Debate: The Otta murders are a declaration of bankruptcy for Norwegian psychiatry

DEALING WITH PSYCHIATRY: – Is this how we want it to be in Norwegian psychiatry? I say a clear no, writes Robert Gjetsund, the son of the two killed in Otta last summer. Photo: Espen Sjølingstad Hoen / VG

I want a broad political debate on how Norwegian psychiatry can be improved.

This is a chronicle. The chronicle expresses the writer’s attitude. You can submit chronicles and debate entries to VG here.


On the first of August 2022, Herma and Odd Gjetsund were brutally stabbed to death and mutilated in their own home. The perpetrator was a seriously psychiatrically ill patient with more than 25 years of history from Norwegian psychiatry.

The police’s investigation, forensic psychiatric reports, the State Administrator’s supervision report and witness interviews in the trial show that my parents were accidental victims of a patient who was getting progressively worse in the time before the incident and who was psychotic at the time of the crime.

During his arrest, he told police that the murders were a cry for help.

To health personnel, he had expressed his anger towards women, said that he wanted to stab women in the abdomen with a knife and even asked to be admitted to Reinsvoll – a unit for emergency psychiatry, in the time before the murders.

Nevertheless, health personnel did not follow up on the signals he gave. The result was two innocent deaths, families in bottomless grief and a verdict on compulsory mental health care. How could that happen?

The state administrator’s report to the Norwegian Health Authority concluded that there had been no breach of health legislation – the health care was provided “in line with good practice”.

The state administrator did not find that the health personnel should have understood that the patient could commit serious acts of violence.

Given my knowledge of the case, I strongly disagree with this assessment and believe that these murders, along with many similar murders in recent years, are a declaration of bankruptcy for psychiatry.

I want a broad political debate on how Norwegian psychiatry can be improved.

An incident like the Otta murders has many victims. Of course, a seriously psychiatrically ill patient is himself a victim of his actions. Perhaps the health services were not good enough for the patient who eventually ended up in a psychotic state where the outcome was tragic.

But society is also a victim of the murders.

Both we as relatives, our families, friends and acquaintances are left with great losses and pain that may last for the rest of our lives.

Society must have safeguards that ensure that citizens do not become accidental victims of failed psychiatric treatment.

I will also highlight healthcare personnel as victims in the case. After the murders, I have received many inquiries from people who work in psychiatry such as nurses, specialists and doctors.

They support my wish for a debate about how psychiatry is practiced in Norway and say they are working under great pressure with few resources and inadequate tools for interaction.

also read

Both parents killed: – We bear no grudge against the perpetrator

Herma and Odd were brutally killed by the mentally ill neighbour. When their children wrote the obituary, they made an unusual choice.

We have enough data to draw a gloomy picture of Norwegian psychiatry today. In December last year, Kripos presented a report showing that almost 1 in 3 murders in Norway in the period 2014-2021 were committed by people with serious mental disorders.

Moreover, the number of such murders is increasing rapidly. There were 53 per cent more murders committed in the latter half of the period and Kripos expects a continued increase.

Over the past 18 years, the number of bed days in psychiatry has decreased from 1.8 million to 806,000, while the number of outpatient consultations in psychiatry has increased from 838,000 in 2002 to 3.3 million in 2020. Almost 2,200 beds have been closed during the period .

In 2021, the National Audit Office used the terms serious and highly objectionable in its investigation of the mental health services. None of the regional healthcare organizations had managed to fulfill a rule from 2014 that mental healthcare should be prioritized over somatics.

The survey also showed that many people with mental disorders had to wait 1-2 years for health care.

State Secretary Karl Kristian Bekeng (Ap) in the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs said in an interview on Lørdagsrevyen on 13 May this year that the Minister of Health will present an escalation plan for mental health.

also read

Man sentenced to compulsory mental health care for the double murder in Otta

The man in his 40s who killed a married couple in Otta last August has been sentenced to compulsory mental health care.

It makes for interesting reading when you know that Health Minister Ingvild Kjerkhol, in his hospital speech as recently as January this year, asked hospitals to cut treatment services and significantly reduce the use of substitutes.

Oslo University Hospital has announced that it will save NOK 200 million in 2023, among other things by closing inpatient beds and splitting up expertise environments.

Is this how we want it in Norwegian psychiatry? I say a clear and unequivocal no.

And calls on the Minister, the health organizations and the municipalities to debate how we are going to improve the situation for patients, society and staff in psychiatry.


Published: 25/05/23 at 19:14

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The article is in Norwegian

Tags: Debate Otta murders declaration bankruptcy Norwegian psychiatry


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