Jeopardy Clue Asks About My Prison Book. Hopefully, My Mental Health Expose Will Be Next!

(4-12-19) What a nice surprise!

The screenshot shows a clue from the popular television game show Jeopardy.

The correct answer under the category of true crime books was “Leavenworth,” although host, Alex Trebek, let the contestant off easy by not asking which prison. I did my research inside the U.S. Penitentiary, one of five major prisons in that community.

The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison, was first published in 1992 but it continues to be my best-selling book.Click to continue…

New Hampshire Puts Mentally Ill In Prison Because It Lacks Treatment Beds: Disability Group Applauds Decision To Not Built New Hospital

Therapy cages at state prison

(4-9-19) New Hampshire’s abhorrent practice of housing its seriously mentally ill citizens, who have not been charged with crimes, inside a state prison rather than treating them in a hospital is again making headlines.

Governor Chris Sununu sought to stop this horrific practice by requesting $26 million in funding to build a 60-bed state hospital that would be opened by June 2021 with its own secure unit.

But Democrats on the state’s finance committee rejected Sununu’s plan, opting instead to spend $5 million to renovate rooms in an existing state hospital for a limited number of higher-need patients.

What makes this dispute newsworthy is it has pitted two groups, both created to help patients, against each other.

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Waiting Two Months: An Outraged Patient Complains About Long Wait Times For Psychiatric Appointments

Image result for doctor appointments
(4-5-19) Getting an appointment with a psychiatrist often is difficult especially if you live in a rural area or if you have a serious mental illness. Even in urban areas, some doctors do not wish to treat patients who have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  Others only accept cash because they don’t want the hassle of dealing with insurance reimbursements or Medicaid.
Little wonder that individuals in crisis often go directly to emergency rooms. But that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll get speedy help either or ever see a psychiatrist rather than an ER doctor. 
At a recent conference, a speaker claimed the average wait time at a hospital ER  in the United States for a non-life threatening emergency was three to four hours. The waiting time for someone with a non-life threatening mental illness was three to four days! 
There has been a push in recent years to end psychiatric boarding where individuals in crisis often must wait days in emergency rooms for a bed.  But finding beds either in a hospital or community setting remains problematic.
I recently received an email from a California reader who told me how difficult it had become for her to see her psychiatrist regularly. Let me know on my Facebook page how long of a wait there might be in your community and what, if any, steps have been taken to treat persons with mental disorders no differently from others with medical issues.
Dear Pete,
I’m a mentally person who has been diagnosed with Bi-polar, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Severe OCD and physical ailments.  I’ve attached a message that I have sent to Kaiser Permanente.
I’ve been trying to find answers for YEARS to why the wait time for mental health appts. gets longer and longer.  I get answers like: “IF YOU FEEL THAT BAD, THEN GO TO THE ER AND THEY CAN HELP YOU.”

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Using Your Genes To Tailor Anti-Depressants. Will It End Hit-And-Miss Prescribing?


(4-1-19)  About two years ago, I was approached by a sales representative who claimed his firm had developed a procedure that would help avoid the all too familiar practice of doctors prescribing a drug, deciding it wasn’t working, prescribing another, etc., until they finally hit one that worked.

Sometimes this hit-and-miss approach can cause real damage. One of my son’s psychiatrists prescribed a pill that made him much, much worse.

Washington Post Reporter Ilana Marcus has investigated the practice of using genes to better prescribe. While I don’t like to post already published articles, her story is worth your attention.  (Please share your stories on my Facebook page about having difficulty or success in finding the best meds that worked for you.) 

Can genetic testing help doctors better prescribe antidepressants? There’s quite a debate.

The Washington Post

Grit alone got Linda Greene through her husband’s muscular dystrophy, her daughter’s traumatic brain injury, and her own mysterious illness that lasted for three years and left her vomiting daily before doctors identified the cause. But eventually, after too many days sitting at her desk at work crying, she went to see her doctor for help.

He prescribed an antidepressant and referred her to a psychiatrist. When the first medication didn’t help, the psychiatrist tried another — and another and another — hoping to find one that made her feel better. Instead, Greene felt like a zombie and sometimes she hallucinated and couldn’t sleep. In the worst moment, she found herself contemplating suicide.

“It was horrible,” she said. She never had suicidal thoughts before and was terrified. She went back her primary care doctor.

In the past, when Jeremy Bruce, Greene’s physician in Cincinnati, treated patients for depression, he followed the same steps for almost everyone: start the patient on one antidepressant and switch to another until something helped. Sometimes, before they found the right treatment, the patient would leave his practice to find a new doctor.

“They would usually be very angry,” Bruce said.

But about three years ago, Bruce tried a new approach.Click to continue…

Involuntary Commitment Debate Still Relevant: Who Is Playing Me?

Watch this short clip from Minds on the Edge

(3-29-19) FROM MY FILES FRIDAY: Shortly after my book, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, was published, I was asked to participate in a PBS special program about involuntary commitment.

It used a scenario inspired by what had happened to my son and me after we were refused treatment at a hospital emergency room and he ended up breaking into a stranger’s house to take a bubble bath.

MINDS ON THE EDGE  proved to be compelling television, so much so, that many local mental health groups began using it to discuss the “danger to self and others” standard.

I wrote this blog in 2010 about how one NAMI chapter had cleverly modified the show.

MINDS ON THE EDGE: Pete Earley Confronts Pete Earley

(2010) A funny thing happened recently. A man approached me after I delivered a speech and said: “Hi, I’m Pete Earley.”

I wasn’t certain what he was talking about until he explained that his local mental health group had used Minds on the Edge to discuss involuntary commitment. Members in his group had played the roles of those of us who actually were in the Fred Friendly Seminars broadcast.

He had been me — an angry and frustrated parent who couldn’t get help after his son became psychotic.

Because my “double” was familiar with conditions in his local community, he was able to tailor his comments to what actually happened in his own neighborhood when someone had a psychotic break. That made the issues surrounding commitment germane to him and local officials, and helped both see holes in the system.

I’d encourage you to watch Minds on the Edge . It affords you the opportunity to see and hear how a Nobel Prize laureate, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, an ethicist, the father of Housing First, Author Elyn Saks, Judge Steven Liefman, Dr. Fred Frese, Dr. Tracey Skale, and other top mental health advocates grapple with a fictional scenario that remains all too familiar for many of us.

The program won awards from the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health America, and I doubt the discussion that it spotlights will be resolved anytime soon.

Sharing Your Stories: Books That Chronicle Mental Illnesses And Those Impacted By Them


“Pat in 1988 before our world came undone.” Author Dede Ranahan’s first book

(3-26-19) I’ll be speaking April 2nd at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Dane County 2019 Awards Banquet and Gala in Madison, Wisconsin. Please support NAMI by attending if you live in the Madison area. 

The 2019 book season is upon us. Here’s a few that have caught my eye. If you have one that you’d like to recommend, please do so on my Facebook page.

Surviving Schizophrenia, 7th Edition, by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey.

Long considered the most comprehensive and authoritative book written about schizophrenia, an updated Surviving Schizophrenia is being released today. It was groundbreaking when it was first published in the early 1980s.  Here’s how my former colleague at the Washington Post, Peter Carlson, described the book’s impact in a 2001 article that documents how this important work helped NAMI become a national organization. If you have schizophrenia, know someone who does, or want to educate yourself about this serious mental illness, this is a must read.

When Laurie Flynn walked into the office of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill for her first day as executive director in 1984, she found a pile of mailbags, each of them stuffed with letters. It was all because of E. Fuller Torrey. 

Torrey had just published “Surviving Schizophrenia,” a guide for patients and their families. When he appeared on Phil Donahue’s TV show to promote it, he urged people seeking help to contact the alliance, which was then a fledgling organization with fewer than 50,000 members, most of them the parents of mental patients. The result was this avalanche of mail.  

“Nobody had ever said the word schizophrenia on popular television, and people came out of the woodwork seeking help,” Flynn recalls. “For many years, mothers were told they were the cause of the problem, and here comes Fuller Torrey saying, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t the family’s fault. These are brain diseases.’ Here was a psychiatrist saying, ‘I know what you’re going through because my sister has the problem.’ It’s hard to overemphasize what a hero he was back in the early days.” 

Torrey donated the royalties of “Surviving Schizophrenia” to the alliance and he hit the hustings to organize, helping to build the group into a powerful lobbying organization with more than 220,000 members.

“Weekend after weekend,” Flynn says, “he went out to states where members were organizing chapters and he rallied the troops. Nobody did it better.”

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