Columnist Writes: “If we’re ever going to stop the suffering … while they’re still breathing, we’re going to have to stop protecting their right to die screaming, scared and usually alone.”

Image by Apollo22 from Pixabay

(12-21-22) While I don’t like to simply reprint articles, my son, Kevin, told me that this recent story in the Sacramento Bee brought him to tears. He believed that he could have ended up like James Mark Rippee if he’d not had strong family support and a fabulous case manager. Of course, Kevin had to accept that he had a serious mental illness before that support system could help him.

While some might cringe reading about this tragedy so near to Christmas, I feel the opposite. What better time to remind ourselves of the sentiments found in Matthew 25:40.

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

(Thrilled to see that advocate Teresa Pasquini is quoted in this article.)

We’ let blind, mentally ill, homeless Mark Rippee die in Vacaville. But let’s name names


James Mark Rippee, who was blind, severely mentally ill, homeless — and unhelped, despite all the years that his sisters spent trying to change that — died on Tuesday at age 59.

You could say, as doctors at Fairfield North Bay Medical Center did, that he died of multiple organ failure after an untreated urinary tract infection caused sepsis.

Or you could say that the cause was really the 1987 motorcycle accident that took his sight and part of his frontal lobe more than half a lifetime ago, when he was 24.Over the next few years, his brain injury robbed him of his sanity and safety, too.

You could consider some corner of accountability for the entrepreneur who had lately been charging him $600 a month to let him sleep in his backyard, along with other homeless people, though no one knows who left Mark at a Vacaville ER unable to breathe at 2:30 on Saturday morning, long after he should have received medical care.

Or you could say that he died because we just didn’t care enough whether he kept on living.

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Sen. Cassidy Becomes Emotional Explaining Why He Cares Deeply About Mental Health Reforms

Sen. Bill Cassidy advocating for mental health reforms

(12-19-22) I got to know Sen. Bill Cassidy (R. La.) in 2016 when he joined with Sen. Chris Murphy (D. Conn.) in passing the most significant mental health legislation in decades – the Mental Health Reform Act. 

Because of his work on that crucial bill, I knew he cared deeply about improving our  mental health care system. I became more convinced after he invited me to Louisiana to deliver a keynote speech during a one day mental health care summit. We were able to have dinner together that night.

What I didn’t know was that his passion comes from a deeply personal loss. He became emotional during a recent interview with CNN and shared his story when asked about how mental illnesses impact families.

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Dr. E. Fuller Torrey Continues To Impact New York’s AOT Laws – Blasted by Critics, Adored By Parents, Always Pushing The Envelope

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey

(12-15-2022) A few weeks ago, New York Times Reporter Ellen Barry sent me an email asking if I would confirm some of the many stories that she had heard about Dr. E. Fuller Torrey. I was happy to oblige. She published her report this week and it has generated more than a 1,000 comments – which is not surprising given how controversial and influential Dr. Torrey has been pushing states to adopt Assisted Outpatient Treatment. What’s your view?

Behind New York City’s Shift on Mental Health, a Solitary Quest

The psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey has been advocating tougher involuntary psychiatric treatment policies for 40 years. Now it’s paying off.

BETHESDA, Md. — The psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey is 85 years old and has Parkinson’s disease, the tremors at times so strong that his hand beats like a drum on the table.

Still, every morning when he reads the newspapers, he looks for accounts of violent behavior by people with severe mental illness, to add to an archive he has maintained since the 1980s.

His records include reports of people who, in the grip of psychosis, assaulted political figures or pushed strangers into the path of subway trains; parents who, while delusional, killed their children by smothering, drowning or beating them; adult children who, while off medication, killed their parents with swords, axes or hammers.

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After She Gave Birth: Rage, Paranoia Arrived. Jessica Ekhoff Writes About Mental Health Challenges Facing New Mothers

(12-12-22) What causes mental illnesses to surface and interrupt our lives?

Jessica Ekhoff writes in her new book, Super Sad Unicorn: A Memoir of Mania, about her experiences after giving birth to her first child. This is a topic that I wish would get more attention.

A scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health once suggested that I imagine an electrical cord. It works fine until one day when it causes a fire because part of the sheath covering its wires was thinner than the rest of the cord and sparks broke through. This is what happens with a serious mental illness, he explained. Whether or not you accept this theory, it helped me understand why my son, Kevin, had his break when he was in his early 20s after an uneventful childhood.

We know that stress is a trigger and giving birth certainly can be stressful.

Guest Blog by Jessica Ekhoff, author of Super Sad Unicorn: A Memoir of Mania.

Before I had my son, Wells, in February 2021, I read every book about pregnancy and early parenthood I could get my hands on. I thought I was fully prepared to handle anything I might face in the postpartum period. But nothing prepared me for what ultimately happened.

Within a few days of having my son, I began experiencing a slew of bizarre and unexpected symptoms. I became paranoid that my husband, Dane, was trying to have DCFS take Wells away from me. I went through bouts of rage so intense that I blacked out afterward. My thoughts were so confused and disjointed that I started having trouble speaking, and I felt like I never needed to sleep.

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Does Bipolar Disorder Excuse Kanye West’s Anti-Semitic Rants? I Ask My Rapper Son

(12-8-22) How should we react to Kanye West, now known as Ye, and his histrionically antisemitic remarks?

When individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder and other serious mental illnesses say something offensive, we often remind ourselves that it is the illness speaking, not them. We ask others to consider this.

Is this the same situation now with Ye?

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Gabe Howard Speaks At Prestigious Oxford University: A Positive Example Of Someone With Bipolar Disorder Speaking Out!

Advocate Gabe Howard speaking at prestigious Oxford University in England. (Photo courtesy of Gabe Howard.)

(12-6-22) All too often, the only stories about individuals with serious mental illnesses that make the news are sad and depressing. So I was thrilled when I learned that Gabe Howard, who has written in the past for this blog, recently was invited to the Oxford Union to speak about whether the Internet is helpful or harmful for individuals with mental illnesses.

That’s the Oxford Union at the University of Oxford in England where there is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s second-oldest university in continuous operation.

Previous speakers have included former President Bill Clinton, Albert Einstein, Morgan Freeman, and Mother Teresa.

“To go from thinking demons were chasing me and being committed to a psychiatric hospital and now I was invited to — and did — speak at Oxford University?” Gabe wrote in an email to me. “Even I can’t string together the words to explain how that happened. It’s beyond amazing. It’s a real testament to the power of the patient voice and to advocacy in general that I was even considered, let alone selected.”

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