Letter: Tyson's tragedy

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Sir: Ken Jones discusses the astonishing appeal of Mike Tyson and explores the "morbid fascination" of the public who wait for the greatest sporting money-machine of our age to publicly self-destruct ("The primitive appeal of Iron Mike", 21 October). The fact that this man has a mental illness appears to have escaped him.

He says: "No amount of remorse can alter Tyson from what he has always been, what he was in the womb." He offers the old canard - people are born evil.

The greatest challenge facing psychiatry in the next century is the treatment of personality disorders in people who have suffered prolonged abuse in their formative years - a fact about Tyson's life that no one disputes.

There are eight criteria for borderline personality disorder; Mike Tyson fits all eight.

On neither side of the Atlantic is personality disorder regarded as a serious mental illness. As a result the forensic services (usually prisons) are overflowing with Mike Tysons. The treatment of personality disorder is prolonged, expensive and uncertain and there is no quick pharmacological "fix".

Tyson's career is not "an American tragedy"; it is an echo of an earlier age. In short - Bedlam, with people paying to watch behaviour over which the "attraction" has no control because of their mental illness.


School of Social Work,

Kingston University,

Kingston upon Thames, Surrey