Why Have The Feds Reduced Testing Of New Drugs For Treating Schizophrenia?

(1-18-19) Dr. E. Fuller Torrey is criticizing the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for failing to fund new drug trials for medicines that could help treat schizophrenia.

Dr. Torrey is one of the nation’s leading experts on schizophrenia and is the author of the groundbreaking 1983 book, Surviving Schizophrenia, widely considered the standard reference book about the illness.

In an article published this week in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Torrey was joined by two other physicians, in challenging a NIMH policy that has resulted in the government founding only two new trials for schizophrenia drugs between 2015 to 2017.

NIMH was created in 1946 to find better drugs for treating mental illnesses.

“It is completely unacceptable for NIMH to virtually abandon the search for new drugs for schizophrenia,” Dr. Torrey wrote in an email, “especially at this time when NIMH has received major increases in funding from Congress over the past two years. All of us who want better drug treatments for individuals with schizophrenia should let Dr. Joshua Gordon (head of NIMH) know how important such trials are, and that we are looking over his shoulder to make sure they are done.”

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A Poignant PBS Segment: Jerri Clark Describes Her Family’s Struggle To Get Help For Son With His Mental Illness.

(1-14-19) Jerri Niebaum Clark has told her family’s story in a powerful segment on PBS News Hour.

She documents just how difficult it is for a family to get help when signs of mental illness emerge.

I believe personal stories are the most effective way for us to educate the public and our elected leaders – especially if they are told as poignantly as Jerri does.

People are dying. Others – whose only crime is that they got sick – are inappropriately locked inside our jails and prisons.

You are an inspiration Jerri!

This is not the first time she has spoken out. Jerri is the founder of MOMI – Mothers of the Mentally Ill. She is an inspiring example of how one person is making a difference.

Thank you Jerri for your courage and thanks to your son, Calvin, for allowing you to share his story.

Jerri received so many requests for help after the segment aired that she posted a follow up blog that contains smart advice.

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When Did It Become Acceptable For Americans With Mental Illnesses To Freeze To Death?

(1-11-19) From My Files Friday: Whenever forecasters predict snow, I think about those who are homeless, psychotic and abandoned. Stories about hypothermia deaths always anger me, but few did as much as this death that I first noted in 2010. Are any of us naive enough to believe that such preventible tragedies will not happen again this winter in the most prosperous nation in the world?

WHO IS TO BLAME FOR THIS DEATH?

The residents of Morrisville, Pa., got an insider look at our troubled mental health care system. Paulette Wilkie, a homeless woman with a long history of schizophrenia, was found dead from exposure. The 56 year-old woman’s  body was discovered behind Ben’s Deli, a sandwich shop that she frequented.

Temperatures the night before had dropped into the mid 20s. But that was not cold enough to trigger the county’s emergency homeless plan. Temperatures must sink to 20 degrees or below for two consecutive days before teams can be dispatched to try to persuade homeless persons to come indoors.

Reporter Ben Finley, writing in the Bucks County Courier Timesnoted that people who knew Wilkie said she likely would not have gone into a shelter anyway. The owner of Ben’s Deli said Wilkie refused help from people concerned about her safety and health.

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Jennifer Marshall: THIS IS MY BRAVE Co-Founder Chosen As Washingtonian Of The Year!

(Jennifer Marshall holding photo of This Is My Brave co-founder Anne Marie Ames)

(1-7-18) I’m delighted that Jennifer Marshall, co-founder of This Is My Brave, will be honored this month by Washingtonian Magazine as one of its ten Washingtonians of the Year for achievements during 2018.

This prestigious award recognizes Washington D.C. area residents who are helping improve the lives of those of us who live in the metropolitan area. I first met Jennifer when she and my son, Kevin, were in group therapy together. Jennifer, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, started writing a blog about her experiences as a young mother. Later, she met Anne Marie Ames at a neighborhood party and together, they decided to stage a broadway quality production that spotlighted individuals with mental illnesses sharing their stories through personal readings, songs, and poetry. Their first show in 2013 was sold out and marked the beginning of what today is a fast-growing non-profit that has produced shows across the U.S. and internationally.  Kevin was proud to be an original cast member!

Sadly, Anne Marie died in 2017, which caused a resurgence of Jennifer’s bipolar disorder, but she battled through her grief and depression, and came out determined to launch even more quality This Is My Brave shows and to expand even more deeply into social media platforms to offer hope to others.

Jennifer is a tireless advocate whom I’ve always admired. She epitomizes the power of a single individual to change lives and her community. She’s been featured on the front page of The Washington Post, Bipolar Magazine, and in Oprah’s magazine. And now she has been recognized again for her work. I would strongly urge you to visit This Is My Brave and either contribute to it or learn if you can get a This Is My Brave production in your community.

Congratulations Jennifer. You are an inspiration!

Here is the magazine’s announcement about her selection.

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Been Turned Away From An Emergency Room? Advocate Looking For Stories To Support Possible Lawsuit

(1-4-19) D. J. Jaffe, author of the book Insane Consequences, wants to use the courts to obtain improved mental health services. I received this email request from him this morning and am happy to share it with you. I’d also encourage you to tell your stories on my Facebook page so that I can forward them to the appropriate U.S. Senators and Representatives in Congress who monitor mental health care.

Help Improve Emergency Room Care: A Request for Information from Mental Illness Policy Org.

We are  in the very preliminary stages of researching if it would be possible to use a lawsuit to improve future emergency room (ER) care for people with serious mental illness. 

We are interested in learning about individuals who went to an ER seeking emergency treatment for a serious mental illness and were either turned away without a medical screening and/or injured themselves or someone else as a result of a lack of treatment or inadequate treatment. 

If you, or someone you know, has experienced this within the last 18 months and is open to the idea of participating in a lawsuit, can you contact me at [email protected] with your story?  Please provide as much information as you can, including (1) the name and address of the hospital; (2) the dates of the ER visit; and (3) the details leading up to the visit and what occurred during and after the visit. 

This is not a promise that we will be able to help you in any way.  We are collecting information to see if a lawsuit might be feasible. If we think it might be, we will be back in touch with you to get additional information, and your consent to participate in the litigation, if any.

Thank you.

DJ Jaffe,  Executive Director, Mental Illness Policy Org.

Be Hopeful During This Coming Year: Hope For Those Who Are Sick, Hope For Reform, Hope For Recovery

(12-31-18) You must have hope!

That is the message I delivered before Christmas to four families who contacted me about an adult child who either was hospitalized, incarcerated or on the verge of both.

One young man had been arrested for trespassing, one of the most common excuses used to jail someone who is clearly in the midst of a psychotic break. One had gotten into an altercation with police while delusional. Another was a confused family whose psychiatrist simply threw up her hands and abandoned a patient after prescribing a slew of powerful antipsychotics. No references. No advice about how to wean oneself from the drugs. Simply: I’m dropping you as a patient.

Incidents such as these infuriate me. But anger is counterproductive unless it spurs advocacy.

Whenever I receive emails about individuals in crisis, I remember when our son Kevin was doing poorly. I remember how he was arrested after breaking into an unoccupied house to take a bubble bath. I remember how he was twice shot with a taser later by police. I remember how he was repeatedly hospitalized during six horrible years. I remember the sleepless nights, the constant worry, the nagging fears for his future.

Today, Kevin is doing fabulously. He is working full-time as a peer specialist, buying a house with his mother, and only a year away from earning a masters degree in social work. I am proud of him and I am a lucky parent. I sometimes feel a form of survivor’s guilt but then I remember how inspiring it was when Kevin was sick and I met someone who had recovered! It gave me hope.

Most people who get sick can and do get better. Not everyone, but most – if they receive the help that they need and accept it.

This is why it is so important for those who love them and those who are ill to cling to hope. You must believe a better day is coming.

Writer Hal Lindsey said it best. “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.”

My New Year wish for you is that you have hope in your hearts as we move into the coming year.