What I Tell Other Parents When They Ask For Advice

Courtesy of Buzzfeed

Photo Courtesy of Buzzfeed

(8-26-16) I’m returning from a fabulous week of vacation with my family at the beach and will soon leave for Chennai, India, to give two speeches about mental health care in the U.S. Earlier this week, I posted my most popular blog. This is the second most requested blog that I’ve written since January 2010.

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

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.

On the other end of the spectrum, I met a couple in Iowa who asked if I could help them find their son. He had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was homeless. Occasionally, he would telephone. While his mother was happy to know that he was alive, he would always end their calls with hurtful rants.

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Most Popular Post Is About Problems Getting Someone To Take Medication

(8-22-16) Since 2010, I have posted 842 blogs on my author’s website, nearly all about mental health. This blog was first published on March 12, 2010, yet it remains my most often read post, which speaks volumes about how mystifying it is for many parents and others to understand why someone refuses to take anti-psychotic medication.  

Naturally, as soon as I published this, I received emails from readers who adamantly oppose all medication as well as others who explained that medication had helped them reclaim their lives. What those emails re-affirmed to me is that there is no one-size fits-all solution when it comes to mental health. What works for some, fails others. None of us should shame someone who has found a way to manage or cope with an illness. 

Why Won’t You Take Your Medication?

“Why won’t you just take your medication? I take pills for my cholesterol every night and its no big deal?”

“Every psychiatrist we’ve seen has said you have a mental illness. Why won’t you accept it? Why would the doctors tell you that you’re sick, if it weren’t true?”


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Katie was not bipolar — Katie was a beautiful child of God: A Father’s Tribute To His Daughter

more than illness

(8-22-16) I’m taking a week off but I want to share this important story with you. God bless the Shoener family for their courage in speaking out about their daughter’s illness and death.

Inspired Life
She ‘loved life:’ A grieving father wrote openly about suicide and mental illness in daughter’s obituary
By Colby Itkowitz in The Washington Post

Reprinted courtesy of The Washington Post.

Only hours after he learned his only daughter was dead, Ed Shoener sat down to write her obituary. It felt like one way he could still take care of his little girl.

He and his wife, Ruth, had been steeling themselves for this day since Katie’s first hospitalization more than 11 years ago. He knew immediately why the police were at his doorstep the night of Aug. 3. Yet nothing prepares a parent for the moment they learn the details about how their child ended her life.

But if Shoener, a deacon at his Catholic church, learned anything watching his daughter’s long struggle with mental illness, it’s that the disease that plagued her is tragically misunderstood. The last thing he could do for his daughter was try to help others understand.

So, with stunning candor, he began her obituary like this:

Kathleen ‘Katie’ Marie Shoener, 29, fought bipolar disorder since 2005, but she finally lost the battle on Wednesday to suicide in Lewis Center, Ohio.

Then, overwhelmed by the fatherly pull to protect her, he wrote this:

So often people who have a mental illness are known as their illness. People say that “she is bipolar” or “he is schizophrenic.” Over the coming days as you talk to people about this, please do not use that phrase. People who have cancer are not cancer, those with diabetes are not diabetes. Katie was not bipolar — she had an illness called bipolar disorder — Katie herself was a beautiful child of God.

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A Year Later: Still No Explanation About Inmate’s Death But Lots of Dodging By Officials

(8-19-16) One year ago today, Jamycheal Mitchell was found dead in a Virginia jail cell. Here is an Op Ed that I wrote for the USA Today newspaper this week about the state’s failure to explain what happened to him.)

How an ill man starved to death in jail: USA TODAY

His naked body was found in a cell where he had been waiting transfer to a state mental hospital.

By Pete Earley

Jamycheal Mitchell died psychotic and emaciated in a Virginia jail cell a year ago this month, yet local and state officials still have not explained how a healthy 24-year-old African American could suffer a heart defect compounded by starvation without anyone in authority noticing.

Mitchell, who had schizophrenia, was arrested in April 2015 near his family’s home in Portsmouth, Va., after he allegedly took a Mountain Dew, Snickers bar and a Zebra cake, worth $5 from a 7-Eleven store without paying. His naked body was found 119 days later in a Hampton Roads Regional Jail (HRRJ) cell, where he had been waiting transfer to a state mental hospital. The 6-foot-tall Mitchell weighed190 pounds when he was arrested. He had lost 46 pounds in jail, causing the state medical examinor to cite “wasting syndrome” — sudden massive weight lost — as a major contributor to his death.


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A Fatal Shooting On Hospital Grounds: Why Was This Man Released?

(8-17-16) INOVA Fairfax Hospital needs to stop hiding behind federal privacy laws and explain why it had security guards escort a 29 year-old man, who police said was in the throes of a mental health crisis, to a bus stop rather than helping him.

That still unidentified man was fatally shot on the hospital grounds Monday night after he began swinging a metal signpost over his head and charged at a sheriff’s deputy.

The deputy involved was immediately put on administrative leave pending an investigation. The local police chief immediately disclosed the shooting at a news conference and promised to make public a video from a hospital security camera that possibly recorded footage of the shooting.

Everyone promised transparency – except for one critical player: INOVA Fairfax Hospital.

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John Oliver Explains Why Newspapers Matter While Stories About Cats Shouldn’t

(8- 15-16) As a former newspaper reporter, I care deeply about the future of daily papers. I was fortunate enough to work at The Washington Post in the early 1980s under legendary editor Ben Bradlee when newspapers will still cash cows and reporters only had to write stories for the morning print edition, not file tweets, blog, and constantly update electronic versions on unprofitable news websites. John Oliver has taken a humorous yet frightening look at the status of newspapers today. His comments have caused considerable talk within journalism circles and inside the Washington beltway. I wanted to share it with you.