Disney/ABC Marginalizes Mental Illness In Tasteless Modern Family Episode


An Open Letter to Anne Sweeney, Co-Chair Disney Media Networks President, Disney/ABC Television Group

Dear Ms. Sweeney,

I am writing to ask why Disney/ABC Television ridiculed and marginalized our nation’s veterans and millions of other Americans during the October 29th broadcast of its prime time television show, Modern Family.

Twenty-two veterans commit suicide each day in our nation. Nearly all have a diagnosable mental illness. Many have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that they suffered fighting for your safety and freedom. Yet, the writers of Modern Family: Halloween 3: AwesomeLand decided to make these proud warriors the butt of belittling jokes.

In the episode, Claire Dunphy decides to create the most frightening house in her neighborhood by transforming her front yard into a “scary insane asylum” complete with “deranged mental patients,” a “sadistic nurse” and “demented doctor.” The episode features daughter Alex chained to a hospital bed and Luke wearing a straight jacket – images that are intended to make viewers chuckle. Words such as “nut job, Looney Bin, cuckoo” are sprinkled throughout the dialogue — less viewers forget that nothing is more frightening than someone with a mental disorder.

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Ben Bradlee: A Swashbuckler Editor Who Inspired His Writers


10-27-14 The last hurdle you faced before you were hired at The Washington Post was a face-to-face interview with Executive Editor Benjamin C. Bradlee.

In late 1980, I arrived at his office ready for a confrontation.

My good friend, Ward Sinclair,  a Post investigative reporter who was shepherding  me through the hiring process, had warned me that Bradlee often glared at a wannabe hire before asking, “Why should I hire you?” Depending on his mood, he might phrase it as “Why in the hell should I…”

Ward said it was Bradlee’s way of seeing if a news reporter had a spine. Bradlee didn’t like reporters who were easily intimidated.

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Encore Performance of THIS IS MY BRAVE: Two Women Who Are Making A Difference

I talk all of the time about how one or two persons can make a difference in their communities.  That’s why  I wrote several blogs last year about THIS IS MY BRAVE, a Virginia non-profit organization founded Jennifer Marshall and Ann Marie Ames.

A popular blogger (www.bipolarmomlife.com), Jennifer joined forces with Anne Marie last year and raised more than $10,000 in 31 days on Kickstarter to finance a professional quality stage show that featured performers talking about their mental disorders and recovery.

A sold out crowd of more than 400 attended the group’s debut performance. The show received considerable media attention. Encouraged by their success, Jennifer and Anne Marie, kept going.

A second performance of THIS IS MY BRAVE will be performed Sunday, October 26th, at 3:30 p.m. at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, Virginia, a Washington D.C. suburb. Jennifer and Anne Marie also have launched another Internet fund raiser, this time on Indiegogo to raise $15,550, which they will use to stage THIS IS MY BRAVE performances in Washington D.C., Boston, and Iowa City.

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What Voices Do We Hear?


10-20-14  The first review of RESILIENCE, the memoir that I helped Jessie Close write, has appeared and it’s complimentary.

The reviewer calls the book, “an honest tale” and notes that Jessie “holds nothing back.”

“The author candidly discusses her multiple marriages and her continued inability to understand her alternating manic and depressive states, which appear to have escalated in intensity with age. It was only when her son, Calen, was hospitalized and eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia that Close began to look more seriously at her own extreme mood cycles and seek permanent help to stop her abusive drinking and to silence the voice in her head that insisted she kill herself. With the help of her sister and family, Close was able to afford good treatment for herself and her son, and Close’s sister went on to establish the nonprofit organization Bring Change 2 Mind, which targets the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental disorders.

The critic concludes, “the book is packed with emotion and courageous personal reflections.”

That’s heady praise from a critic whose job is, well, to criticize.  But the review did contain one tiny barb.

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Why I Am Proud To Support NAMI


10-17-14  FROM MY FILES FRIDAY: Four years ago, I explained in a blog why I am a lifetime member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  I occasionally receive emails from readers grumbling about what NAMI either has or hasn’t done.  But nothing that has happened since I first joined NAMI has caused me to lose faith in it. Perhaps this is because the heart of NAMI to me has always been its people and the common goal that all of us share: helping persons with mental illnesses. Patti and I support NAMI monthly with a donation because I believe in NAMI and its programs.

NAMI Helped Me, first published June 28, 2010. **

When I was a Washington Post reporter, I did not believe in joining groups or organizations. I needed to be independent in order to be objective. Then my son, Mike (Kevin), became sick and the first thing I did after I finished writing my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, was join the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI.)


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Courageous Judge Administers Justice In Horrific Police Shooting

It was a horrific crime.

Voices inside Kashif Bashir’s head were saying his brain was being reprogrammed. If he wanted to reach a higher state of consciousness, he needed to commit three violent acts – a robbery, a rape, and the shooting of a police officer.

The 29-year-old cabdriver bought a pistol and drove to a shop in a Washington D.C. suburb where he intended to rape an employee. She persuaded him to leave the store and then locked the door after he did.  He returned the next day and noticed a police officer inside the shop.

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