Readers Ask: Did Police Overact In Tackling Parscale & Why Did SAMHSA Issue Statement Defending Itself?

Reader questions why police needed to tackle and handcuff Brad Parscale.

(10-2-20) Here is a selection of emails in my mailbox this past week. I’ll be interested to read your reactions on my Facebook page.

  1. A reader questions actions by the Fort Lauderdale police in restraining Brad Parscale after his wife called them because she said he was suicidal. I raise questions about releasing body cams videos.
  2. Politics vs Science? Why did SAMHSA issue a press release stating it “stands by its commitment to fostering and protecting the mental health” of all Americans?
  3. Reader urges everyone to read story about talented swimmer’s death by suicide.

Was It Necessary To Tackle Brad Parscale?

Dear Pete,

I found the footage of the Fort Lauderdale police tackling Brad Parscale especially disturbing. He was not threatening anyone when he came outside in a pair of shorts. He didn’t  have a weapon. This could have been handled through communication, not force. He hadn’t broken any laws and being in a mental health crisis is not illegal.

Pete’s reply: According to a Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspaper report, the police department dispatched its SWAT team based on a 911 call during which the dispatcher was told there were guns in the house and that Parscale was believed to be suicidal. The newspaper noted that Parscal’s wife “fled the house in fear and asked a real estate agent, who was about to show a nearby house, for help. The agent called the cops. On the phone, Candice Parscale told a 911 dispatcher that she heard a gunshot shortly after exiting her home, and was afraid her husband was going to kill himself.”  Once the decision to send a SWAT team was made, the officers’ actions were what you might anticipate. I’m hesitant to criticize the police because they were operating off information that clearly suggested Parscale was a danger to himself and to others, and guns were in the house. We don’t know what Parscale told the police before he agreed to come outside. When he did leave the house dressed in shorts and seemingly calm, it’s fair to ask what would have happened if the SWAT team had taken a deep breath, stepped back and turned the matter over to a Crisis Intervention Team trained officer or mental health counselor. Fortunately, no one was seriously or fatally injured.

Here’s another question that needs to be asked. I favor the use of body cameras for the protection of the police and public. Brad Parscale is a public figure. But what if you called the police about a family member who was psychotic and – perhaps naked, hallucinating, or uttering nonsense. Would you want that embarrassing footage released? Would the individual being taped want that footage on the Internet once he/she got the symptoms of their illness under control?

Politics vs Science? SAMSHA Press Release About It’s Commitment to Mental Health 

Dear Pete,

I received an email from SAMHSA today that I found very disturbing and unprofessional. There is a lot of emotion here, and it’s inappropriate.  I don’t know who wrote it, but perhaps they should have taken a beat before sending it. Your thoughts?

Pete’s reply: Given this sentence in the press release: “This agency has never called for a cavalier approach to reopening schools or society; however, we absolutely stand by our call to reopen schools with appropriate safety measures in place,” I suspect SAMHSA was reacting to criticism aimed at Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz for comments that she made in an hour long podcast posted on the Health and Human Services website. In it, she said the Covid virus is not a life threatening illness for a majority of children, adding at one point, “What is this nonsense that it is unsafe for children to be in school?”  See: “Top health official echoes Trump’s Covid-19 views, drawing accusations of politicizing mental health agency.” and my earlier blog.  Here is a copy of the release:

SAMHSA Remains Committed to the Nation’s Mental Health

SAMHSA stands by its commitment to fostering and protecting the mental health of all Americans. It is vastly disappointing that the mere reference to mental health is seen as a political ploy by members of the media and even other federal agencies who purportedly exist to protect the health of Americans. SAMHSA will proudly and continually advocate for the importance of addressing mental health.

Our fellow Americans who claim to herald science ignore that one of the main demands of science is the ability to consider multiple perspectives at once. Why have we, as a nation, accepted that the only science that exists is that which details the tragedies of the virus? For which other medical condition would this be permitted? Never would we ignore the casualties caused by heart disease to focus solely on cancer–never. Yet, the mention of mental health conditions, real medical illnesses, is automatically deemed political in today’s context. The beauty of America’s science and healthcare system has always been that we have understood all aspects of health and have been allowed to do so. Why is it that when someone raises a well-founded scientific claim related to a condition other than COVID-19, that claim is now, by definition, political?

The existence of the virus has not eliminated all other health conditions. The agency funded to promote and protect mental health must be allowed to call attention to the science around this condition. And, that science paints a damning picture. That science tells us that 2,010 children lost their lives to suicide and drug overdose in 2018. Those are not SAMHSA’s numbers. They are CDC’s. Science tells us that 40% of Americans are experiencing mental health consequences due to the pandemic. Those are not SAMHSA’s numbers. They are CDC’s. So, why is it unacceptable to share these facts with Americans? Why aren’t parents allowed to know what the very real and scientific consequences of school closures may be to their children’s mental health?

This agency has never called for a cavalier approach to reopening schools or society; however, we absolutely stand by our call to reopen schools with appropriate safety measures in place. The mental health of our children is not a political issue; it is a health issue. The mental health of our nation depends on our collective ability to accept all aspects of science and make informed and rational decisions based on such information. The success of our efforts cannot lie solely in the opinions of one single agency who, if challenged, calls “politics.” We must be bigger than that. Members of the public and the media: you are encouraged to hold SAMHSA accountable for the information we put out. To those living with mental health conditions or those who may be first experiencing them: this agency will not stand down. We will continue to fight on your behalf no matter the criticism we take. Your lives and this mission are simply too important to ignore.

Grieving Father Talks About Son’s Suicide

Dear Pete,

Did you read this story about Ian Miskelley, a talented University of Michigan, swimmer?  Would you please share it with your readers?

Pete’s reply: Sadly, I am receiving two to three stories a week about deaths by suicide. I was unaware of Miskelley’s death and am grateful that his father is speaking out to educate others about anxiety, depression and suicide – as he notes – topics that shouldn’t be taboo.

A father speaks out after his son, a Michigan swimmer, takes his own life


Ian Miskelley

Ian Miskelley, shown here during a race on March 10, 2018, was a star swimmer at Holland Christian before joining the swim team at the University of Michigan. (Photo: Henry Taylor/ Taylor/

Steve Miskelley wants to talk about an unspeakable tragedy.

He is willing to get on the phone with a stranger to discuss, in detail, the worst thing that can happen to a parent. Doing so, he hopes, will help you or your child or your neighbor or your teammate.

Steve’s son, Ian, died by suicide this month. Ian was entering his junior year at Michigan, where he was a member of the swim team.

To an outsider, Ian had so much going for him.

When Ian was 11 years old, he realized something wasn’t right in his head.
“Dad, I don’t know what’s going on,” Steve recalls him saying. “I just feel angry all the time.”
Medical professionals determined Ian had anxiety brought about by depression. By the time he was a teenager he was on medication and had regular visits with psychiatrists and therapists.
“It was an ongoing struggle,” Steve says.
For a time, Ian was cutting himself as a means to cope with the mental pain. That led to increased therapy visits, more careful monitoring of his medication.


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.