“These People Cannot Be Helped”: Wherein I Respond to this Defeatist Notion
By Ken K. Gourdin
And then there’s the sad case of former college basketball coach Steven Dewitt Craig, who was recently arrested for intruding upon a school and claiming to have secreted an explosive device nearby. Apparently, Craig has been less than stable for quite some time, and The Salt Lake Tribune recently provided background, chronicling, somewhat, his descent from promising college basketball coach to deeply troubled soul. See here for Tribune coverage, last accessed September 21, 2016:
In response to the notion that “these people”—whatever that means, and I’m not exactly sure: Those with a history of drug use? Those with a history of behavioral health challenges?—“cannot be helped,” I wrote:
I agree that this is a sad story, I agree that this gentleman needs help, and I agree that perhaps the best method for providing intensive help for a time is a period of institutionalization. However, I dispute the defeatist, unsupported notion that “many of these people simply cannot be helped or cured.”
If I remember correctly, in other coverage, I’ve seen allusions to drug use in this gentleman’s past. While it is a tremendous struggle, and while it requires confronting life in small units (sometimes very small units) such as minutes, or hours, or a day at a time, people get clean every day, and they stay clean. If a behavioral health diagnosis is part of the picture, people get well every day, and with the right kind of support, they stay well.
I have a behavioral health diagnosis and a minor criminal record, though I’ve never done anything as serious as this gentleman has, and I’ve been written off in exactly the manner you suggest. It doesn’t do anybody any good. Society isn’t any better off because I, despite the fact that I have a post-bachelor’s, terminal degree in one discipline, am not working in that discipline and have, instead, come full circle and am doing the same kind of job I left when I decided to pursue that degree.
I’ve seen other people, whom many thought “cannot be helped,” overcome behavioral health issues and/or substance abuse, stigma, isolation, and marginalization to go on to live productive lives and become stable, happy, fulfilled, contributing members of society. As much as my own efforts have been thwarted heretofore, I hope to become one of them. (To an extent, I already am.)
I agree, a person has to know he needs help, has to believe he can be helped, and has to be committed to his own recovery in order to be successful. I agree, if those conditions are not met, the chances of such a person being helped successfully are not high. Yes, perhaps a period of incarceration or institutionalization is indicated in order for this man to pay his debt to society. However, the notion that such people, a priori, “cannot be helped” and ought simply to be locked away for an extended period is an incredible, needless, tragic drain on human potential.