Should Jails Help Inmates With Mental Illnesses Recover? Retired Veteran Sheriff Says “Yes!”

As sheriff, Mike Wade launched two innovative recovery programs. (Richmond-Times Dispatch photo)

(8-26-22) Several years ago,  Michael L. “Mike” Wade, then the Republican sheriff in Henrico County, Virginia, and I argued during a state-wide meeting about the value of mental health courts. We still don’t agree, but I have come to admire his unwavering efforts to help those with mental illnesses and substance abuses, his humor, and his vast experience based on his forty-five years in law enforcement.

Why do individuals with mental illnesses have to be in crisis to get help?

Guest blog by retired Sheriff Michael L “Mike” Wade

I started my career right out of high school as a clerical employee of the FBI, at 21 years old, I became a police officer in Henrico County (Va.) where I served for 22 years as a patrol officer, investigator and sergeant.  In 1999, I was elected Sheriff of Henrico County and took command of Court Security, Civil Process and the County’s two jails.  I retired, on December 31, 2019. While serving as a police officer, I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

Those are my law enforcement credentials.

In 1985, my father passed away and the cause of his death on his death certificate reads, “Alcoholic Liver.”  I struggled with his written cause of death.  In the fall of 1985, I took a class in Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation at VCU. In that class a movie was shown on Medical Aspects of Alcoholism. It could have been about my father because it documented all of the medical problems that led up to his death.  I wanted to learn more so I earned a Master’s Degree in Alcohol and Drug, Education and Rehabilitation Program (A.D.E.R.P), graduating in 1990.

I believe years in law enforcement, my education in substance abuse and my own family experiences have given me a perspective that might be helpful to your readers.

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Good Luck? Bad Luck? How Do You Handle Life’s Challenges?

My son Joshua received multiple diagnoses. (Photo courtesy of Joanne Tubbs Kelly.)

(8-19-22) How do you accommodate grief? Are there silver linings in tragedies? 

I first met Joanne Tubbs Kelly and her husband, Alan, several years ago when I spoke to a NAMI group in Boulder, Colorado. Their son, Joshua, had a serious mental illness.

Little did we know what the coming years would bring. 

(Please tell me on my Facebook page what has helped you when you face difficult times.)

Good luck? Bad luck? – who knows? 

Mental illness? Mental health? — who knows?

by Joanne Tubbs Kelly, author of Walking Him Home, helping my husband die with dignity.

Forgive me for starting this essay with a tired joke.

You’ve probably heard the one about the ancient farmer whose horse died, so he couldn’t plow his field. All his neighbors commiserated, saying “Sorry for your bad luck.” The farmer replied, “Good luck? bad luck? — who knows?”

Because his horse died, the farmer’s son came home from the next village to help his father plow the field by hand. His neighbors say, “How lucky you are your son came home to help you!” and the farmer once again replies, “Good luck/bad luck, who knows?”

The son breaks his leg while he is working in the farmer’s field. The neighbors tell him what bad luck he is having and the farmer replies with his now-famous response. And so on. The broken leg keeps the son from being drafted into the military.

There’s no punch line per se, just the constant refrain, “Good luck? Bad luck? — who knows?”

Now tuck that story away and listen to the story of mental illness in my family:

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Bipolar, Manic, Thoughts Of Suicide: Writing Poetry Helps Author Find Voice & Recovery

(8-8-22) In this third installment about recent books, emerging author Luther Kissam V finds power and healing writing poetry. Thrilled to reprint his story and a poem.

Have I Told You About My Superpowers

by Luther Kissam V (copyrighted material used with author’s permission.)

It was about 10 p.m. at my rural, Pennsylvanian boarding school when my mother found me running nearly naked through the snow and freezing weather. She was visiting, and I had just jumped out of her moving car, paranoid that she was trying to stop me from fulfilling my purpose.

I told her I had superpowers that the moon had given me, and that I was on fire. Neither of those things were true, but my delusions of grandeur were overwhelming. I was manic with psychotic features. Serendipitously, a teacher stumbled upon us, and was able to coax me into his car before taking me to the school infirmary so I could be hospitalized.

I left the hospital with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and a prescription for Lamictal. In some ways being diagnosed with bipolar disorder was a blessing; at least I finally knew the cause of my worsening emotional instability. For years I rapidly cycled through episodes of depression and mania, impacting my relationships and potential future.

I was getting by but barely.

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Police Body Cam Shows Fatal Shooting Of Fairfax Youth In Crisis. Was This Necessary?

(8-6-22) A fatal shooting in Fairfax County, where I live, ended the life of a young man in the midst of a mental health crisis. Watch the body cam which was released this week and ask yourself why this had to escalate.

Story courtesy of NBC.

Aaron Lynch, 26, was fatally shot by a Fairfax County officer after his family called for help. A mental health clinician was part of the response to their first 911 call but not the second, after which he was killed

Aaron Lynch died after an officer shot him on Arbor Lane the night of July 7. He was 26.

Lynch’s parents said the shooting was unjustified. The county police chief said the officer opened fire as Lynch advanced on officers while swinging a bottle.

Three officers, all trained in crisis intervention and deescalation, entered the home in the 6900 block of Arbor Lane after 8 p.m. They immediately encountered Lynch

“Hey, Aaron. Hey, bud. Whoa,” an officer can be heard saying on video.

Lynch says nothing before the encounter escalates quickly.

“Put it down, put it down, put it down,” an officer says.

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Suicide Rate 300 Times Higher When A Loved One Is First Released From Hospital, Mother Who Lost Son Warns

(8-5-22) This is the second in a three part series about books that have crossed my desk this summer written about serious mental illnesses. Author Gail McPeake, RN., uses her personal journey with her adult son, Tom, who’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia, to warn others about the risk of suicide after someone is discharged from a hospital.

Excerpt from Home Safe: The High Risk of Suicide after Hospitalization for Mental Illness by Gail McPeake, RN. (reprinted by permission.)

I lived an hour away and I had planned on picking Tom up when he was discharged, but they put him in a cab and sent him home.  The next day on the phone Tom was talking erratically again, and in the evening, I saw via his home Ring security camera that he was outside his house, walking on the driveway swinging his sword.

He had a collector’s sword that he kept in his bedroom “for protection” to feel safe, but he never took it outside. Tom went back in the house, and I called him, telling him to put his sword in the safety case and lock it, which he did.

The hospital had assessed that Tom was well enough to be sent home, but within two days we realized that he needed to go back to the hospital, so my husband, Steve, and I drove to see Tom.

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Psychiatrist Offers Advice About How To Avoid Pitfalls With SMI Family Members

(8-3-22) Summer is prime reading time and although books about mental illnesses are not usually on a beach read list, I have asked the authors of books that have crossed my desk recently to tell us why they wrote their book and give us a sample chapter. 

 Against All Odds: A Practical Guide to Successfully Navigate Psychosis and Behavioral Health Systems 

By Gary Tsai, M.D.  (Book website: click here.)

For nearly three decades, my family struggled to get help for my mom. She was a loving mother and brilliant scientist, and happened to have schizophrenia and anosognosia, a condition whereby the area of the brain responsible for self-reflection is damaged, causing someone to lack awareness of their condition.

Unsurprisingly, it was extraordinarily difficult to get her to agree to accept treatment for a condition she fundamentally did not believe she had.

More surprisingly, since this is a rather common phenomenon that affects 40 – 50% of people with serious mental illness, the system responsible for providing care for her was not designed to do so and seemed nearly impossible to access. While in most areas of healthcare, the quicker and easier it is to access services the more severe the condition is, we quickly found out that the opposite was true in mental health systems.Click to continue…