Psycho Essay, Research Paper
A Psychotic Killer Sues His Psychiatrist
Take that, you bastard! This quote from Wendell Williamson is presented in large, bold text at the bottom of this Time magazine article. Such is the portrayal of Williamson in an attempt to give us a glimpse into this psychotic killer s mind. Williamson, who suffered from a mental illness involving delusions, shot and killed two people in 1995. In this article, however, Williamson is misrepresented repeatedly. Williamson ceases to become a victim of a mental disorder, but is defined by it in this article. This article presents mental illness as the reason a fine young man somehow is transformed into a psychotic killer.
A promising young law student at the University of North Carolina, Williamson suddenly began suffering from delusions. One day, he even started screaming and slapping himself in public. This was enough to get Williamson admitted for a ten-day evaluation period in a psychiatric ward. Williamson was released after this period, but continued to hear voices. In 1994 Williamson sought out the care of psychiatrist Dr. Myron Liptzin. Dr. Liptzin found Williamson to be delusional and prescribed for him some antipsychotic drugs. Liptzin planned on retiring soon, however, and could no longer see Williamson. Liptzin did not refer Williamson to any specific doctor, but encouraged him to find a new one. Williamson did not take Dr. Liptzin s advice, and he even stopped taking his medication. On January 26, 1995, Williamson shot two people in broad daylight with an M-1 rifle. Williamson then stood trial for the murders and was judged insane by a jury, and acquitted of murder. Williamson blames Dr. Liptzin for not giving him the proper treatment or referral, and successfully sued Liptzin for $500,000.
This article presents a disturbing account of a clearly ill young man. However, perhaps even more disturbing is the way he and his actions are presented by the media. Very few details are given about his mental illness. Not even a specific definition of his disorder is given. Instead this article presents Wendell Williamson as an extremely crazed and dangerous individual. A great deal of emphasis is placed on Williamson s sinister and scary acts, and he is presented as the stereotypical psychotic killer. This article serves to further the bias against mentally ill people and provokes fear and the misunderstanding of them. Some rather flowery language, and a convenient lack of details about Williamson s mental state, creates a distorted view of this man and his illness. A few examples could best illustrate these themes that are found in this article.
The very title itself causes readers to leap to conclusions: A Psychotic Killer Sues His Psychiatrist. Already the reader is given the impression that this person is some kind of deranged lunatic. A connection between the mentally ill and criminal behavior is also reinforced by this title. The same can be said for the large quote at the bottom of the article: My thoughts during the shooting were, Take that, you bastard! Both of these examples are clearly given for shock value, designed to capture an audience. However, it paints quite a biased picture. One could be driven to think that all people with delusional disorders are an immediate threat to society.
Other descriptions throughout the article can be misleading as well. The murders are described as a bloody rampage on Henderson Street. Williamson is described as a deeply disturbed law student, and a promising young man who somehow spiraled into madness. The article even sees it as necessary to mention Williamson played guitar in a rock band, smoked marijuana, and drank too much during the year he took off following graduation from college. Williamson is depicted as some kind of savage maniac. In fact, only once is any kind of serious attention given to Williamson s mental health diagnosis. The article mentions briefly Dr. Liptzin s diagnosis that Williamson was delusional but not schizophrenic. However, no details or definitions are given to this loose description. Just as an incorrect definition can lead to misconceptions about mental disorders, so too can a lack of any definition. Little attention is paid to the doctor s diagnosis, anyway. The article seems to be more focused on presenting Williamson as a psychotic killer.
Ultimately, Williamson receives no pity for his actions or his mental illness in this article. Williamson is instead portrayed as a threatening and monstrous figure. The notion that he might even be insane is passively mentioned. The focus is instead but on the outrageousness of his lawsuit against Dr. Liptzin, and the killings he committed. This article as a whole provokes misunderstanding and fear of the mentally ill as one victim is exploited. A reader of this article has a good chance of equating mental illness with criminal activity in the future. The media, in this case, does quite a disservice to the mental health community.