Linda Bishop Described Her Own Death From Mental Illness A Decade Ago: What’s Changed?

Watch this 2 and a 1/2 minute documentary trailer about Linda and Joan. Courtesy Todd and Jedd Wider, and Brian Ariotti.

(1-2-20) Happy New Year!

First, a clarification. My recent post about a White House mental summit by the Trump Administration drew a complaint from a reader because I mentioned that neither President Obama nor his cabinet members had attended a 2008 White House mental health conference, at which I spoke.  The reader reminded me that President Obama had attended an earlier summit in 2013 on mental health, that I did not attend, along with several cabinet members. The reader explained that my most recent blog suggested that President Obama had not shown personal concern for mental health reform, which is not accurate. After all, it was President Obama, who during the final days of his administration, signed the most significant mental health bill in recent memory into law. I apologize for the mischaracterization. 

Remembering Linda Bishop and her final days of madness

From My Files: A seriously mentally ill woman denies that she is sick and after a year of refusing treatment is released from a state hospital.

She gives discharge officials a fake address, walks a few miles from the hospital and breaks into an unoccupied farm that is for sale. Afraid to venture out, she survives by eating crab apples from the backyard while writing her thoughts in a diary, chronicling her own starvation until she becomes so weak she can no longer write.

I first heard this incredibly sad story in 2008 from the woman’s sister, Joan Bishop, who was outraged because the hospital had discharged her sister, Linda, a year earlier knowing she was seriously ill without notifying anyone because of HIPAA privacy rules. Joan showed me a local newspaper article that contained portions of Linda’s diary. She let me read parts of Linda’s diary.

I posted two blogs about what happened to Linda. Two years later, Rachel Aviv, wrote a stunning account published by The New Yorker about Linda’s death under the title:  GOD KNOWS WHERE I AM. In 2017, documentary film makers Todd and Jedd Wider, and Brian Ariotti turned Aviv’s account into a powerful documentary under the same name as the article.

I am revisiting Linda’s story today to remind all of us at the beginning of this new year that many of the challenges Linda faced in 2007 remain unresolved. Our New Year Resolution should be to get our politicians to stop such senseless deaths.

She recorded her fears in her diary while waiting for help

Linda, developed a severe mental illness when she was in her 40s, which is later than most.

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Most Impactful Player In Mental Health In 2019: Meet Marianne Kernan


Marianne Kernan is my choice for the year’s Most Impactful Player in Mental Health.

If you live in North Carolina, you know Marianne Kernan because she has been a tour de force in Moore County for years. I am choosing her for her accomplishments but also because she is representative of hundreds of dedicated advocates who quietly and steadily work to improve the lives of their family members and others with mental illnesses.

Like so many other parents, Marianne joined the National Alliance on Mental Illness after her son, Keith, became ill in 1986.  She moved up its ranks in her local chapter, working as a Family-to-Family and Support Group Leader, Fundraising Chair, Treasurer, Vice President and finally President.

After eleven years, she took a risky and dramatic step. Knowing firsthand how difficult it was to find housing for adults with mental illnesses, she founded a non-profit, raised funds, and bought a house that she and her supporters named Linden Lodge.

The Lodge’s 7 bedroom and 3 bath home can house 6 residents and one 24 hour staff member and is located in Pinehurst, North Carolina. Its philosophy is that individuals with serious mental illnesses learn to live life by living it!

Linden Lodge provides its residents with employment opportunities, recreational activities, and physical fitness programs and necessary living skills, such as personal hygiene, grocery shopping, food preparation, housekeeping, budgeting, and time management.  It focuses on helping its residents develop friendships and emphasizes the importance of family relations. It is funded exclusively by fundraisers and contributions from local businesses and families.

In the past, I have chosen well-known figures and organizations as my impact choices:  2014 – Rep. Tim Murphy (R.Pa.), Va. State Senator Creigh Deeds, and philanthropist Ted Stanley; 2015 – The Treatment Advocacy Center; 2016 – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-Tx.) Chris Murphy )(D-Conn.) and Dr. Bill Cassidy (R-La.); 2017 – Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz and Mary Giliberti; 2018 – Dr. McCance-Katz.

Marianne Kernan and those such as her change lives one-at-a-time often without fanfare. I’ve featured others on my blog: Trudy Harsh, Jennifer Marshal, Laura Pogliano; Lin and Ron Wilensky, Kathleen Maloney, Betsy Greer, G. Douglas Bevelacqua, Sandra Luckow, Elena Broslovsky, Dede Ranahan, Jerri Clark…. the list goes on-and-on.

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How Can This Be Happening In America? Homeless, Psychotic, Addicted and Abandoned.

(Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times)

(12-27-19) More than 44,000 Americans living in Los Angeles will spend tonight sleeping on the streets.

They are homeless.

Twenty-five percentage of them have a serious mental illness. Roughly, 45 percent have a diagnosable mental disorder. Some 38% of homeless people are dependent on alcohol and 26% abused other drugs.

The homeless population in L.A. now is larger than 18,720 American cities, towns and villages. 

That is unacceptable.

Dr. James J. O’Connell, who has spent more than three decades as a street doctor in Boston, recently sent me an email after spending time conducting “street rounds” in L.A. with friends working for the  Los Angeles County and USC School of Medicine.

I quickly learned the task is impossible with the meager resources devoted to this endeavor, but the time I spent with these young physician assistants and their team was as heartwarming as heartbreaking.

Folks with cancer and deep bone infections living under concrete bridges, tents too numerous to count along most of the major roads.  I have been very familiar with Skid Row over the years (and would go there if I were just starting my career now!), but I was not ready to see how the problem has burst past those blocks and now has spread all through LA..

I can’t tell you how many folks we try to care for on the streets who have been discharged from inpatient (short!) psychiatric care because either (1) they are deemed competent to leave and/or (2) there are simply no beds in any facilities that should be caring for them.  

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Wishes of Much Joy & Good Mental Health To You During This Holiday Season

(12-23-19) From our home, I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a blessed holiday season! May 2020 bring you much joy and good mental health.

White House Summit: Trump Speaks About Mental Health Reforms, Dr. Fuller Torrey’s Agenda Piloting The Ship

(12-20-19) President Donald J. Trump made an unscheduled appearance yesterday at the White House Summit on Transforming Mental Health Treatment to Combat Homelessness, Violence, and Substance Abuse.

On the day after he was impeached by the House, Trump began his remarks by quipping that there was “Not much going on around the White House – you know, we’re not too busy.” Many in the by-invitation only crowd of about two hundred responded with laughter.

Trump used his appearance to announce an increase of $328 million in new spending for mental health programs, including $19 million for Assisted Outpatient Treatment and $7 million for Assertive Community Treatment programs.

Sticking mostly to a prepared script, Trump noted that “Of the 11 million Americans living with severe mental illness, 4 million receive no mental health service of any kind.  Four million people.” He added that the nation needed to  “give major consideration to building new institutions” but offered no specifics.

Trump recalled how as a child in Queens, he noticed “massive buildings” that housed persons with mental illnesses. “And all of a sudden, you go and you don’t see them anymore.  And you say, ‘What happened to all of those beds?  What happened to all of that work?  And where are those people?’  And in many cases, those people are living on the streets.  It’s much different..but we have to take care of our mentally ill.  We have to help people that are having problems…At the same time, we need to keep very dangerous people off our streets.  And we want to take care of the mental illness, but we have a lot of very dangerous people on our streets.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, and Presidential Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway all spoke yesterday at the event along with Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant Secretary at the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA.)

While Trump and his senior leadership claimed the center spotlight, a major unheralded star of the summit was an invitee sitting quietly in a front row seat – Dr. E. Fuller Torrey.

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NAMI Names New CEO: Daniel H. Gillison Jr.,Takes Reins Of Largest Grassroots Mental Health Org.

(12-18-19) Daniel H. Gillison Jr., has been named Chief Executive Officer of the  National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest and wealthiest grassroots mental health organization.

His selection was announced today at 2 p.m., shortly after the national staff was informed.

He takes the reins from Angela Kimball, who became acting CEO after the abrupt resignation of previous CEO Mary Gilliberti in April. Kimball was widely credited by NAMI insiders for keeping up morale in the national office located in Arlington, Va., after Giliberti was asked by the board to resign. Kimball had been a candidate for the CEO job.

For the past three years, Gillison has directed the American Psychiatric Association’s Foundation, the philanthropic and public education arm of the APA.  He is NAMI’s first African American CEO.

Before he joined the APA, Gillison worked for the National Association of Counties (NACo) where he led corporate and philanthropic fundraising efforts and directed the educational programming of the NACo Research Foundation. During Gillison’s time at NACo, corporate support more than doubled and the NACo Foundation substantially expanded its educational offerings in mental health and criminal justice. He has previously held positions at Sprint, XO Communications, and Wesley Brown & Bartle.

The NAMI board has a history of micro-managing the national office, which will test GIllison’s leadership abilities. As I reported Monday, NAMI became the nation’s dominant mental health player during Giliberti’s five year tenure, raising $17.6 million in revenues last year, according to its most recent Form 990 filings. It reported net assets or fund balances of $15 million.  Giliberti was paid $202,095 in salary and received $39,583 in additional financial benefits. We’ll have to wait for the next Form 990 reporting to learn what Gillison is being paid.

While at NACo, Gillison supported the national Stepping Up Initiative, created to divert individuals with mental illnesses from jails and prisons into community treatment, which is a promising sign. Sadly, the American Psychiatric Association has been pusillanimous when it comes to focusing on the serious mentally ill.