Best & Worst in Mental Illness During 2014

THE BEST: TRUDY HARSH and The Brain Foundation

After her daughter, Laura, developed a brain tumor at age eight, Trudy Harsh became a fearless advocate for persons with brain disorders. Tired of bureaucratic ineptness, she decided to do something about Fairfax County’s deplorable lack of affordable housing. (Some persons with mental illnesses could wait up to 18 years for an apartment.)

Trudy used her professional skills in 2003 as a real estate agent to launch an all-volunteer group called “The Brain Foundation.” With $50,000 in seed money from local entrepreneur, Wilbur Dove, Trudy secured a $450,000 loan from the Virginia Housing Development Authority – enough to buy a four-bedroom townhouse. She arranged for Pathways Homes to provide residential services for the house’s four residents. Trudy named the facility “Laura’s House” in honor of her daughter who passed away in 2006 at age 38.

Just last week, The Brain Foundation, bought its 11th house –an amazing and inspiring accomplishment for Trudy and her dedicated volunteer board.

If you are searching for a worthwhile holiday donation, The Brain Foundation and Pathways are excellent choices.


A shower so scalding, it melted off one man’s skin; another man gassed to death in a small room, begging for his life; beatings and torture and threats — and after all of it, a cover-up.

The Miami Herald exposed a culture of abuse by the Florida Department of Corrections at its Dade Correctional Institution psychiatric unit outside Miami, beginning with the death of Darren Rainey, a 50 year-old inmate with severe mental illness. Rainey died while locked in a scalding shower for more than an hour as punishment after defecating in his cell. Yet, the Miami-Dade medical examiner has yet to complete an autopsy and no one has been charged.

Terrifying and outrageous!


Jennifer Marshall and Anne Marie Ames raised more than $10,000 in 31 days to finance a professional quality stage show called This Is My Brave that featured persons with mental illnesses talking about their struggles and recoveries. After the first show sold out, they took an abbreviated version tailored toward helping teens to a local Virginia high school. Now they’ve launched plans to raise an addition $15,500 to fund new shows in Washington D.C., Boston, and Iowa City where they will recruit local residents to tell their stories. (If you’d like to contribute, they’d be appreciative!)

Like Trudy Harsh, Marshall and Ames are everyday heroes who have used their talents to fight stigma and help others. (Marshall also writes the popular My Bipolar Mom Life blog.)


Anne Sweeney

Anne Sweeney

Anne Sweeney, President of Disney/ABC Television, has not had the common decency to respond publicly to complaints about an utterly tasteless episode of the hit show, Modern Family, that both stigmatized and marginalized individuals with mental illnesses.

More than 70,000 of you read and distributed the letter of complaint that I posted after the Halloween episode aired. Liza Long, who became a nationally known blogger when she wrote “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” joined me on her popular blog,  The Anarchist Soccer Mom,’ in criticizing the company,  as did Janine Francolini, founder of the Flawless Foundation, who penned a Huffington Post entry. The National Alliance on Mental Illness assured me that it had contacted Disney/ABC Television behind the scenes too.

Yet Ms. Sweeney and Disney/ABC have thumbed their noses at the complaints and put the offensive episode into syndication, which means it will continue to ridicule persons with mental illnesses for years to come.

The fact that Ms. Sweeney is the mother of a son with autism (a brain disorder) makes her lack of empathy even sadder.

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About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.