Two stories in the news today provide a foundation for more discussion on the state of mental health care in Minnesota.
1) Robert Wood, of St. Paul, is going to prison for eight years (he’ll actually serve about three) because he picked the wrong way to kill himself. Wood, who has depression, anxiety and a bipolar disorder, tried to commit “suicide by cop” in January 2015 when he fired a pellet gun at a police officer who wouldn’t kill him.
Prosecutors said if he really wanted to die, he wouldn’t have fired on the police from a window.
“I did not deserve to be shot in the face for doing my job,” police officer Mike Talley told the court, shortly before the judge sentenced Wood.
Wood was one of the examples of a broken system in the Star Tribune’s excellent “Cry for Help” series in June.
The person who called 911 when Wood was in crisis warned the police that Wood was likely to try dying at the hands of police.
“The biggest thing that’s going to help police and law enforcement throughout the nation is resources for people with mental illness,” a St. Paul police commander said. “Until society says we’re going to do something better than this … this is going to happen.”
2) The parent of a middle school student who took his own life is suing the Duluth School District for failing to stop the bullying that led Todd Seehus, 13, to kill himself.
He was bullied because of his perceived sexual orientation, the Star Tribune reports.
Tristan was called names and told “he looks ‘like a girl.’ ” Some students knocked books out of his hands, the suit said.
The district dealt with Tristan differently “than other similarly situated students on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation,” despite complaints.
The district didn’t give him a safe learning environment, and its unacceptable response harmed Tristan with harassment that eventually drove him to suicide on Feb. 12, 2015, the suit said.
“This should never happen, let alone to kids who are forced to interact with their tormentors in school every day,” the family’s attorney said in an e-mail to the paper. “We hope we’ll be able to make a difference for other kids through bringing this action.”