National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Release Date: December 2, 1996

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Statement on Suicide of John Salvi III


Mary Rappaport (703-312-7886)

Melissa Wajnert (703-524-7600)

The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) offers its heartfelt condolences to the family of John Salvi III, who suffered from a severe mental illness and committed suicide in Cedar Junction prison, Walpole, MA, on Friday, November 29. Salvi was serving a life sentence for killing two workers at an abortion clinic in December 1994.

"This tragedy is yet another graphic illustration of the consequences of failing to treat people with severe mental illnesses in the criminal justice system," said Laurie Flynn, executive director of NAMI. "John Salvi's parents will bury a son, just as his victims were buried two years ago. In this age of effective treatment for brain disorders, neither tragedy should have occurred."

Approximately eight percent of all prison inmates suffer from brain disorders such as schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness (bipolar disorder). This rate is four times greater than that occurring in the general population. According to a NAMI study by E. Fuller Torrey, MD, of St. Elizabeth's Hospital, prisons and jails have become substitute treatment facilities due in large part to inadequate outpatient and community-based care.

"Regardless of a person's crime, correctional facilities are obligated both morally and constitutionally to provide appropriate treatment," said Laurie Flynn.

NAMI is a family and consumer organization advocating for the rights of people who suffer from brain disorders commonly known as severe mental illnesses. Established in 1979, NAMI has over members in 1,100 affiliate groups with state offices in all 50 states. Through the Campaign to End Discrimination, NAMI continues to provide support, education and advocacy to improve the lives of persons with serious brain disorders such as schizophrenia, manic-depression (bipolar disorder), clinical depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and severe childhood disorders.