Ignorance Hurts; Fight Back! – personally speaking

“If I wasn’t so mad, I’d laugh.”

That was the message Candy DeWitt sent us this week along with an appalling letter to the editor of a local newspaper. The letter accused the DeWitt family of not doing anything to prevent their 23-year-old son Daniel – who suffers from  untreated schizophrenia – from allegedly beating a popular businessman to death in February.

Parents could have done more for son” was the headline. Here’s what the letter said.

 “I read with tremendous grief about the murder of Peter Cukor at the hands of Daniel DeWitt. I find appalling the fact that his family was fully aware of his insanity yet they did nothing to get him off the streets. His father went as far as to blame ‘the system.’

“Here’s my question: Did the parents go to the facility he was released from in December with videotape of their visits to their son where ‘he only whispered to them through an apartment door and thought he was being poisoned’? Did they go to the local police department, did they contact the mental illness hot line, did they rally other family members or friends to get him in a treatment facility? How was he supposed to get better if no one was advocating for him?

“As the mother of a young daughter I have no intention of ending my parenting when my daughter turns 18 or if she becomes mentally ill or if she turns to drugs or violence.

“Family is the backbone of this country. How can parents turn their back on their adult children? Wake up, parents. You have a responsibility to the person you brought into this world.”

Ignore the self-righteousness. The ignorance expressed by the letter-writer is mind-boggling, infuriating and just plain sad. Any of we who – like the DeWitts – have futilely begged, petitioned, manipulated, bought and otherwise turned our lives inside out to get help for loved ones with untreated severe mental illness know the desperate ends family members pursue in vain.

The letter writer – and many of the people who read this letter – don’t know what we know. They need to, not just because ignorance hurts the immediate target but because people who believe that treatment laws and policies are adequate won’t support changing them.

Talk back!  Click here to send a letter of not more than 175 words to the editor. Click “Parents could have done more for their son” and scroll about halfway down to find the original letter.

With and on behalf of Candy DeWitt, mother of Daniel DeWitt

For more information about how lack of insight into untreated mental illness leads to tragedy, read our backgrounder about anosognosia.

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