Mental Illness Part One 

It can be difficult to understand what’s going on in the mind of someone suffering from mental illness.Especially when that illness causes someone to become a danger to themselves or those around them.Dr. William Nelson is head psychiatrist at the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta where he says a quarter of the patients have committed a crime, but were found not criminally responsible. He says bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are the conditions most commonly associated with violent behavior. Both can cause people to suffer sharp breaks with reality. “For example, they might believe someone is out to harm them,” Dr. nelson says, “that they need to defend themselves. That might cause them to feel they need to be violent to protect themselves.”Bipolar disorder is believed to have played a role in why Perley Goodrich Junior of Newport shot and killed his father and violently assaulted his mother in October of 2009. His mother says she knew something was wrong when he was a child. “He didn’t get along at school,” his mother Sandra Goodrich recalls, “there was always issues. He was bullied at first and then he turned into what I would call a bully.”Sandra Goodrich says she took her son to a psychiatrist in his early teens but to no avail. “They just said he’s okay. And that’s as far as it went,” she says. “Then after he got a little bit older I tried to get him help but he resisted.”She says drugs and alcohol became an issue as perley goodrich tried coping with his mental illness. “They feel bad. They’re tortured,” Goodrich said adding that Perley Jr. was also taking medication for his bipolar disorder. “I don’t think it ever worked. It would help take the edge off so he wasn’t violent. But he definitely needed in house care.”Goodrich says due to her son’s drug and alcohol use, his prescription medication was taken away by doctors. She says that left him alone, suffering, and full of rage. “I didn’t think that he’d ever hurt us,” she says. “My husband always had a fear that he would hurt him. And he was right. When he beat me with that gun he was just filled with rage.”A similar battle with mental illness affected Henry Murdoch of Dexter, who was diagnosed with ADHD, brain damage, and Bipolar disorder in his early twenties. He spent some time at Acadia hospital, but his mother, Donna Palmer of Corinna, says that did little to help. “They don’t keep people very long,” Palmer says, “it’s like a revolving door. You’re in one door than out the next door with a bag of pills and most of the mental hospitals are like that. They don’t have long term. Long term is really rare.” Under Medicare, finding a psychiatrist was nearly impossible for Henry Murdoch, leaving him at the mercy of medication. Until the day Murdoch told family members the meds stopped working.Dr. Nelson says a number of things can cause medication to become ineffective. Alcohol, drug use, or even nicotine from smoking cigarettes. Even the changing seasons can be a factor. “In the winter time, you could be more prone to depression and in the summer time be more prone to a manic episode,” Dr. Nelson says. “At times we’re at a total loss to know why medications stop being effective.” Henry Murdoch was charged with arson and terrorizing after a fire that destroyed his home in Dexter last December. A fire that Murdoch’s family steadfastly maintains he did not start. “He loved his animals,” Palmer said, “he’d never hurt his dog.” Murdoch’s dog died in the fire. After threats of suicide, Murdoch’s family took back his bail, saying he’d be safer in jail. When police tried to take Murdoch into custody, they say he led them on a high speed chase and caused a manhunt that ended when Murdoch called his mother who took him to a Waterville hospital. Murdoch’s mother says doctors there figured out what went wrong with his medication. “It’s my understanding that the two medications they gave him were working against each other to cause rage and anger,” Palmer says. “Since he’s been in jail, they readjusted his medication. I have seen him a couple times and it looks like it’s working.”Both Sandra Goodrich and Donna Palmer think if their sons mental illness had been treated differently their stories could have had very different outcomes.Perley Goodrich is serving an eight year sentence at the Maine State Prison in Warren.Henry Murdock is still in the Penobscot County Jail awaiting trial on numerous charges. His mother says his lawyer is preparing to launch an independent investigation into that fire.Coming up in part two we’ll talk about possible solutions to the problem.