Florida Hospital Trivializes Mental Health By Creating A Game Show To Help Restore Patients’ Competency

(6-15-16) In this short snippet from her national television show, Samantha Bee tells how my friend Judge Steven Leifman is transforming mental health care in Florida. That’s wonderful. If you want to understand why reforms are necessary, you should pay special attention to minute 2:46 on her  Youtube sketch.

At minute 2:46, Bee shows how Florida State Hospital “helped” persons be restored to competency so they could be put on trial. They showed them a video of a game show.

No, I am not making this up. To me, the game show demonstrates a lack of respect and seriousness. It trivializes men and women who need help because of their mental illness, not punishment, and it was produced by hospital staff and mental health professionals.

Please remember that being restored to competency is not the same as actually being treated. Treatment means a person receives help. Restoration means a person understands the legal process well enough to be returned to court and put on trial. How do you determine if someone understands the process well enough to aid in his or her own defense?

Sadly, that standard is a low bar in most states. In my book, I describe how one prisoner with mental illness was taken into a hospital room each morning and shown three chairs. Each had a sign posted on them. One sign read, PROSECUTOR, the second DEFENSE ATTORNEY, and the sign on the third chair read JUDGE. When the woman could correctly tell her doctors who sat in each chair, she was deemed competent enough to be put on trial.

Just as John Oliver used humor to reveal how messed up mental health care is in our nation is, Bee did the same on her program Full Frontal. I am thankful because her program reaches Americans outside the mental health community who might not have a clue about the deplorable state of mental health care in America. I’m especially thrilled that Judge Leifman is making progress in Florida.

Game shows about competency will not be part of those reforms.


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.