Documents Provide Glimpses Of Ivins' State Of Mind The FBI released documents Wednesday, including e-mails written by Bruce Ivins, the Army scientist who killed himself after learning he was the prime suspect in the anthrax attacks investigation. The e-mails reflect what many call evidence of Ivins' declining grip on reality.
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NPR's Joanne Silberner and Renee Montagne discuss Bruce Ivins' apparent mental state on 'Morning Edition'

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Documents Provide Glimpses Of Ivins' State Of Mind

NPR's Joanne Silberner and Renee Montagne discuss Bruce Ivins' apparent mental state on 'Morning Edition'

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The documents released by the Justice Department also included emails in which Bruce Ivins described himself as being, at times, paranoid and delusional. NPR's health policy correspondent Joanne Silberner is here with more on what is known about Ivins's state of mind. Good morning, Joanne.

JOANNE SILBERNER: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Now, there's been a lot of hearsay, unnamed sources quoted in this investigation. What do we know for sure about Bruce Ivins?

SILBERNER: For absolutely sure, not all that much. There are no full medical reports from psychiatrists or other comments that have been made public on the medical end of it. Now the government claims he sought help from a psychiatrist and was on medication as of February 2000, and there was that report that from 2000 to 2006 he was prescribed antidepressants, anti-psychotics and anti-anxiety drugs.

Now, that doesn't tip someone into violence or homicide certainly. The other evidence that's on the record: there's testimony from a counselor at a local clinic, and his lawyer talked a little bit about his mental status. And there were emails, and some of them were in the Department of Justice release yesterday.

MONTAGNE: Let's get to those emails. I just mentioned one thing in them, that he had described himself as paranoid, for instance, but what else did they have to say?

SILBERNER: Well, let's just take an email from June of 2000. On it he wrote to a friend that he was on the antidepressant Celexa. He said that he had depressive episodes that came and went. And he said he was suffering from paranoid episodes where he felt like he was outside of his body and watching himself. And then a month later he emailed the friend saying that his psychiatrist and counselor say - and I'm going to read this, it's a quote - he said that my symptoms may not be those of a depression or bipolar disorder; they may be that of a paranoid personality disorder.

MONTAGNE: Now, this is from before the 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, right? So do authorities have much information about his life or his state of mind more recently?

SILBERNER: Well, that's also really sketchy. I mean, we do know that he was certainly under a lot of pressure. The FBI was searching his home, his office and his car. And he complained to friends that they were harassing his family. As for psychiatric care, he was in some form of group therapy. It was led by a drug and alcohol counselor, but you know, again, there's no records on that. Mental health records are generally kept very quiet.

And what I'm going to tell you next comes from court testimony by the group's counselor. She said on July 9th Ivins told the group he intended to kill some of his coworkers because he was about to be indicted on capital murder charges, and she said he had the means to do it. And she said she'd gotten him committed to a psychiatric inpatient facility on July 10th and that she was worried about her own personal safety when he got out because of a couple of phone calls that he had made to her, a couple of phone mail messages that he had left.

Now, she made these statements on July 24th and that's when she filed for a restraining order against him. She said she feared for her personal safety when Ivins got out of the institution.

MONTAGNE: Joanne, tell us a little bit more about this counselor. There's been reporting that's brought up some questions about possibly her own credibility.

SILBERNER: Well, she's not talking either. One thing that's clear, she wasn't licensed to diagnose or treat mental illness and she's the only one so far who's come forward to say Ivins had threatened homicide. She's got a police record, she's currently on probation for driving while under the influence. And the Washington Post is reporting that she has a history of drug use as well.

MONTAGNE: Now, is this a point of concern for the FBI or would've been with her as a witness?

SILBERNER: Well, they've repeatedly said that she's not a key part of their case and she also doesn't appear in any of the documents they released yesterday.

MONTAGNE: Well, just very quickly, you said Bruce Ivins's lawyer had something to say about his client. What was that?

SILBERNER: Well, here's what he said to NPR's Laura Sullivan yesterday, and this is a quote about his client. He had mental troubles but he always sought treatment for them. He was aware of his mental state and he sought to correct it and took medication for it. He never denied it.

MONTAGNE: Joanne, thanks very much.

SILBERNER: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Joanne Silberner.

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