Gigi Jordan, pharmaceutical millionaire and New York City socialite, requested voluntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital in lieu of jail while awaiting trial in response to the February 5, 2010 murder of her 8-year-old son. Reports indicate that Ms. Jordan killed her son with some of the “thousands of pills” that were found in her hotel room after the murder.
Ms. Jordan left a suicide note, and apparently attempted suicide via overdose; however, she was not successful in her attempt–police found her semi-conscious, barricaded in her room, with furniture pushed up against the door to prevent entry. Reportedly, a rambling, paranoid 20-page note was submitted as evidence of her “spiral into psychosis.”
A child lost his life, possibly due, in part, to his mother’s seemingly untreated mental illness in this tragic case. What I found astounding when reading articles about this case are the comments left by readers. While I realize that the internet allows for anonymous venting, and that the comments left behind do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the general population, it is still surprising to see such animosity towards the facts of this case.
Many comments reflected the general opinion that Ms. Jordan should be killed or encouraged/allowed to commit suicide. Several also commented on her “insanity,” with some people believing that Ms. Jordan was making it up and others making broad-based comments about all insane people being dangerous; some going so far as to say that “people with mental illness should not be allowed have children.”
As I mentioned in my last post, many people get upset about the use of the insanity defense because they believe that the individual who committed the crime is getting off easy. I think that another aspect to this is the still prevalent misunderstanding of mental illness among the general public. Despite significant increases in pharmaceutical ads for drugs that treat depression and anxiety, there is a lack of public education on dispelling the myths of mental illness, particularly the more severe and chronic illnesses.
There is still a misconception that individuals who have a severe mental illness are dangerous, and that they are not capable of living and working independently. While each person is different, and there are exceptions to every rule, the general media portrayal of mental illness certainly perpetuates these myths. Unfortunately, as in the Gigi Jordan case, if a person with a mental illness does become violent, it becomes sensationalized and generalized that all people with mental illness are dangerous.
While this stigma has decreased in recent years, it has certainly not faded away. It is important that mental health professionals, consumers, families, and mental health organizations continue to educate and attempt to dispel the myths of mental illness in order to gain a more accurate representation of the experiences of those living with a mental illness.