Dr. William Beecher Scoville

He was 28 and he was crying, He was not particularly suicidal, for he had tried his hand at that most final of activities and he had failed a couple of times. Didn’t take enough pills to do anything but sleep a little bit extra. I wanted at least to convince him not to think of this as a failure, but as a desire to live so great that he could not and ought not to try and fight it. I was maybe a little help, but not much. “I don’t think anybody can help me, nobody else has, and you probably won’t. Don’t worry. I’ll take the medicines because it is even worse without them. And I guess I’ll stay alive.” Great. Success, perhaps, but hardly an endorsement of my art.

I slowly realized what was going on. He seemed to forget what I had said almost as quickly as I was able to finish saying it. He had already asked me twice if I were really a doctor and a psychiatrist. I get that a lot, probably because of the bright colors I wear and my informal conversational style.

Slowly we got the part of the examination called the “mental status exam.” He did not know the date or the day of the week or even what city we were in. Apparently a “case manager,” one of those people who is assigned to work as an assistant to help low-functioning patients get to the clinic, had brought him in. He could only tell me that he had spent most of the past ten years in jail. As a matter of fact, he said jail was easier for him than the world outside. He said he always violated parole, because calendars were hard to read and he seemed to never show up on the right day.

When he finally had no parole left, and was done with jail, he scraped up all the marijuana he could find and called 911 to come arrest him, so he could get back to jail.

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