Every so often, a story in the news causes people to question what they know about a specific type of mental illness. Such is the situation with the “Slender Man” case that is making its way through the courts. Could the defendants have schizophrenia?
The “Slender Man” case is a strange one. It starts with two 12 year old girls, who lived in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The two were friends.
For whatever reason, the girls became very interested in a fictional character called “Slender Man”. They read websites that had scary stories that featured “Slender Man”. The stories were intended to be understood as fiction, and were written for the enjoyment of adults who liked to read creepy stories.
The two girls, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, believed that “Slender Man” was real. They created a plan that they thought would cause him to appear and to take them to go live with him. They lured another classmate, Payton Leutner, to a park and attempted to stab her to death. She was stabbed 19 times and survived.
Geyser and Weier have been charged with attempted first-degree intentional homicide. One of the girls, Morgan Geyer, has been diagnosed with early-onset schizophrenia. The other girl has not been diagnosed with any mental illness.
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, disabling brain disorder. People who have schizophrenia may hear voices, or believe people are reading their mind, or controlling their thoughts.
Schizophrenia runs in families. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, schizophrenia occurs in 1 percent of the general population, but it occurs 10 percent of of people who have a first-degree relative with the disorder, such as a parent, brother, or sister.
It is also possible for people who have second-degree relatives that have schizophrenia to end up developing the mental illness themselves. The highest risk is with identical twins. If one identical twin has schizophrenia, the other twin has a 40 to 65 percent chance of having it, too. Obviously, this shows that there is a genetic component to the illness.
It turns out that Morgan Geyer’s father, Matthew Geyser, also has schizophrenia. He has gone on disability because of his schizophrenia. He tries to manage his symptoms with medication, but there are times when he hears voices and struggles with hallucinations. This caused him to have difficulty keeping a full-time job.
The Milwaukee -Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that people who have mental illnesses that cause psychotic thinking are not typically diagnosed with it until they are in their 20’s. It also reports that 90 percent of all murders are committed by people who are not psychotic.
Image by mdl70 on Flickr.
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