Federal Prosecutors’ Thirst For Revenge: The Nexus Between Robin Williams and John Hinckley

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(8-18-2014)  Robin Williams’ suicide touched a wide swath and judging from the number of emails that I received, those of us who deal with mental illnesses  felt especially compelled to comment. But while Williams’ death saddened me, it was a less noticed news item last week that alarmed me.

Federal prosecutors announced they were considering filing new charges against would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr. after a Virginia medical examiner ruled that former White House press Secretary James Brady’s recent death was a homicide.

Hinckley shot Brady while trying to kill President Ronald Reagan in 1981 outside a Washington D.C. hotel. However, Brady didn’t die until earlier this month while living in a Virginia retirement home. He was 73 years old.

For the past 33 years, Hinckley has been confined mostly in a locked mental ward at St. Elizabeths Hospital where he was sent in 1982 after jurors found him not guilty by reason of insanity. In December, a judge ruled that Hinckley, now 59, could spend 17 days a month at his mother’s gated Virginia community where he must be under supervision. He is required to wear a GPS device when he is not supervised. His lawyers have pushed for 24 days of supervised visits and eventually hope he can return to society unsupervised.

Why would federal prosecutors put Hinckley on trial for murder, especially since most legal experts say it would be impossible to win such a case and have questioned what would be gained if they did?

It could be argued prosecutors are being diligent because they suspect Hinckley is still dangerous. A more cynical view is their announcement was a publicity stunt to assure the public they are being “tough” on crime.

For those of us with family members who have run afoul of the law while in the midst of a psychotic episode, there is a more frightening explanation. The prosecutors’ actions reflect an underlying disbelief in our society that mental health treatment works, that individuals can recover, and when they do, they deserve to be welcomed back into society.

More than 360,000 Americans, who have been diagnosed with serious mental disorders, are currently locked up in jails and prisons, often for minor crimes such as trespassing. Studies show defendants with known mental health issues spend three times longer in our jails than others charged with identical offenses. Many find it difficult to obtain housing and employment after they are released because of lingering suspicion and stigma. Often they hide their medical diagnosis from their friends. Would you want your son or daughter marrying someone who had been diagnosed with a mental illness? Now substitute the word “a heart condition” for mental illness. Would you feel the same anxiety even though both are considered medical problems?

Robin Williams was certainly never charged with a violent act. His mental troubles and addictions caused him to turn inward and harm himself. Hinckley’s disorders caused him to act out and tragically hurt others. There is a difference and society must react accordingly. But we must also realize there is a nexus.  Both deserve our understanding and compassion.

The public’s reaction to the loss of Robin Williams shows the U.S.A.’s great sympathy for those suffering with mental disorders. The federal prosecutors’ announcement shows we still have far to go.

Why You Should Speak Out: Helping Others By Telling Our Stories

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8-15-2014               From My Files Friday : Your words matter!

 A mother wrote to me several years ago about her adult son, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but had refused to see a psychiatrist or accept her help. He became more and more distraught and psychotic but there was little she could do because he was not a danger to himself or anyone else and he was convinced that there was nothing wrong with him.
I remember writing her an encouraging note and  wondering later what had happened to her and her son.  More than a year later, sent me this note and gave me permission to share it with you.
 I just want to tell you how, I believe, that you helped to get my son into treatment that he has steadfastly resisted for these many years. I think I told you of the difficult time I have had to get him to cooperate and to take his medicine correctly for his bi-polar. After he became diabetic too, he was just as much in denial and un-cooperative. I was paying for his apartment and knew he was not taking care of himself. However, he would refuse all of my offers to help him wash his clothes, clean his apartment or any other assistance. His siblings were, also, turned down. He withdrew from all of us.

 Finally, I came to the conclusion that it would only be when he hit “rock bottom” that he MIGHT want help. The day before I was to leave on a trip, he called me and asked for help. On my return, I got him into an assisted living home. He is now 100% better. His diabetes is under control and he is very stable with the bi-polar.  I don’t know where we go from here but I am happy, for now, that he is clean and well cared for.
 In cleaning his extremely dirty apartment, I came across a little cache of newspaper clippings and papers  that he had been carrying in his pockets for some time. All these years he had avoided reading anything that I have suggested to learn more about his illness. He didn’t even want to hear the words mental illness and would get mad at me any time I mentioned it.
I discovered he had been carrying an article that you had written concerning a doughnut business somewhere that was stigmatizing to the mentally ill. The article was so greasy and worn that I could barely read it but I could see you had written it and you told of your son’s illness and your struggle to get help for him. The main thing I think that caught his attention was that mental illnesses should be accepted as any other illness of the body without the shame and stigma surrounding it.
  I don’t  know what brought him to his senses but I really think your article helped to get him to where he is now.
It is flattering to think that something I wrote encouraged her son. But the reason why I am sharing this mother’s email is not because I want to pat myself on the back.
Rather it is to make a point.
The article that her son was carrying appeared in USA TODAY and can be read here.   I complained in it about a California business named Psycho Donuts which made fun of persons with mental illnesses. I wrote the editorial because I wanted to speak out against stigma. The thought that a man in his 60s with a mental illness might read the article and it might help him seek treatment never entered my mind.
 And that’s the point.
 We often don’t know the impact of our actions when we speak out on behalf of persons with mental illnesses, fight stigma, or call for mental health reforms. We don’t know how our words may affect someone else — even years after we have spoken them. This is why we need to continue to talk and write about these issues even when it seems that no one may be listening.  Remember, you may never know who you are helping when you tell your story — and you will never help anyone if you assume no one is listening and miss an opportunity by remaining silent.
(A variation of this blog was first published in 2010. Mental illness never takes a vacation, but I do.  I will be publishing guest blogs and some of my most popular while I am away. I hope all of you are enjoying the final days of summer. Thanks, as always, for your support.   Pete Earley)

The Power of One: Helping Others Find Hope With Visits and I-Pads

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John with his grandmother before his death

 

Oasis

By Bruce Hanson

 Twenty-one months ago, my son John passed away abruptly and unexpectedly at a local state mental hospital.  We had struggled with his schizophrenia for 20 years.  I’d love to tell you that, since the stress of dealing with his illness was relieved, I’ve been doing really well.
 That would be a lie.
Living that way for so long literally changed the landscape of my brain, and sadly, PTSD is my constant companion.  That said, there HAVE been a number of wonderful experiences since then.
One I want to share with you now.  I share in hopes that you might find your pilot light lit to go out and suggest to a mental health facility that you frequent that they try the same thing I have.

For the last four years of his life, John spent most of his time at the Colorado State Mental Hospital at Ft. Logan.  I visited two or three times a week during that period.  I was struck by the fact that a place that desperately needed a demeanor of hope was in fact a kind of purgatory.  People going in and out and back in on a regular basis.  The family visitation room could have been an interrogation room for the National Security Agency. Beyond Bleak.
I vowed to God and to myself to try to do something to change that.  To give my many friends there something cool in an uncool world.
They had VCR’s, CD and even cassette players, and in a world where APPS rule, they were still doing word searches on mimeographed sheets.  I wanted to give them iPads.
It’s not nearly enough, but on the first, second, and fifth Tuesdays, I go to Resource Night at the hospital.  I have collected seven iPads of varying ages.  Clients arrive in groups of 3 up to 7.  You can imagine they don’t enter with beaming smiles.  Wait for about 20 minutes.
 A young man from Eritrea, doesn’t speak English, finds music from his homeland and with YouTube and headphones, he is no longer at Ft Logan.  He hugged me when he left.  I know that’s a No No, but I don’t care.  An older lady  who once lived in London leaves the library to travel to her old neighborhood.  Two clients come in with two staff members each.  You know what that means.  They dare me to make them smile.  Twenty minutes later, after Subway Surfer and Candy Crush, they begrudgingly grin.
On the way out, they ask my name.  The stories could go on and on.  Singing, laughing, smiling.  I don’t need a car to go home.  I can just float home on the joy I feel.
All that is needed are a few iPads, some headphones, and someone who cares about these people I love.  Please consider trying to make this happen at your hospital or local mental health center.  It’s truly life changing. For Everyone.
Bruce Hanson
Westminster Colorado
[email protected]
(Mental illness never takes a vacation, but I do.  I will be publishing guest blogs and some of my most popular while I am away. I hope all of you are enjoying the final days of summer. Thanks, as always, for your support.   Pete Earley)

 

Mental Illness Claims Another Wonderful Soul: Robin Williams thanks for the smiles! You Will Be Missed.

Bipolar disorder results in 9.2 years reduction in expected life span, and as many as one in five patients with bipolar disorder completes suicide. (National Institute of Mental Health)

NAMI Reacts to Critics Who Claim It Hasn’t Done Enough To Rally Members In Support Of Murphy’s Bill

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Mary Giliberti, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has written a blog in response to critics who have complained recently that NAMI has not done enough to support passage of Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim Murphy’s controversial Helping Families In Mental Health Crisis Act.

People on both sides of the issues have criticized NAMI for either supporting Representative Murphy’s bill or not being supportive enough. Although criticism can be constructive, some has been based on incomplete information. Some have failed to appreciate the harm that can come from infighting in any community and the need to find common ground and real solutions that can be enacted into law.

Here is a copy of Director Giliberti’s post.

Setting the Record Straight

 By Mary Giliberti, NAMI Executive Director

As Congress goes into its August recess, it has yet to act on legislative proposals to improve mental health care in the U.S.  Nearly two years after the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy in Newtown, Conn. focused attention on the nation’s broken mental health system, there has been much discussion in Congress about how to improve mental health care but very little resolution.

Two significant bills have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, one by Representative Tim Murphy (R – Pa.), the other by Congressman Ron Barber (D. – Ariz.).  Both bills contain many excellent provisions that, if enacted, would represent major improvements in the mental health system.

For example, both bills include urgent resources for suicide prevention. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for young adults in the U.S. Having lost someone close to me to suicide, I know the consequences of inaction in this area and the devastating impact of suicide on families and those close to the person.

Both bills also contain multiple provisions to put more resources into jail diversion and community reentry for individuals living with mental illness involved with the criminal justice system. The criminalization of people living with mental illness is a profound injustice and violation of human rights. Recently, I visited the Cook County jail in Chicago and saw firsthand why this correctional institution has been characterized as the largest de-facto mental health treatment facility in the U.S. The numbers of people with mental illness housed there was sickening.

The two bills also contain provisions to protect access to psychiatric medications in Medicaid and Medicare. Both would eliminate the exclusion of mental health providers from existing federal resources to expand and improve health information technology and electronic health information systems. Both bills provide resources for better integration of mental and physical health care. Finally, both would permit same day billing in Medicaid for physical and mental health services—something which is currently not permitted and imposes terrible burdens on people who have to make separate appointments and arrange transportation multiple times.

Representative Murphy has been tireless in his efforts over the past two years to elevate attention to issues and promote improvements in access and quality of mental health services. Prior to his hearings, there was little discussion on Capitol Hill of the poor outcomes experienced by far too many people living with mental illness. NAMI is grateful to him for his ongoing efforts. His dedication to improving mental health treatment and services cannot be questioned.

Representative Murphy’s bill is not without controversy and there have been differences of opinion within the mental health community over some provisions. These include provisions pertaining to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), involuntary inpatient and outpatient commitment, the federal health privacy law (HIPAA), the Medicaid prohibition on paying for certain inpatient psychiatric treatment, and the federally funded Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) program.

People on both sides of the issues have criticized NAMI for either supporting Representative Murphy’s bill or not being supportive enough. Although criticism can be constructive, some has been based on incomplete information. Some have failed to appreciate the harm that can come from infighting in any community and the need to find common ground and real solutions that can be enacted into law.

In a previous job, I served as disability counsel to the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education and Pensions (HELP) Committee. This experience more than any other shapes how I look at comprehensive mental health legislation. During my time on the Hill, I worked on several major bills and found that compromise led to bills that could clear both parties and both houses and usually led to policies that were successfully implemented. In the polarized political climate that currently prevails in Congress, sharp disagreements about specific provisions in bills only guarantee that nothing will pass.

Mental illness does not discriminate. It affects Republicans and Democrats—and their families—alike. In the weeks remaining before Congress adjourns, we need to drive that message home.

NAMI has been working hard behind the scenes to build consensus on some of the issues that are controversial. For example, we have recommended an alternative approach on HIPAA that would instill guidance in federal law clarifying that communication with families and caregivers is preferable in treatment and when it is permitted or not permitted.

NAMI has long advocated repealing completely the federal Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion that prohibits federal Medicaid dollars from paying for inpatient treatment in certain types of psychiatric hospitals and facilities. Nonetheless, we support a narrower provision in the Murphy bill that would allow federal Medicaid dollars to be used for short-term acute inpatient psychiatric treatment. This represents reasonable compromise. Unfortunately, the IMD exclusion is not addressed in Representative Barber’s bill. NAMI continues to urge individuals and families affected by mental illness to call on Members of Congress to include it in comprehensive mental health legislation.

But repealing the IMD exclusion is not enough. A major journal article this month noted abysmal rates of follow-up care for people after they leave hospitals. The National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD) recently issued a report which noted that inpatient beds must be part of community-based systems of care, not apart from them.

We must demand better coordination of care for people reentering communities and better long term outcomes in treatment. Data on quality and outcomes of services in the mental health field is sorely lacking. Therefore, NAMI also strongly supports Representative Murphy’s call to create a national mental health policy laboratory to track outcomes.

Court-ordered Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) is sometimes called the “third rail” in the mental health community for major reform. There are sharply polarized opinions on either side.  They all should be respected in a dialogue to seek common ground. NAMI policy supports AOT as a last resort. However, we urge more focus on earlier options (“first resorts”) because they can reduce crises before they occur and ensure that AOT is used for the right reasons—not because people cannot get help earlier on a voluntary basis.

NAMI also strongly supports first-episode psychosis programs that provide early intervention when young people first show symptoms of psychosis, offering treatment and coping strategies, support to families, and education and employment support services.  Comprehensive mental health legislation should support such programs including mechanisms for paying for such treatment through Medicaid and other funding sources.

Some people believe NAMI has not advocated for the elimination of SAMHSA because we receive money from the agency. In full disclosure, we receive 3 percent of our funding from SAMHSA. NAMI is funded by SAMHSA to run the STAR Center, a technical assistance project that among other things, promotes outreach to diverse cultural and age groups of people with mental illness—as well as individuals and families  involved in the criminal justice system.

Even if NAMI’s funding from SAMHSA were larger, concerns that this compromises our advocacy are unwarranted. We will continue to urge SAMHSA and other federal agencies administering programs relevant to mental illness to focus resources on the needs of those whose lives have been significantly affected by mental illness.

It is easy to criticize legislative proposals. It is harder to forge compromise. NAMI wants meaningful solutions to the mental health crisis in America. We need assertive action by Congress now.

The purity of rigid positions means little to a person sitting in a jail cell today who was in need of crisis care the night before, or to the family of this person. They mean little to a person living with both schizophrenia and diabetes who cannot get integrated treatment—and whose lifespan is likely to be 25 years shorter than the general population. It is time to join together to fight against the abysmal mental health system, not each other. If we fail to do so, we will have only ourselves to blame if Congress does nothing.

On Thursday, September 4, attendees of the NAMI Convention and advocates throughout the country have the opportunity to have their voices heard on the importance of Congressional action through a National Day of Action. The message will be clear and simple—Congress must #Act4MentalHealth and pass comprehensive legislation to improve mental health care this year! Stay alert for more information about the National Day of Action in the coming weeks.

Behind Joe’s Bipolar Battle: The Power of Storytelling

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August 4th, 2014

A blog that I published recently entitled How Bipolar Disorder Destroyed Joe’s Life attracted more than 20,000 readers, making it one of my most popular. That’s  a testament to the power of stories told from the heart.  It’s author, Kathy Maloney, was profiled in a subsequent story.

The Story Behind the Story

By Shannon Mullen, Reporter Asubry Park Press, July 7, 2014

They say redheads shouldn’t wear pink, but Kathy Maloney has never been the type to let the theys of this world tell her what she can and cannot do. That explains why, late one Saturday afternoon in 1980, an 18-year-old Maloney ducked into the Simco shoe store in downtown West New York, determined to buy the hot pink boots that had caught her eye earlier in the day.

Her timing was terrible. She heard the door lock behind her, felt a gun at her back, and quickly deduced she’d just stumbled into an armed robbery.

Two well-dressed men led her to a back room and forced her to sit on the floor with a handful of other terrified customers and employees. Eventually, the robbers fled with a haul of cash and valuables.

You know you’ve had “an eventful life,” as Maloney describes it, when an experience like that hardly seems worth mentioning now. If someone were ever to make a movie based on Maloney’s life story, that scene might not even make the final cut.

MALONEY: Thanks for checking on me, Rose

There’s just so much other ground to cover: growing up with a suicidal mother, who’d habitually kiss her daughters goodbye in the morning, telling them she’d be dead when they came home from school; losing her sister to a fatal drug addiction, then waging an Erin Brockovich-like crusade to put the dentist who illegally provided her with painkiller prescriptions behind bars, and raising her sister’s orphaned daughter.

Then there’s her husband Joe’s tragic, eight-year battle with mental illness, which Maloney recently chronicled in “Life with Joe,” a story that quickly went viral after it was published in the Asbury Park Press May 11.

Since the story appeared, Maloney, an administrative assistant in the newspaper’s design studio, has been inundated with emails, notes and phone calls from as far away as Ireland, where she has relatives.

One of the emails came from a woman in Ireland who lost her son to suicide. “There are so many points in the article that I can relate to,” she wrote. “I think it is such a brave thing to share your experience, where I can’t approach it. I wish I could.”

Another woman called to share her own experiences with her brother, now a patient at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. The two spoke for nearly an hour.

“I felt like I knew her. Even though this is my brother, not my husband, I felt her pain,” the woman said later.

“Life with Joe” has since been picked up by other Gannett Co. Inc. newspapers around the country, as well as The Journal, an Irish news site similar to the Huffington Post. On the Press’ website, the story has generated more page views online than many staff writers garner after months of work — quite an achievement, considering that Maloney isn’t a member of the Press’ reporting staff.

Pete Earley, a former Washington Post reporter and best-selling author whose book,“Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness” (Penguin Group, 2007), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, said his own mental health-focused blog and Facebook page both exploded after he posted a version of Maloney’s story.

Maloney has “done something incredible,” Earley said, by humanizing an issue that rarely receives media attention unless there is a shooting or some other act of violence by a mentally ill person in the news.

The story — and the family snapshots that accompanied it — resonate with readers “because that’s not the normal face you see with mental illness,” he said.

“You’re like, ‘Wow, these could be my neighbors.’ “

Maloney said she approached editors with the story idea to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month in May. Since her husband’s death from cancer in 2011, she feels a passion to educate the public — and lawmakers, in particular — about how a disjointed mental health care system often leaves families like hers with a mentally ill loved one to fend for themselves.

“I knew it wasn’t right, what happened to Joe,” said Maloney, 52, of Howell.

In her case, her once gregarious, doting husband became increasingly erratic and verbally abusive following a devastating job loss. For years, Joe refused treatment for bipolar II disorder and the neck cancer that developed later and ultimately killed him. He was 52.

“Life with Joe” came on the heels of Maloney’s first foray onto the Press’ editorial pages in March, “My Journey of Discovery,” about her quest to rediscover her family’s roots in rural Ireland. That story, too, generated heavy web traffic and a flood of emails. It has since been re-published in The Journal and the Irish Echo, the oldest Irish-American newspaper in the U.S.

“I have just finished reading about your recent experiences in Ireland,” read one email, from an admirer in Cork, Ireland, “and I am smiling within.”

The remarkable response Maloney has received begs the question: What’s next for her?

The short answer, Maloney said, is that she’s writing a memoir and searching for an agent and publisher.

God knows there’s enough material.

Breaking the silence

In the U.S., 1 in 4 adults suffers from a diagnosable mental illness, studies show. Yet to judge by how rarely the topic is discussed, you’d think it was more like 1 in 4,000.

Maloney herself was once reticent to broach the subject. Before “Life with Joe” came out, few of her co-workers at the Press, where she has worked for the past 17 years, were aware of the gravity of her husband’s health problems.

No one would have guessed that the same, wise-cracking colleague who relished the give-and-take of a spirited political debate kept a baseball bat by her bed, for protection. Or that she had $3,000 in emergency cash locked in her work station’s drawer, fearing that her impulsive husband would run through every cent they had.

Also in the drawer was a sealed letter for her supervisor — to be opened in the event that Joe ever acted on his threats to hurt her, she said — explaining that she knew her husband was seriously ill, and that she had tried to get him help.

Impactful as it is, “Life with Joe” only scratches the surface of what Maloney and her daughter, Kelly, went through.

“It was a nightmare,” said Kelly Maloney, 23, of Point Pleasant. “It was worse than a scary movie, because you weren’t watching it, you were living it every day.”

This wasn’t Kathy Maloney’s first brush with mental illness.

Born Kathleen Concannon, Maloney grew up in tiny Guttenberg, a Hudson County hamlet just four blocks wide that’s considered to be the most densely populated incorporated place in the U.S.

It was only many years later, when Joe became ill, that Maloney began to fully realize that her own mother, a beautiful woman who used to wear pearls around their apartment, suffered from a condition very much like Joe’s — perhaps postpartum depression, bioplar disorder, or some combination of the two, Maloney now believes.

On a couple of occasions, Maloney said, her mother attacked her father with a kitchen knife. Afterward, they’d act as if nothing happened.

Through it all, her father, the late Edwin Concannon, provided a steadying influence, she said. A maintenance man for Western Electric, he’d get his two girls out of the house as much as possible, bringing them to Coney Island or some other fun place, she said.

“My father was everything to me,” she said. “Anything I am today is because of my father, and the love and respect and care he showed me. He really, really told me how special I was, and how smart I was, and how I could do anything.”

Strong personality

Being blessed with an indomitable personality has also served her well.

“When I say I’m going to do something,” she said, “I do it.”

A case in point: When the local police refused to investigate the dentist, a neighbor of her sister Eva’s, Maloney researched her options, contacted the state medical board, and after criminal charges were filed against the woman, went over the prosecutor’s head to ask the judge to set aside a plea deal that would have allowed the dentist to avoid jail. The judge wound up imposing a 90-day jail sentence instead.

A report card Maloney received in kindergarten is telling. While earning a good mark for “shows initiative,” she was given “N”s — for “needs improvement” — for “respects authority,” “obeys the rules” and “exerts self control.”

The swift kick she dealt the teacher, after the boy she sat next to was told to move his seat, may have had something to do with that. A snapshot of the two kindergartners, who are friendly to this day, shows a purse-lipped Maloney, hands on hips, in her patent leather shoes and fiery, red dress, with an expression that says, “Tread carefully.”

So it was all she could do, the day of the shoe store robbery, not to yield to the impulse to try to turn the tables on her two assailants.

“I saw what possibly could happen but I was able to keep calm and talk myself through it,” she said. “I think that, in my life, I’ve done that a lot.”

As it was, when the men demanded that everyone hand over their money and valuables, Maloney risked getting herself killed by furtively detaching a beloved shamrock charm from her necklace, and dropping it down her shirt.

Thirty-six years later, that shamrock still hangs from her neck.

Cruel parallels

When she met Joe, Maloney thought she had found a dependable, rock-solid man like her father. And for the first 18 years of their marriage, that’s exactly the kind of guy he was.

“They had the best marriage of anybody I’ve ever known,” said Maloney’s lifelong friend, Katie Philpott, of Livingston.

“When I married Joe I remember thinking, ‘Thank God that’s over with, and I never have to go through that again,’ ” Maloney recalled, referring to the difficulties she faced with her mother.

“It was almost cruel,” she said, “that it would happen a second time.”

There were disturbing parallels. When Maloney threatened divorce, for example, Joe responded by shutting off the power in their home, she said. Maloney said her mother used to do the same thing when she was angry with her father.

Also like Joe, Maloney’s mother remained in denial about having cancer, until it was too late. She died at age 56.

Though he never physically harmed her, Joe used to leave abusive messages on Sticky Notes for her to find, Maloney said.

Typically, there would be a dozen or more notes scattered around the house. One day, she came downstairs to find a single note, stuck to the kitchen counter.

Seized with dread, she picked up the note and read it.

“Please forgive me + help me,” it said.

Sadly, despite her best efforts, Maloney couldn’t help Joe.

Now her focus is on helping other families avoid the same fate. Her hope is that her as-yet-unfinished book, which will also cover the happier life she’s made for herself now, can reach an even wider audience, particularly in Ireland, where she said mental illness is just as pervasive as it is in the U.S., but even more stigmatized.

Moving on

Despite her grief, she’s made a concerted effort to “make myself happy.” She’s gone out on a few dates, been whale watching in Mexico, swum with sea lions, and even bought a house in County Leitrim, Ireland, where her father’s family is from.

Eventually, she plans to move there, and continue to share her story and advocate for mental health reforms.

“I believe in God, and I have to think that it happened for a reason,” she said of the hardships she’s faced.

“Maybe I’m supposed to do something about it,” she said. “So I’m open to the possibilities.”