The family of 18-year-old, Keith Vidal, called their local police for help when their son was behaving erratically during a schizophrenic episode last Sunday night. The 18-year-old from Boiling Spring Lake, North Carolina, was first tasered by two police officers and on the ground when shot and killed by a third officer, Bryon Vassey, from the neighboring town of Southport.
According to this emotional video by Keith Vidal’s stepbrother, Mark Ryan Wilsey, Keith was recently diagnosed with Schizophrenia and was coping while dosing was being figured out.
Vidal’s father, Mark Wilsey, called the police Sunday night because his son was armed with an electric, six-inch screwdriver and was threatening his mother. According to the family the two officers had the situation under control, with the 100-pound Keith Vidal on the ground tasered, when Officer Vassey entered the premises and within 60 seconds said, “We don’t have time for this.” Then he shot Keith Vidal in the chest, killing him. I can’t get the disturbing image out of my head of someone putting down a lame dog.
Officer Vassey first said he was ‘defending himself,” only to later say through his lawyer he was defending another officer. How could deadly force be the only option when there are 3 officers and a Taser involved to subdue one skinny teenager?
My heart breaks for this family. Any person who has ever dealt with, loved with or been mentally ill knows that getting the right meds dosage is critical. Sometimes it takes months or even years to find the right dosage. Meds can alter your state of mind sometimes even worse than the mental illness itself.
This kid was 18-years-old and recently diagnosed. Can you imagine what a pill it is to swallow to be told that you have a mental illness and will be medicated for the rest of your life just to be “normal”? I can. When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar 1, I was at a point in my life where I had been ill for years with no help. No diagnosis. I felt irreparably broken. I felt alone and severed from everyone around me. I can’t even describe to you what it feels like to feel so broken. The closest I can compare it to would be like living in quick sand and you are being swallowed whole by the disease but the more you struggle to resist, to survive the deeper you sink and the more likely you are to lose yourself. It is terrifying because you don’t know why this is happening to you. Was it something you did or didn’t do?
When I finally got a diagnosis, I was terrified but relieved. Relieved that there was help to be had and to find that I wasn’t so broken as much as really bent. It was a struggle to get back to “normal”; whatever that is. I’m not sure I really know. Normal is relative, I suppose.
It took months of highs and lows. I was originally misdiagnosed as depressed and given enough anti-depressants to kill a horse, which made me ever increasingly manic. In the end, I was at the brink of psychosis. I saw madness. I felt it. Touched it. Lived it. It was the biggest part of me.
Eventually, anti-depressants were taken down to next to nothing; stabilizers and Ambien entered the picture. Where mania once ran rampant, now zombie like living: walking into walls and all-consuming lethargy had become part of who I was. After a few months, I was finally regulated and began to feel “normal” for the first time in years; maybe ever.
It all seems so cut and dry when you write it out but it’s not. The part I haven’t told you that before my medication dosage was right, I was highly erratic. I was like a ticking time bomb. What was going on inside my head was so distracting that it left me annoyed and irrationally angry with myself and everyone around me. Later, through therapy, I realized that the irritability was directly proportional to my mania. My body and mind were pissed off because no one ever turned the lights off. My body and mind were exhausted and there was no off switch to be had.
I did irrational things just to feel alive because I ALWAYS needed to feel alive; I drove fast, lived fast and never considered consequences. I teetered between feeling invincible and wanting to die. I drank a lot. I know now that I subconsciously did that to shut things off. It’s actually pretty common. I alienated family and friends because I overreacted to everything. Sometime between high school and college graduation, I had spun completely out of control. The insomnia was just fuel to the fire.
I fully accept responsibility for my behavior in those days though, honestly, I had no real control over a lot of it. I never wielded a weapon at my parents but I did throw a friend’s belongings off my balcony and came pretty damn close to tossing her as well during a particularly manic episode. I used to be quite good at pushing people away. I think I was afraid they’d see the real me and know something was “off ”. Even before I knew what it was, I knew something wasn’t right. I hoped and prayed that there was a reason for the behavior.
My whole point for this very long and drawn out story is that if you met me today, you’d know that I’m not the same person I was at 18, 21 or even 25. I am the mother of two, a wife, and even a room mother. I am just like you but maybe I wouldn’t be if someone decided that they had no time for me to get help; to learn to live with my diagnosis. Perhaps, this is the problem with the world, we resign ourselves to believe that those who are mentally ill are dangerous, less than or even worthless. We forget that they are people, just like you and I.Well, more like me than you, I suppose:) My point is that just because someone is mentally ill doesn’t mean they can’t be valuable members of society or good human beings. It only means that they might have a more difficult journey than the rest of us.
Officer Vassey might have been scared and felt threatened because sometimes in the midst of an episode, the person suffering looks scary. The fact remains that if two officers had Keith Vidal tasered on the ground, what possible reason could there have been to shoot him? Unlike me, Keith Vidal is dead and now, will never have the chance to learn to live with his disease; to grow up, to have a family, to be a dad or a husband.
What are your thoughts on this tragic story? What would you do if you were Keith Vidal parents?