prisoners and patients are very dangerous to one another and as you’ve pointed out, staff.

What choice do we have?

Not all people who have a diagnosis of mental illness are dangerous. I have such a diagnosis. Major depression, Obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder and borderline personality disorder. Any one of these would be hard enough to deal with, together they make life very difficult. Of course, I’ve never tried to harm someone else because of this. When I “act out” it isn’t pretty. But the only person I’ve ever tried to harm is myself. Oh, and the occasional “drama queen” routine. I can get mad and start yelling and slamming doors and all that stuff. I know it makes it hard on others, but I wish more people could see how hard this is on me. I’ve pushed people away because of all of this. I am in treatment and on meds. That helps. I often times find myself praying for a cure. But, for now, I can only do what I’m doing to stay stable.

I can say that I’m not psychopathic or evil. Well, I guess that depends on your definition of those terms. :shrug: But I think that with some people like me, trying to understand and prayer is one way to “help.” Having supportive friends has done me a lot of good as well. Of course, I usually tell people that if I start acting out don’t take it personally. Unless there is an incident that triggers this, but often times it takes more than just one incident to set me off. I try to speak up on this, because I know most people don’t realize what they do/say is sometimes a problem.

I guess the best thing I can say is, if you find out someone you know is mentally ill, try to be understanding and supportive. And pray like crazy!!

lux_in_tenebris states : "So in my rotations, I’ve learned there are some seriously sick people … that are genuinely dangerous to the public. Many times … there is nothing we can do for them…
As it stands [today] society’s best attempts are to lock these souls up [in Jail].
My question is, what is our duty to these people…?
Also … will God judge them on the same scales as normal folks…?"

"what is our duty to these people?"
Well, personally, I do not know any of these people, so the answer to ME is … I have NO duty to them at all.
Beyond that, I can (if I wish to) offer up Prayers to God for these people, but that is certainly NOT a duty.

You, on the other hand, are (apparently) a Doctor or Aide.
In your case, you have an ethical and moral duty to help these people get into the best-possible emotion shape that you can.
If you do any less than that, then I believe that God will judge you for your failure to protect helpless people who you are paid to help medically.

And finally, "will God judge them on the same scales as normal folks?"
God does what God wants to do.
People think like people think, but God thinks like God.

So, God may reduce the sentence for a mentally sick person.
OK, let’s say that one of your patients murdered 12 people, brutally raped 20 more, and maimed 100 other unlucky people, with absolutely NO remorse for doing it.

In a normal person, God would (probably) judge that person’s behavior as BAD.
I assume that God would condemn that un-repentant muderer-rapist to spend eternity in Hell.
Now, in the case of a psychotic, let’s assume that God forgives 95% of the stain of his Sins.
That STILL leaves a better-than-Average chance that God will send him to Hell.

However, it seems like you are asking : if the guy is sick, will God just send him off into Heaven?
Maybe.
God can do whatever God wants to do.
If I was God, I might handle things differently … fortunately, I am NOT God.

Hi Michael,

Great question! I’ll try to answer it as best I can.

“What ever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.” I’m sure it’s terribly hard to feel compassion to people so twisted and evil and who have committed unspeakable acts of horror. However, it’s what we’re called to do as Christians.

Look at it this way: God did create them for no reason, there’s a reason they’re alive. And imagine if one of these sick twisted individuals were successfully converted to Christianity! They might be able to open up about their condition and provide useful information that could lead us to help others! Just a thought.

The bottom line is: They are still temples of the Holy Spirit created by God in His own image. Henceforth, they deserve the same charity we give to all our neighbors. Although, I grant it can be hard.

That’s not to say we should let them lose or allow them to be free, that could be a disaster! But each individual should do what they can to help as these people cross their paths.

Yes and no at the same time. Because they suffer mental illness, their culpability for their actions is significantly reduced because they don’t do it with the same mental capacity as it would be if a sane person did it. However, how much responsibility they take is really up to God to judge.

It’s the same as if I did something out of extreme fear or temporary anxiety. My culpability in that moment would be reduced as I wasn’t not thinking rationally.

Hope that helps!

I am so glad you shared this. Mental illness is often misunderstood and people can be cruel about it. My brother is severely Bi-Polar and struggles every day. I have a clinical depression due to a physical illness, and so does my sister. Depression is a horrible thing to battle.

All that said, I do think people should be very careful about lumping all those with mental illness into the same pot as it where. Depression and being a sociopath or psychopath are two or three very different things. I do believe that the psychopaths are the most dangerous of all individuals.

We do not do anything near enough to effectively treat mental illness in this country or the world for that matter. There are too many people in prison that should actually be in a mental health facility for care, and too many people left untreated. Pray is urgently needed and so is a change of attitude toward those who suffer from any type of mental illness.

What a lot of people don’t really face is we all have some form of mental health issue at some time in our life. It takes but a simply brain injury to cause things like depression, impulse control issues, memory loss and lost cognition. We should all take a moment to remind ourselves that no one is exempt from being mentally ill, and that we would want to be treated with care and compassion if that happens to us.

Thank you for your kind words. As far as mental illness goes, there is still a great stigma about it. And then there’s the “nurture or nature” argument. I’ve had the depression since the age of 7. By then I already felt like a failure. Nothing I did was ever good enough. Plus there were other issues as I was growing up. But I’ve also seen symtoms of mental illness in other family members. But nobody wants to admit to it. It’s too “awful” to contemplate.

I think that we are starting to turn the corner on this, though. Not long ago I saw a TV ad where a mental illness was protrayed for what it was, and not for what many people think it is. People with mental illnes should be shown, and accepted, for who they really are. These are people with the same sort of needs that “normal” people have. Adequate food, shelter and friendship. As Christians, we are called to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. We don’t have to like each other, but we are called to love. And I think that’s probably the hard part. So, let’s get realistic. First, open dialogue, and on from there.

Thanks for all the responses! But just to clarify though, there is a very clear distinction in my mind between mental illness that afflicts a great number of the public vs the mental illness that poses a threat to the public. To lump somebody with depression/bipolar disorder with a psychopath with refractory antisocial tendencies together would be a grave insult to the prior. Mental illness in general though, especially with more severe cases, is a very poorly addressed issue in our society in terms of the discrepancy of ethics and practice.

Yes, I agree and you have stated this well. And because of a poor understanding of mental illness I think most diagnosis are probably wrong or incomplete at best. For example, my mother was diagnosed as being schizophrenic when I was a kid. She was not any such thing. She in fact suffered from Post Traumatic Stress disorder more than likely and obsessive compulsive disorder. It took years for someone to correctly diagnose and treat her.

Another good example is the effects of even the most “mild” of concussions. They are now realizing how adverse these effects can be and how long term. So simple brain injuries are much more important in understanding a persons ability to cope or to have mental health issues than previously imagined. I could go on, but I think this can demonstrate how vulnerable we all are.

Oh, another one: I knew a girl that was allergic to certain smells, to such a degree that her brain would swell. This in turn resulted in apparent dementia. She suffered temporary memory loss, hallucinations and near coma states. So, just what are we all exposed to that might cause us a problem and we don’t even know, or are not even aware of it?

Most people with mental health go through a progression. For the most common illnesses I think doctors do know the stages of that progression, but the real problem these days is treatment. Very few people get treatment for mental illness. Most health insurance does not cover mental health or only has limited coverage (5 appointments covered, then the patient has to pay full price). Then there is the stigma in society against people with mental illness. Because there are few physical symptoms, they are told to “get over it” or that they are just making it up. Some people are ticking time bombs, but no one knows until it’s too late.

As for your original question, God tells us not to kill. The Church teaching tells us society can choose to kill a person if they are a threat to society and if society have no means of limiting that threat other than executing the person. In this day and age, there are prisons and mental health facilities in every state. There is space available. (Of course there is that recent story where a miscommunication caused a person not to be placed in a facility before he acted out, another problem that needs to be worked out.)

Mental patients aren’t the only ones who kill strangers without second thoughts, many, if not most, doctors will do so as well. For example, abortion is when innocent children are murdered by well respected doctors and nurses. The majority of women will too when it comes to a Down’s Syndrome child where the abortion rate is 90%. In Nazi Germany, innocent Jews, gypsies, african americans, and the mentally disabled were brutally murdered and tortured by well respected doctors and medical professionals. During slavery, the majority of psychiatrists in the U.S. were willing to diagnose the disease, “Drapetomania”, a supposed mental illness described by American physician Samuel A. Cartwright in 1851 that caused black slaves to flee captivity.[1]:41 Today, drapetomania is considered an example of pseudoscience,[2]:2 and part of the edifice of scientific racism en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drapetomania And then now we have the majority of US psychologists willing to say that homosexuality is not a mental illness, even though they are aware that childhood sexual abuse causes many people to be homosexual who otherwise would not have been. Some psychologists are even now saying that childhood sexual abuse is healthy.

Many medical professionals are motivated by job security and money and knowingly prescribe people drugs that destroy the gray matter in the brain and have been shown to produce worse outcomes, rather than recommending therapy or or alternatives, because it is very easy to get the drugs approved by Medicare/Medical/SSI/poverty programs and these drugs pay the entire mental health profession’s salaries and are a short-term quick fix. This “quick fix” is preferable to the low cognitive intelligence and low-income because who cares if they lose grey matter anyways or memory since they get essentially get to live on welfare for the rest of their lives as long as they take the drugs. It is a “simpler” solution while therapy, etc. is difficult, complicated, and takes many years. Since there are so many low intelligence people trying to live on welfare, psychiatrists aren’t responsible for helping anyone with neurological problems since if one person were to complain, there are 20 more people on the waiting list for welfare who would be thrilled to take some drugs and get a free ride even if they are permanently disabled.

“Father and Child Reunion: How to Bring the Dads We Need to the Children We Love” quotes that 90% of women in mental hospitals were raised by single mothers. These people were definitely born with a condition that predisposed them to acts that are dangerous to others, but the majority of them cannot receive the kind of quality mental health care that would go to someone who was predisposed to cancer.

I think all you have shown here is that all of us have the potential to be psychotic at some level. All it takes is for a person or group of people to place blame on another group for the problems their society is facing and we will have another Nazi Germany, or Stalin’s Russia, or Slavery and the wonton killing of the disabled, sick and unborn children. (Yes we do have that now.)

But, there are individuals who from the start are pure psychopaths and/or sociopaths. They have no empathy for others, are totally self-centered and extremely dangerous. They are the type that would kill their own mother for the fun of it. These are the type that need to be locked up for good.

My point is this, it is easy to point out specific groups that commit terrible murderous crimes like Hitler and Stalin or Manson and those who traffic human beings for the sex trade. But it is a lot harder to face the fact that we are all but an idea away of being capable of doing the same thing. All it takes is one convincing voice and projecting guilt on others for a given problem and many will follow like lemmings.

Know yourself, so that you don’t become someone that needs to be locked up and kept away from society. Don’t be so sure you could not do something horrible. (I don’t exclude myself from this warning. This should be a daily act of examining our conscience as far as I am concerned. We might all save ourselves a lot of grief and trouble if it was.)

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