The Mysterious Human Brain

Does anyone really understand the workings of the human brain?  

One of the things I enjoy about traveling to give speeches is that I get to hear other people’s stories. Some of the stories are inspirational. They are about recovery. But others are sad. Regardless of where I go, I meet someone in the audience who has endured much worse than my son and me. Yes, my son has been arrested. Yes, he’s been shot with a Taser by police. But he is not in jail, is not homeless, is not belligerent, is not missing, and is not dead.  Those situations are a grim reality for many parents.

Occasionally, I hear a story that surprises me and that happened during a recent trip. It’s a recovery story.

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Who’s To Blame For This Death?

The residents of Morrisville, Pa., got an intimate look this holiday season at our troubled mental health care system. Paulette Wilkie, a homeless woman with a long history of schizophrenia, was found dead from exposure. The 56 year-old woman’s   body was discovered last week behind Ben’s Deli, a sandwich shop that she frequented. 

Temperatures the night before had dropped into the mid 20s. But that was not cold enough to trigger the county’s emergency homeless plan. Temperatures must sink to 20 degrees or below for two consecutive days before teams can be dispatched to try to  persuade homeless persons to come indoors.

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A Mental Health Quiz

Eleven Questions about Mental Health  

           Question one:  A recent president appointed a commission to study mental illness. Critics immediately attacked that commission and recruited a celebrity to blast it. What president appointed The President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health: Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America and who was the celebrity who criticized it? 

  1. President George H.W. Bush and Tom Cruise
  2. President Bill Clinton and John Travolta
  3. President George W. Bush and Patch Adams
  4. President George W. Bush and Britney Spears 

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Using Music to Combat Stigma

Without a journey there’s no return

It’s the inevitable way of growing up

        Lyrics from “Listen” by Tiago Bettencourt and Cool Hipnoise

Encontrar+SE, a grassroots mental health advocacy group started by Filipa Pahla in Portugal, recently found an imaginative way to fight stigma. A few years ago, Filipa persuaded twenty of her nation’s most popular singers and song writers to participate in a ten-month long, anti-stigma campaign. 

A different artist performed an original song each month about mental illness. The song writers were asked to compose lyrics that first described a problem and then offered a solution. The songs were broadcast on the radio and in music videos on television.

The first three songs introduced listeners to mental illnesses. The themes were : Discriminating/Integrating, Denying/Accepting, and Separating/Uniting. 

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On the Edge in Utah

Whenever I go out-of-town to give a speech, I try to encourage local reporters to investigate mental health services in their communities. When I visited Utah last year to speak at the state’s NAMI convention, I was interviewed by Nancy R. Green, a television producer at KUED, which is affliated with the University of Utah.  

The great thing about Nancy is that she is an investigative reporter, so she wasn’t satisfied listening to me talk about what happened to Mike and my investigation in the Miami Dade Pre-Trial Detention Center for my book CRAZY: A Father’s Service Through America’s Mental Health Madness.  After she spent time talking to me on camera, she launched her own investigation to discover what is happening today in Utah. Her report, On the Edge, is top-notch and provides a real public service to the state.

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Apology from NPR’s CEO to NAMI

Last Friday afternoon, Michael J. Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, received a telephone call from Vivian Schiller, the CEO of National Public Radio, during which she apologized for a comment that she made during the firing of Juan Williams.  

Schiller made a flippant remark during the recent Williams’ controversy, saying that my former Washington Post colleague and friend, needed to consult “his psychiatrist.”

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