In Essay From 2012, Deborah Danner Discusses How Police Treat People With Mental Illness

By Yessenia Funes Oct 21, 2016

In 2012, Deborah Danner, the 66-year-old mentally ill Black woman who was fatally shot by New York Police Department sergeant Hugh Barry on October 18, penned a foretelling essay titled “Living With Schizophrenia.” 

The piece, which The New York Times published online, states, “We are all aware of the all too frequent news stories about the mentally ill who come up against law enforcement instead of mental health professionals and end up dead.”

This is what happened to Danner—and 182 others this year. Twenty-three percent of all people police have killed this year suffered from mental illness, according to The Washington Post. Her essay references the death of Eleanor Bumpurs in 1984, another Black woman in her late 60s with a history of mental illness. She was killed her in her Bronx apartment by Officer Stephen Sullivan.

The New York Daily News reports that Danner shared the essay with an attorney who represented her in a guardianship case. He released it after hearing of her death.

The essay also touches on the hardship of her mental illness, which she calls a curse and a nightmare. Danner writes about stigma in the workplace, family tensions, suicidal thoughts and the flashbacks of moments where she experiences a “blue funk,” as she called her episodes.

 “I smile rarely,” Danner concludes, “but I am surviving.”