Double Standard? Yes. But I Disagree With Your Comparison


An Open Letter to Anthea Butler

Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Graduate Chair in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dear Dr. Butler,

I read with interest your recent Op Ed piece in The Washington Post entitled: Shooters of color are called ‘terrorists’ and ‘thugs.’ Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill?’

Clearly, you were making a point about how the public and, more importantly, our justice system view persons of color and treat them differently from white suspects. As someone who has spent time inside a maximum security prison and numerous jails as a journalist, and also covered criminal trials, I agree with the observation that minorities are treated much harsher. Comparisons of incarceration rates and a visit to any death row prove that. My book, Circumstantial Evidence: Death, Life and Justice in a Southern Town, chronicles how racism contributed to the wrongful conviction of an African American man in Alabama. 

But your assertion that labeling whites “mentally ill” is a media tactic to make them more sympathetic is a red herring and your suggestion that mass murders by white shooters are excused by writers who blame our mental health system on being flawed is hyperbolic.

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Lessons I’ve Learned About Helping Someone With A Mental Disorder

Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Courtesy of Buzzfeed


(6-26-15) Five years ago, I wrote a blog about the role of families. I have rewritten it today because each week I receive emails from desperate parents asking for help. I am not a professional mental health worker. I am a father and writer. But here are several lessons that I’ve learned.

Helping Someone Who Has A Mental Illness

It’s difficult helping someone with a mental illness.

When someone becomes physically sick, a family gathers around them.  But mental disorders are not like physical ones and families…well, if you want to know how complicated relationships can be consider a recent comment sent to me by a reader. She wrote that her family abandoned her because her parents were tired of having extra “drama” in their lives.

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Seventy Year Old Painting By My Mother Is Returned To My Family: A Stranger’s Gift Of Kindness


where has this painting been for 60 years?

Where has this painting been for 70  years?

Mr. Earley. I am writing with an inquiry regarding Jean Earley, the artist…

The email inquiry came four days after I’d buried my father. It was from a stranger — a woman named Mary Beth Bower.

I recently purchased a painting by Jean Earley and was researching her on the Internet. What I was able to find out was limited to her obituary from 2013 that you wrote. The oil painting is from 1945 and based on what I read, I believe she is the artist. It’s a beautiful painting of cactus in the desert with mountains in the background. Oil on canvas. Do you know if she would be the artist? Is there anything you can tell me about her?

In my reply, I explained that Jean Earley was my mother and, she was, indeed a prolific artist. She had died on December 19, 2013.  My parents had been married 70 years and after cancer claimed her at age 94, my father’s dementia took control of his mind. I believe her passing was simply too much for him to bear. His mind locked his past behind a door and he began living entirely in the moment. Sometimes, however, memories would slip out and he would ask about her. I hung a portrait over his bed that she had done of him when they were first married. He loved her art. But the memories never lasted.

I explained that my mother had taken photographs of her paintings, especially the ones that she had sold or had given away to friends, but I couldn’t find any record in her albums of the painting that Mary Beth was describing.

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Why We Need Reforms: Two Horrific Stories About How Law Enforcement Mistreated Persons With Mental Illnesses


(June 19,2015) During America’s colonial days, there were three ways that individuals with mental illnesses were commonly treated. If they were lucky, their families took care of them. If not, they were locked in jail where they often were mistreated, or they were “warned out,” which meant a local constable escorted them to the county line and told them to start walking and never come back. 

Two horrific stories sent to me by readers this week illustrate that more than 200 years later, we are still mistreating many persons whose real crime is that they got sick.

Police in Kentucky Put Mentally Ill Man On Bus To Florida, Defying Judge’s Order, Send Him Off With $18

CARROLLTON, Ky.—Adam Horine leaned on the courtroom podium, wept and begged.

He called himself “crazy,” but insisted that he could represent himself. He said he was dying.

The hearing before Carroll District Judge Elizabeth Chandler stood out from Horine’s many other court appearances over the years for an array of mostly minor offenses. In a rambling, sometimes confusing dialogue with the judge, the 31-year-old defendant said, his voice cracking, that he loved Kentucky but “they are trying to force me out.”

Horine was absolutely right. Just hours later, he’d be embarking — alone — on a 900-mile, one-way bus trip to Florida, courtesy of the Carrollton Police Department.

“I should be in the hospital,” Horine had pleaded with the judge during the hearing. “I have mental illness and I say things I shouldn’t say. But I would never hurt anybody. I never have.”Horine-April-16-2015-Carroll-County-400x246

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Murphy Recruits 3 Big Guns To Push His Mental Health Bill; But Critics Remain Undeterred

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) recruited three heavy weights to plug his Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act legislation yesterday (June 16th) at a Capitol Hill congressional hearing.

In what easily was the most compelling written testimony submitted during the three hour hearing, Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds wrote about his efforts to help his mentally disturbed son, Gus, before the youth ended his life:

HIPAA prevented me from accessing the information I needed to keep him safe and help him towards recovery. Even though I was the one who cared for him, fed him, housed him, transported him, insured him, I was not privy to any information that could clarify for me his behaviors, his treatment plan, and symptoms to be vigilant about.

I did not know his diagnosis, prescription changes, and necessary follow-up. I had sought to have him hospitalized earlier, so he was wary of my having any information. So I was in the dark as I tried to advocate for him in the best way I could with the best information I had…

While there is no panacea, there are things to be done to improve the lives of those with mental illness, promote better outcomes, and to help give some relief to families who are struggling every day. We can accomplish this without jeopardizing the civil liberties of those with mental illness.

Rep. Murphy also recruited former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy and the past president of the American Psychiatric Association Dr. Jeffrey Liberman, to lobby for passage of his bill.

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Why Hospitals Should Care If A Discharged Patient Is Homeless


Why should hospitals care if a homeless, psychotic patient has a decent place to live after that person is discharged?

Because if they don’t, it’s going to cost them money.

Section 3025 of the Affordable Care Act established the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, which penalizes hospitals for “excess readmissions.”

What is an “excess readmission?”

As defined by the act, an excess readmission happens when someone is re-admitted to a hospital for treatment of the same health problem within 30 days after they were discharged.

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