Schizophrenia turns a Harvard graduate into a homeless person

Photo: Washington Post

By NewsGram Staff Writer

Alfred Postell, a bearded homeless man wearing a towel on his head, roams on the streets of Washington, especially around the intersection of 17th and I Streets NW. He was a Harvard Law school graduate who had graduated with Chief Justice John Roberts. But, after schizophrenia took over him some thirty years back, he never recovered according to The Independent.

Photo: Washington Post
Photo: Washington Post

People in the surrounding areas who frequently saw this homeless man were completely unaware of his history. It was only when media uncovered his past and published reports about it that people came to recognize him.

The Independent quotes one such person who said: “We look at the homeless man sitting on a crate and we think, ‘Smelly beggar.’ We ask ourselves how they can live like that. (…) But many also were full of hopes, dreams and possibilities beyond comprehension before mental illness struck them down.”

But, Alfred Postell refuses to take medication for his illness. The guidelines does not allow the District’s Department of Behavioral Health to administer medication to a mentally ill person without his consent, except in cases where a doctor believes the person to be harmful to himself or others.

Green Door, a mental health agency, had taken him under care in February. But he refused to take any medication.

He remained non-compliant with treatment over the next month and was found by the treatment team on a downtown street in D.C. on March 18, 2015,” writes the psychologist of the Green Door who treated Alfred Postell according to The Independent. She further writes that he willingly spoke to the staff who wanted to monitor his progress, but refused to take any medication.

Green Door President Richard Bebout lists two probable reasons why many mentally-ill homeless people refuse to take help from service agencies: one, the paranoia that manifests due to mental illness; two, “adapted fearfulness.”

Some homeless people who had previously undergone bad experiences while living in the shelter (like being attacked), tend to hold on to their fears and hence are distrustful of service agencies.

For these reasons, people like Alfred Postell refuse to take any medication or help from service agencies, and they prefer to live on their own way as they see fit.