Left With Questions: A Daughter’s Dilemma



A reader contacted me recently to talk about her mother. I asked her for permission to share her story because it is representative of the emails that I receive each week from distraught family members trying to get meaningful care for someone they love. At her request, I have deleted her name.

A Daughter’s Story 

A few days ago, my brother and I sought court commitment for my mother.

We have watched her mental health deteriorate for years. It has been incredibly sad and frustrating, to say the least, and we have tried again and again to help her.

She believes the government and others are spying on her because her blood holds the cure for cancer and that pharmaceutical companies, the government and her family are making millions off her.  She has not been easy to be around, many times accusing family and friends of conspiring against her.  Her thoughts have become increasingly disoriented and dominate her daily activities. She changes her cell phone, email and locks regularly.  She sometimes wore a patch over one eye because she believes a lens was implanted through cataract surgery, to prevent the government from seeing all she does.  Her days are spent at the Apple Store, AT&T store or going to the FBI, Police or local attorneys so she can report the conspiracy or seek help fighting it.

In her own words, my mother says she exists in a “living nightmare.”

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A Parents’ View of a New State Mental Hospital

western state

During the past fifty years, there has been a national, ongoing campaign to close state mental hospitals. The Justice Department, state governments and civil rights advocates have pushed the idea that mental hospitals are no longer necessary. Even my friend, Dr. Lloyd Sederer, who runs the New York State mental health system, recently wrote this in a Huffington Post blog:

The use of hospitals, which by their nature abridge liberty, is the least desirable alternative for someone with an acute mental illness.

No one wants to return to our nation’s asylum system where people were warehoused and abused. But can everyone receive the meaningful treatment  that they need in a community setting or do some severely mentally ill individuals require a hospital stay to stabilize the symptoms of their illness before they return to the community?

I find it interesting that if a doctor suggested that hospitals abridged liberty and were unnecessary for treating illnesses that did not involve the brain, such as cancer or heart disease, the medical community would be horrified. Yet with mental disorders — that involve the most complex part of our body — hospitals are viewed with distrust and disdain.

I was thinking about this irony recently because of an unsolicited email that I received from a Virginia couple who wrote to tell me about how happy they were that their son was receiving treatment in Virginia’s newest state mental hospital. That’s right, Virginia has built a new facility.  

Visiting Our Son

Do the words “mental hospital” conjure up an image of a dark, foreboding facility? Then you will be pleasantly surprised by the look of the new Western State Hospital in Staunton, Virginia.

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My Son Says: “If You Are Afraid To Tell Your Story, Stigma Wins”


When I wrote my book about mental illness and my family, I referred to my son by his middle name to protect his identity. Since its publication, Kevin has become a peer-to-peer specialist and an advocate for individuals with mental illnesses. We recently were interviewed by the local NBC station here. Kevin wrote about it on his Facebook page and when I read it, I asked if I could share it with you. I’m glad he said yes. We don’t agree on every issue but I greatly admire his courage in speaking out against stigma. 

By Kevin Earley

For anyone who hasn’t heard, I was interviewed by Mark Segraves of NBC channel four Washington today. They are doing a two minute piece for their Changing Minds series on mental illness and specifically for this piece they are focusing on the ordeals that my father and I went through during my past, and also profiling my current position in the mental health field. They interviewed me for about thirty minutes and my father spoke for just as long. I will update everyone as to when the piece airs, as of now, all I know is it is not slated for this week.


My dad was tearing up when he spoke about the time he felt like he wished I had “never been born” because he didn’t want to see me suffer and how it made him feel like a bad father for feeling that way. He talked about how he lied to police to get them to take me to the hospital and not to jail. We revisited what it is like getting Tasered, and how I now help to teach police better ways to avoid escalation and the irony of how I went from one side of the experience to the other side.

I talked about how I live day to day and what people can do to recover and control their own destiny in regards to their treatment. It was an emotional and surreal experience, especially since we were revisiting some of the darker parts of my life, but it reminded me how far I have come on my journey and how fortunate I am to still be alive and able to help others with my story.

I know there are probably some of you on my timeline who know me casually and may not be aware of my past, but I feel that being open and honest is the best way to deal with it. If you are afraid to tell your story, then the stigma wins, the fear wins and nothing changes. I am not naive, but hopefully, the story will reach others going through similar challenges and inspire them on their path. If that means that some people will look at me odd, or criticize me or think of me badly, then that’s the price I pay.

This continues to be a big issue in our country, as people everywhere are reaching their wits ends and violent shootings seem more and more commonplace, and I know that my name will be linked to this if I apply for jobs or if potential dates Google my name. But I can’t hide who I am and what I’ve been through and most importantly, how I overcame and ended up where I am now. I am fortunate that I beat the odds and have a happy ending to my story.

This is my life story and I’m not ashamed of my life or my story.

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What’s Happening to Rep. Murphy’s Mental Health Reform Bill?

murphy1If you are wondering what is happening to Rep. Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, also known as House Resolution 3717, you are not alone.

Here’s the latest.

About two weeks ago, Democrats who oppose the bill sat down with Rep. Murphy and his supporters. That meeting was called after the Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), privately warned all sides that he wouldn’t move the bill forward unless a “consensus” was reached. If the bill doesn’t get released from Upton’s committee by the end of July, it will die and Rep. Murphy will have to start over when a new legislative year begins.

Several key players were at the sit down, including Rep. Diana DeGette, (D.-Colo.) who is the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations which Rep. Murphy chairs, and Rep. Ron Barber (D- Ariz.)  who was wounded during the Tucson mass shooting and who is serving as the Democrats’ front man in blocking Murphy’s bill.

For those of you with short memories, here’s a recap.

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Arthur Walker Dies In Prison: A Naive Spy Who Lived In Brother’s Shadow


walkerxArthur James Walker, one of the major characters in my first book, FAMILY OF SPIES:  Inside the John Walker Spy Ring, is dead.

According to the federal Bureau of Prisons website, he died on July 7th, at a low level security prison in Butner, North Carolina. He was 79 years old and had served 29 years in prison after being convicted of committing espionage. He was one month away from a parole hearing. I’ve been told the cause of his death was acute kidney failure. I’ve also been told by a family friend that Art actually died on July 4th, Independence Day, and that the BOP simply did not get around to filing its paperwork until three days later.

Walker was the older brother of John Anthony Walker Jr., who remains in poor health, at the same Butner prison. John, who is 76,  is scheduled for parole on May  20, 2015, but is in the later stages of throat cancer, according to a family friend.

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On deadline – but will be back on schedule soon!


For the past four years, I have published at least one blog per week. I am under pressure to get my new novel written by September 1st so I will be posting blogs on an irregular basis until after that deadline. Thanks for your patience and support.

Have a great summer!  

Pete Earley