Saturday, October 05, 2013

Why Did Miriam Carey Die?

A 34-year-old woman suffering from post-partum depression was killed in Washington this week, leaving behind a child, bottles of medication and a human mystery.

If I were still editing a magazine, I would have a reporter spend the next few weeks finding out all about Miriam Carey, what brought her to that televised car chase and what her life and death can tell us about mental health in America, hers and ours.

The resulting article might start with that riveting moment when police, guns drawn, surrounded her automobile. As it has occurred to me during hundreds of movies, I would want to know why officers of the law fired at her rather than just shoot out the tires and end the chase. What were they thinking?

From there, I would want to go back and read all about how Miriam Carey lived as dental hygienist in Stamford, Connecticut, got pregnant and had her baby, became increasing erratic at work, acquired a medicine cabinet full of antidepressant and anti-psychotic drugs and began a downward spiral that took her to her televised fate.

Her life and death surely hold clues about how little we really know about a mental-health industry that has been taken over by pharmaceutical companies with their cheery TV ads ending with small print about terrible side effects.

Her story should be told, not to indict the psychiatric profession but to dramatize what’s behind the easy generalizations of the TV talking heads that always follow such bizarre behavior. If those titled doctors have anything more prescriptive to offer than descriptive afterthoughts, it would be comforting to know it.

Meanwhile, we are all in a darkness about such matters. If Miriam Carey’s full story can shed even a little light, it should be told.

Update: Now Miriam Carey’s sister, a retired New York City police officer, emerges to question the police use of deadly force, saying there was "no need for a gun to be used." She is not alone in feeling that way.

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