As the link between mental health issues and criminal behavior is being researched, disorders such as depression and schizophrenia that were previously taboo to speak about are finally being seen and discussed as actual medical conditions needing attention and treatment.
An empty threat
On Monday, 35 year old Eagle Mountain resident Christopher Dewitt Craig drove to his 9 year old daughter’s elementary school and demanded the school be evacuated; afterwards telling police there were explosives in his vehicle. Following a delivery of an unknown message to police, Craig was arrested without incident and was booked on charges including: making terrorist threats; disrupting operations of a school; and disorderly conduct. His arrest and bail of $25,000 stands even though authorities didn’t discover a single trace of explosives or any weapons on Craig’s person, in his vehicle, or even at his home.
Contrary to a public outcry of a suspect making a terrorist threat on an elementary school, the community along with those who know Craig personally are calling the incident sad and tragic; a life that spiraled out of control due to mental health issues. Before plunging into criminal and irrational behavior, Craig had a promising career in basketball; both as a player and then as a coach. He was a star basketball player in the 90’s during his high school years at Horizon High School in Phoenix Arizona, later playing for the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). His path then changed from player to coach after he landed a job as the very young head coach for Utah State University Eastern. After two other coaching positions with the last being at Midland College in Texas, Craig left while suffering with mental health issues including schizophrenia. His life quickly went downhill as he struggled with drugs and extremist thinking. He is now facing the possibility of 15 years or more in prison.
Mental health issues and criminal behavior
Having an illness such as schizophrenia does not make a person a violent or dangerous criminal. More often than not, those suffering from untreated mental health issues will do nothing more than struggle privately and isolate themselves, withdrawing from family and friends. Very few sufferers get the medical help they need as they do not speak openly about their struggles. Some choose to end their misery with suicide; other may attempt to numb the pain with substance abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), “Individuals with overt, mild, or even subclinical mental disorders may abuse drugs as a form of self-medication.” NIH also stated that “Patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse than the general population.” Many mental health issues make it difficult to make healthy, everyday choices. Substance abuse can further hinder a person’s ability to think clearly and act accordingly. Mix the two together along with decreased support of loved ones and you have a recipe for disaster that can lead to criminal behavior.
With mental health issues and/or substance abuse, early detection and treatment is key for preventing lives from being turned upside down such as what has happened with Christopher Craig. Fortunately, there are resources available to help those who are struggling with mental illness or drugs; one of those is SAMHSA. According to their website, “The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.” They state: “SAMHSA Strategic Initiatives help provide treatment and services for people with mental and substance use disorders, support the families of people with mental and substance use disorders, build strong and supportive communities, prevent costly behavioral health problems, and promote better health for all Americans.” For anyone who is or who knows someone who is struggling mentally or with substance abuse, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. For more information contact the Department of Health in your area. If legal help is needed for criminal charges, contact an experienced defense attorney.