We're Going Crazy

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Did it catch your attention at OJ Simpson and Claus von Bülow made news during the same week? Claus's ex-wife, Sunny von Bülow died December 6 at age 76, having been in a coma since she was 48. Claus was charged with making two attempts on her life. In a media circus lasting five years, he was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison. His friend Sir Paul Getty, of the Getty fortune, advanced the money for his appeal and with what has been called a better team of lawyers, Claus was exonerated. His marriage to Sunny was dissolved and he won no part of her $14 million estate.

The von Bülow case was the first major criminal trial televised in the U.S., setting a precedent for the 1995 TV ratings slam dunk of the OJ Simpson trial. After 95 million watched Simpson's June, 1994 slow speed car chase, blacking out even the NBA Finals, it's no wonder his subsequent televised trial riveted the nation, the longest jury trial in California history (over eight months). An estimated 150 million people watched the verdict being read.

Exactly 13 years to the day after his acquittal in the 1995 Los Angeles murders, OJ was found guilty of 12 charges relating to a 2007 Las Vegas armed robbery. On December 5, 2008, the day before Sunny von Bülow died, Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison, presumably eligible for parole in nine years. A press conference later this morning will give the details of his sentence.

I didn't follow the von Bülow case in the 80s, so I have no personal opinion on the golden boy's sense of right and wrong. Simpson, on the other hand, is a psychopath in my amateur opinion — a person without conscience. In 1995, he said he didn't do it. In 2008, he pled he didn't know it was wrong. Commenters on one African American blog site called Simpson "ignorant," because he didn't learn from his mistakes in the 90s.

Sorry folks. Psychopaths do not make mistakes. To psychopaths, there is no objective right and wrong. There is only "What I do is right; anything you do that I disagree with is wrong."

Why does this matter to normal sane people less interested in the birth of Reality TV than in getting on with our personal productive lives? The Associated press reported last week – the same week von Bülow and Simpson shared news coverage – that one in five college aged kids is mentally ill, suffering a personality disorder significant enough to impair normal function.

Counting substance abuse, the study found that nearly half of young people surveyed have some sort of psychiatric condition, including students and non-students.

We care, because in light of the fatal shootings at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, as a society we have to decide not only what is safe and fair, but also what is humane and righteous. Seventy-five percent of these young adults are not receiving mental health care treatment. If 75% of diabetic students weren't taking their insulin, wouldn't we line them up every morning and march them through their blood sugar tests?

  • Is it fair for colleges to mandate treatment?
  • By what process would administrators be informed of who needs treatment?
  • Does a school have the right to dismiss a mentally ill and untreated student?
  • If a student is dismissed for mental illness, do the parents have the right to sue the school for reinstatement?
  • Can the parents get the youth's medical records sealed before seeking admission to another school?

Are you immune?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 1 in 4 U.S. adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.

Look around. If your three closest friends seem ok, then it's you.

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