Creigh Deeds discusses mental health stigma, son's suicide

(WJLA) - Scars are still visible from where Creigh Deeds’ son Gus stabbed him. Yet, Deeds continues to describe his son as charismatic, talented, and remarkably smart:

"In every sense of the word, my son was my hero," he said.

But around 2010, Deeds says that Gus’ behavior became erratic and manic, including talk of suicide.

"Neither his mother nor I wanted to accept the fact our brilliant, beautiful, precious son was sick," he said.

Gus was committed repeatedly and took medication, but it all led to the events on November 19, 2013, when Gus stabbed his father in the face before shooting and killing himself.

A report last week released by the State Inspector General’s office concludes a series of mistakes contributing to Gus Deeds’ suicide. Most glaringly, perhaps, is the finding that a mental health evaluator at Rockbridge Area Community Services in Bath County only called seven psychiatric facilities looking for a bed – instead of the 10 he claimed to have called.

Two of the three not called reportedly had beds available.

In January, Deeds returned to the General Assembly, determined to make changes. He helped pass legislation extending the amount of time allowed to find a bed for those under an emergency custody order, as well as created a registry for available beds. Deeds is also seeking a culture shift in order to de-stigmatize mental health and bring it to light.

"For most of us, it's out of sight and out of mind and we don't want to think about it...I think for someone to step up and talk about it openly is the best thing in the world for mental health," he said.