I’ll Be Part Of AOT Discussion At NAMI Convention


I’ll be participating in an afternoon session Thursday (7-9-15) at the national convention of the National Alliance on Mental Illness being held this week in San Francisco.  The panel discussion is entitled: Treatment Engagement in San Francisco: Humane or Coercion?

In July 2014, San Francisco approved an innovative approach to engage individuals living with serious mental illness who are most vulnerable to hospitalization, arrests or other negative consequences due to lack of treatment. Laura’s Law authorizes courts to order treatment for individuals who meet specific criteria. San Francisco’s approach differs from other states and counties in key ways. Peers and family members must be included on all treatment teams. Additionally, comprehensive services must be available to individuals on a voluntary basis before a court order can be issued. This forum will examine San Francisco’s new approach from multiple perspectives, including peers, family members, mental health professionals and others.

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When Is A Person’s Mental Health Germane? Our Government Shouldn’t Ask Flippantly


The man at the door said he was doing a background investigation and asked if I could answer some routine questions about the man next door. Most of my neighbors work at federal government jobs that require security clearances so I was not surprised.

The first questions were about criminal activity. Had I seen the police coming to the house? Did I know if my neighbor had a criminal record? Did he seem to spend money lavishly? Had I noticed any suspicious behaviors?

Next came this question: “Do you know if  your neighbor has a mental illness? Do you know if he has every been under a psychiatrist’s care or if he is seeing a therapist? Does your neighbor seem stable to you?”

Not long after that exchange, I went online to get pre-approved for the TSA Pre-Select program. I travel a lot and wanted to shortcut the line by not having to remove my shoes or put my toiletries on display when passing through airport security. Sure enough, after answering questions that asked if I had ever been arrested, convicted of a felony, or done time in jail or prison, there were queries about my mental state. Had I ever been a patient in a psychiatric ward, been involuntarily committed, or been diagnosed with a mental illness?

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An Inmate Run TV Station: How Sam Ormes Brought Hope Into A Jail, Changed Lives, And Got Booted Out


7-3-15 From My Files Friday: Since I posted this blog in 2010, my friend Sam Ormes has been working with a production company to tell his story either on television or in a movie. I can’t wait! 

He Created A TV Station Inside A Jail: An Incredible Story of Zany Antics,

Creativity, and Redemption

 Sam Ormes is a colorful and delightful person.

I found him in a tiny cubicle crammed with electronic gizmos inside the Miami Dade jail.  Sam looked like a  hoarder because nearly every inch of the space was taken-up by television equipment, cameras, video tapes and stage props, including a rubber chicken hanging on a rope from the ceiling.

Sporting a bow tie, a 1960s style beatnik goatee and reading glasses perched on the tip of his nose, Sam explained that he was the originator and driving force behind Inmate Corrections Television, better known as ICTV.

An inmate televisions station in a jail? I asked. He told me to sit down and listen.

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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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