Ignorance About Schizophrenia

IN HIS ARTICLE on the drama of the Ted Kaczynski Unabomber proceedings, Joe Nangle asks, "How could two siblings turn out so differently?" ("Life in Community" March-April 1998).

What Nangle seems to ignore or overlook is the medical evidence that Kaczynski suffers from a serious, debilitating brain disease called schizophrenia. This tragic illness, when untreated by medication, causes its sufferers to lose touch with reality (become psychotic) and experience auditory, visual, and olfactory hallucinations. This brain disease brings unimaginable terror, pain, and excruciating sufferings upon those it cruelly visits.

As a mother of a young man who has been diagnosed with mental illness (albeit not schizophrenia) and as a social worker who has worked with people who suffer from these serious brain disorders known today as mental illness, I have seen firsthand how these brain disorders can, when untreated medically, wreak havoc on the individuals as well as on their loved ones. These individuals and their families are the heroes and heroines of our society today. The lack of understanding, empathy, and compassion from which they suffer is appalling. The ignorance of the public, the religious community, and the media compounds their pain and seriously hampers their recovery.

Yes, indeed, David and Wanda Kaczynski deserve compassion, support, and praise for flying in the face of ignorance and steadfastly and lovingly standing by Ted Kaczynski. They obviously understand what Nangle and much of the public and media do not—that this is a real physical illness. They could no more walk away from Ted than if he suffered from cancer, heart disease, epilepsy, or Alzheimer’s. Can we do any less?

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