After losing his son to suicide, this Virginia senator knew he needed to act.

Sen. Creigh Deeds of Virginia understands the importance of mental health care better than most.

In the midst of a mental health crisis, he was stabbed by his son Gus 13 times on Nov. 19, 2013, before Gus shot himself and died by suicide.  Deeds survived the attack, dumbfounded by what happened.

The day before the incident, a judge had issued an emergency custody order to place Gus in a mental health facility. But due to a bed shortage, he was released after just six hours.


It was a tragedy — and one that should have been prevented. Gus and his father were close. During Deeds' 2009 run for governor, Gus was a mainstay at Deeds' campaign events. His violent outburst seemed out of character to everyone, including Deeds.

Deeds hugs his son on election night 2009. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

In the wake of his son's death, Deeds set out to fix Virginia's mental health system — and this July, a law he championed went into effect.

Virginia and New York have both enacted legislation to require schools to include mental health-related issues as part of physical education and health courses. Virginia will mandate the development of a mental health curriculum for high schools, while New York will require it to be covered throughout K-12 classes.

In 2014, Deeds introduced a bill to double the maximum amount of time people could be held on emergency custody orders (12 hours, up from six), as well as creating a more streamlined communications process between law enforcement and local community services boards. That bill was signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and we don't devote nearly enough resources to it.

The overwhelming majority of people who struggle with mental health problems won't commit a violent act like Gus Deeds. In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than they are to be the perpetrators.

It's worth noting this because the stereotype of mentally ill people committing horrific acts of violence is prevalent and reinforces stigma surrounding it, putting barriers up to people who might otherwise seek help. (Obviously, as Gus Deeds' situation shows, this isn't to say that no people with mental illness will commit crimes.)

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 teens and young adults live with one or more mental health conditions. Half of those will have developed it by the age of 14.

If we want to do more about this issue, we need people to feel safe and comfortable asking for help. The answer isn't to lock people away, but to try to intervene in conditions that only get worse over time.

Working mental health education into school curricula is one small step toward eliminating stigma.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less