Remembering Those Who Died

Memorial Day honors all Americans who died fighting to defend our country. Among them is my uncle, George “Buddy” Patterson, who died during World War Two at age nineteen. He is buried at the Gettysburg National Cemetery because my grandparents lived nearby in Pennsylvania. My parents adopted Buddy when he was a baby. He had been abused and abandoned by his birth parents. My grandmother spent months nursing him back to health. Like most men at the time, including my father,  Buddy volunteered after the attack on Pearl Harbor caused the U.S. to enter the war. Fortunately, my father was not injured, but Buddy did not survive his service in Europe.

 Another fallen soldier whom I will remember today is one of my high school classmates, Randy Lundy. He was one of the most popular students in my school and for a good reason. He was an outstanding athlete, excellent student and great teenager with a bright future. He was sent to Vietnam where he was killed by friendly fire. 

Two blocks from our house, a family has erected a three foot white cross on the front lawn of their home and encircled it with miniature flags. I do not know this family but the parents have attached a photograph of their young son on the cross and noted his rank and date of death in the Gulf.

Their “Buddy” has died too.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton passed a resolution calling for a national moment of remembrance on each Memorial Day to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

Join me in pausing at 3 p.m. today to remember those who have perished.

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Baton Rouge Selects CRAZY To Read

I have exciting news! The City of Baton Rouge has chosen, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, as its One Book, One Community  selection this summer.

In 2006, Baton Rouge joined more than 400 American cities that participate in this national reading program. In a letter informing me that CRAZY had been chosen,  Abby Hannie, a member of the Baton Rouge’s program  steering committee, explained:

The One Book, One Community initiative was formed to promote a common city-wide reading experience to increase intellectual and cultural dialogue among readers and to exchange ideas for the purpose of raising awareness and visibility with regard to a particular community issue.

The idea is to get everyone in a city to read and discuss the same book. Two of the most popular selections chosen since the first program was launched in 1998 in Seattle have been  To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

That’s pretty heady company.

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Changing the world, one person at a time.

What do a beauty pageant winner, a retired state probation officer, a former homeless man, and a grieving father have in common? 

Pete Earley talking with Nita Brown, NAMI President Arapahoe Douglas Counties

Those of you who read my blog regularly can easily guess the answer. All four have had their lives impacted by mental illnesses. But that is not why I am writing about them. I want to share their stories with you because of how they have chosen to react to the hurdles they’ve encountered.

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From Shoddy Hospitals to Shoddy Houses!

The main reason why I wrote CRAZY was to expose how thousands of persons with severe mental illnesses are being locked-up in jails and prisons because of inadequate community services and laws that require a person to be dangerous before they can be helped.

To me, the incarceration of persons whose only real crime is that they have become ill is a national scandal.

Of course, not everyone with a severe mental disorder in Miami, where I did my research, ended up in jail. When I did my investigation, there were 4,500 persons with severe mental disorders living in 650 boarding homes, called Assisted Living Facilities.  At one time, most of these folks would have confined in state hospitals. Now they are in the community — which is wonderful.

Wonderful, that is,  until you explore the conditions under which many of them are living today.Click to continue…

Gleeful for GLEE! Mental Health First Aid and the Death of A Friend.

A few weeks ago, my daughter, Traci, put together a short video that showed how persons with mental disorders are often the victims of prejudice, stupidity and stigma. One of the most offensive clips came from the popular FOX Television show, GLEE. In that episode, the talented Gwyneth Paltrow dressed as Mary Todd Lincoln, announced that she had bipolar disorder, and proclaimed that a teapot was talking to her.  I was disgusted.

GLEE redeemed itself last week in what was one of the most poignant exchanges about mental illness that I have seen on mainstream television. If you missed the clip, here it is. It is three minutes long and I would urge you to watch it.

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Spiritually, Mental Illness and Recovery

My father is a retired protestant minister and I grew up attending church. When I was a child, Easter was my second favorite holiday. I preferred Christmas because I got presents. At Easter, we hid eggs but didn’t exchange gifts. Of course, when I got older I came to understand just how important Easter is to protestant faiths.

I am writing about religion because of a question that I was asked recently at Viterbo University, a beautiful school in La Crosse, Wisconsin. About 550 people attended my speech at Viterbo, which traces its origins to a small school founded by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. 

“How important is spiritually to mental health recovery?” a woman in the audience asked me. 

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