Knott’s Berry Farm Opens Stigmatizing Ride: LA Times Gushes About It: Shame On Both


(9-26-16) Mental health advocates are expressing outrage about a new Halloween amusement park ride that demonizes individuals with psychiatric disorders.

Initially called: Fear VR: 5150, the virtual reality “haunted experience” promises to scare patrons by transporting them inside a psychiatric hospital where a demonically possessed patient is on the loose.

The 5150, which refers to California police code for a mentally ill person who is a danger to himself or others, was dropped from the title last week after several bloggers, including my friend, Chrisa Hickey at The Mindstorm, joined the National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter in Orange County in complaining to the ride’s makers — Hollow Studios — and Knott’s Berry Farm where it is being featured.

Knott’s Berry Farms is offering the ride as part of a seasonal Halloween Haunt. It also is being featured at California’s Great America park in Santa Clara and Canada’s Wonderland outside Toronto.

News of the offensive ride spread after The Los Angeles Times (a paper whose editors should have known better) published a flattering review of the ride written by Brady MacDonald who described his five minute “VR experience” as “immersive, captivating and scary.”

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Little Miracles Change Lives: I Am Deeply Touched By The Banyan’s Rescue Of Homeless, Ill Women In India


(9-23-16) I was not the most eloquent speaker during the three-day Conference on Justice and the Rights of Homeless Persons with Mental Health Issues that I attended in Chennai, India earlier this month.

An Indian woman, at times poking her finger in the air to emphasis her point, was far more persuasive — and I didn’t understand a word that she was saying because she was not speaking English.

I had an interpreter but even before her words were translated, I could tell from watching her and listening to her emotional inflections that her’s was a powerful testimony.

She had been one of the known 8,000 homeless Indians living on the streets of Chennai (population 4.6 million) when she was caught by the police trying to sell her baby son for a bowl of rice. She was psychotic and starving. Fortunately, the police delivered her to The Banyan, the city’s largest mental health service that rescues women, rather than locking her in jail.

Now fully recovered, she lives with her son in a rural area outside the city where she works as a Banyan trained social worker in small villages seeking out and helping women who have untreated mental illnesses and often have been driven from their homes.

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Mental Illness Treatment In India Is Scarce; Abuses And Neglect Too Common


(9-21-16) This is the second in a three part series that I am writing about my recent trip to India to speak about mental health reform.

Mental health services in India are scarce and living conditions for many of those who are ill often border on being barbaric. This is especially true for women and children who find themselves homeless and abandoned on the streets or confined in facilities where restraints are commonly used and physical and sexual abuses are all too common.

During my short visit to Chennai for the three day summit, I wasn’t able to do much except visit a handful of local facilities and listen to personal stories that I later augmented with articles and news reports. Everyone readily admitted to me that India faces incredible challenges. Much of the problem is because of scale. India has a population of 1.3 billion, has more than two thousand different ethnic groups, and has two nationally recognized languages. Some 58% of its residents earn less than $3 per day, putting them under worldwide poverty guidelines.

As is true in other nations, serious mental illnesses – such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – are thought to be prevalent in seven percent of the population. In India that translates to multi-millions, yet there are only an estimated 40,000 mental health beds nationally in government and private hospitals. The widespread poverty in India causes high numbers of other mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. In the past decade, suicides have jumped 22 percent. It’s estimated that only one in four Indians have access to any sort of psychiatric care, and that is strictly among the middle and wealthy class.  In India, insurance companies do not pay for psychiatric care.

For the poor, there are little or no services and stories of abuse and neglect routinely surface. In 2001, a fire at a mental facility killed 26 persons who were burned alive chained to their beds. More recently, a children’s hospital came under public criticism when it was revealed that guards were knocking out the youngsters’ teeth so that they could better perform oral sex on the staff. Between 2010 and 2013, as many as 84 patients died in a single state-run mental hospital in one Indian state. All were thought to have curable illnesses but they died because of abuse, communicable diseases contracted in the mental hospital, poor sanitation, malnutrition, and lack of treatment.

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Patient Rights Is A New Concept in India & A Controversial One, I Learned


(9-19-16) This is the first of three blogs about my recent trip to India where I toured mental health facilities.)

“Individuals with mental issues are incapable of making their own decisions.”

“I disagree. They are not condemned to impaired thoughts 24/7 and their voice needs to be respected.”

It’s an argument that could be heard in any American city. But I was hearing it in Chennai, India during a three day conference on Justice and the Rights of Homeless Persons with Mental Health Issues.

I’d been invited to give the conference keynote and, unknowingly, my talk thrusted me into a spirited debate in India about patient rights.

Vandana Gopikumar, a co-founder of The Banyan, one of the largest mental health service organizations in India, had read my book, and invited me to speak. (More about this amazing advocate and The Banyan in upcoming blogs.) Of course, I spoke about my son, Kevin, and his recovery. Mid-way through my talk, I mentioned what I see as an ongoing feud in mental health circles in the United States.

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Restraining Mentally Ill In Body Bags: Is This Something The Police Really Should Be Doing?


(9-15-16) Yesterday I reprinted a letter from a father about how Crisis Intervention Team trained officers had treated an individual in the midst of a crisis with respect despite the verbal abuse that he was yelling at them.  I am writing today about a completely different experience for individuals in New York City who are deemed “emotionally disturbed.”

Individuals with mental illnesses are being restrained in a mesh bag commonly called “the burrito.”

News about the restraining device surfaced earlier this year after a bystander posted a cell phone video of it on Youtube. (See video at end of blog.) The video shows a man lying on the ground with his ankles and legs bound with orange tape with both hands secured behind his back. He is surrounded by New York City Police officers who, after searching him, lift him onto a white body bag and bright blue lettering that they then zip around him, completely enclosing his body and head with only his feet extending from the end. After he is restrained mummy style, he is transported.

The full body restraint bag is being marketed under the name EDP Bag, an acronym for Emotionally Disturbed Person bag, and was created specifically for the NYPD, although it now is being marketed to other departments for $899 by a company called DeSantis Gunhide.

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CIT Trained Cops Do The Right Thing: Avoid Shooting & Help A Family


(9-14-16) Here is a refreshing reminder why Crisis Intervention Team training for the police should be required in every jurisdiction.

When the police get it right
By M. Moss, first published in The Washington Post. 

“F— you pigs!”

This was last month. My son was on his side on the ground, in handcuffs, a police officer pinning down his legs, another officer holding down his upper body.

“F— you piiiiiigs!”

When it looked as though he might be scraping his face on the asphalt of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail bike path, the officers moved him, while holding him down, so his face was on the grass.

“Buddy, if you calm down, we’ll let you sit up.”

“F— you piiiigs!”

The joggers and bikers on the trail moved past, looking concerned but not stopping to turn the scene into a spectacle.

My son has a neurological disability. He didn’t ask for it, and learning to live with it has not been an easy task. He is also a big man — 6-foot-2, 180 pounds and fit. When he drinks, which is rare, he is unpredictable, aggressive and — though I hate the expression — a danger to himself and others.

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