October 26, 2015

Mental Health Leader: Attorneys in Homecoming Case Should Watch Words

Print More

The head of Mental Health Association Oklahoma has sent a letter to the district attorney and defense lawyer in the Stillwater homecoming crash case advising against premature public statements about the role of mental illness in the tragedy.

Michael Brose, executive director of the association, sent the letter to District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas and Tony Coleman, the attorney representing the suspect in the crash at the homecoming parade Saturday that killed four and injured dozens of others.

Coleman has said there are questions about the mental competency of Adacia Chambers, 25, who is accused of driving her car into a crowd of people on Saturday morning. Austin said in a new release that Chamber’s actions, as alleged in an affidavit filed in court, “demonstrate a depraved mind and indifference to human life.”

Brose’s letter reads:

Dear Mr. Coleman and District Attorney Thomas,

As a statewide mental health advocacy organization, we want to express our concerns regarding what appears to be a rush to make public statements regarding the possible contributing factors which may or may not have been involved in the horrific tragedy in Stillwater this past Saturday.

It is important in this early stage of your investigations for all public statements to refrain from language which may ultimately be false, inaccurate, stigmatizing or erroneous, which could be not only misleading, but could do harm to innocent people, or worse, to the victims of this terrible situation. Any rush to judgement regarding causes, whether they be attributed to physical health, mental health, and/or substance abuse in the absence of actual facts obtained from toxicology reports and/or from qualified professionals is inappropriate, and could have negative impact to people living and working in recovery from diabetes, mental illness, substance abuse and/or other forms of health issues or disability.

If I can be of further assistance to you as you perform your very difficult and important work in the midst of a heartbreaking event and aftermath, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Respectfully,

Michael W. Brose, MSW
Executive Director
Mental Health Association Oklahoma