Why is “Dangerous” the Criteria?

      I receive emails and letters from parents and family members who have tried to get their loved ones help by having them involuntary committed into a hospital only to be stopped by our legal system. One of the sadder notes came this week from a father whose daughter was so sick that the psychiatrist who first examined her and the independent examiner appointed by the court to review her case quickly agreed that she needed to be hospitalized.

     But when the young woman appeared before a special justice here in Fairfax County, Virginia,  he ignored the two professionals’ recommendations and released the woman because, in his opinion, she did not pose a danger either to herself or to others.

    “Where did this dangerousness criteria come from?” the frantic father asked me in an email.

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Happy Valentine’s Day Doctor

Dr. Tracey Skale, the medical director at Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services, is someone whom I admire. We met when I spoke in Cincinnati and later teamed up as panelists on the Minds on the Edge broadcast.  She embodies what I believe a psychiatrist should be — a gifted doctor who cares deeply about helping her patients recover.  She and her co-workers have made GCB into one of the finest community mental health providers in the country.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently selected GCB for a Science and Service Award for Treatment of Mental Illness and Recovery Support Services. The award was given to GCB because of the evidence-based recovery practices that it offers clients. These services include:  Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment, Assertive Community Treatment, Housing First, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Illness Management and Recovery. These programs help the “whole person,” which is vital because many persons with severe mental illnesses are also homeless and have co-occurring substance abuse disorders. At  GCB, recovery involves much more than simply sticking a pill into someone’s mouth.

Recently, Dr. Skale was interviewed by a local Cincinnati station about the Tucson shootings and she used the short TV appearance to help educate the public.

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A Teenager With Mental Illness Responds to Cheerleaders’ Stunt

I’m not the only parent who was outraged by the insensitivity of the Waunakee Wisconsin High School dance team. ( See:  Stupidity Award for Promoting Prejudice blog.) Mom and fellow NAMI member Chrisa Hickey writes a blog entitled: The Mindstorm – Raising a Mentally Ill Child  and Chrisa posted an Open Letter on it that was written by a teenager with mental illness.  Chrisa knows Erika but is holding back her last name to protect her privacy.  The letter is addressed to Head Coach Erin Cotter. In it, Erika poignantly explains why mental disorders are no laughing matter.

Dear Head Coach Erin Cotter;

I would like to tell you a story, and I would like you to read. Truly read it. As, though it is a story of my life, it is also a story of thousands. Many of whom are even at your school.

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Stupidity Award for Promoting Prejudice

I’ve decided to begin giving an award to persons or groups who show that they are prejudice against persons with mental illnesses. I’m calling it the Stupidity Award for Promoting Prejudice or the SAPP.  I’m sad to announce that the first recipient is Rick  Chandler a writer with NBC SPORTS. 

In a column published February 5th on Off the Bench, Chandler encouraged the Waunakee Wisconsin High School dance team to not change its “rather unique routine” when it competes in an upcoming state competition. Chandler writes:

 In it, the team “gets crazy” while wearing uniforms resembling straitjackets and restraints with the words “Psych Ward” on them. The girls, however, have been forced to tone down their routine after complaints from mental health advocates and parents that their act mocks the mentally ill. Political correctness gone mad? You be the judge….

Not that they should be apologizing in the first place. Exactly who is crazy here? If the girls feel in retrospect that their routine is insensitive and wrong, they should admit it and dump it. If they don’t feel that way, they should keep it unchanged and go full-speed ahead with the madness. Teaching our children to back down under pressure is not cool…Look, until we get a complaint from Giants’ reliever Brian Wilson, I say that his dance routine is good to go as is.    

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Europe’s Biggest Thief

Advocating for better mental health care is a top priority to me, but it’s not my only interest. I took time last week to have lunch with a friend of mine who works for a U.S. intelligence agency and our conversation quickly turned to Russia.

   I have been fascinated with the Kremlin and Moscow much of my life.  Perhaps, it started when I was a youngster living in Pueblo, Colorado when my mother began storing food items in the bathroom closet in 1962. The bathroom was the only room in our small house that didn’t have windows, which was why it was chosen as our family’s emergency bomb shelter if the Soviet Union attacked.

For those too young to remember, 1962 was when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened and at the elementary school that I attended, we did drills where we either hurried into hallways or ducked under our desks. That was supposed to help us if  bombs fell.

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No Laughing Matter

   

 I believe all of us should do our best to fight  stigma. It might be as simple as not laughing when someone tells a joke that belittles a person with a mental disorder. Or it could be as bold as launching a boycott of a business whose commercials or product names are stigmatizing. 

This week, Karen Easter, in Knoxville, Tennessee, became appalled when she saw an offensive video clip that was posted on the website of  the Knoxville News Sentinel newspaper. The clip had been taken with a cell phone and it showed an adult man talking off his clothes and walking down the center of a busy shopping mall. The story that accompanied the clip reported that the man had removed his clothing because he believed there were “snakes in his pants and he had pain in his legs.” You could hear the person who took the video laughing at the sight and the website story immediately attracted a score of sarcastic comments along the ilk of  “spitting snakes” and other sexual innuendos.

The caption called the man a “streaker” but when you  read the story, it became clear that this young man had a mental problem. He was taken by the police to a local mental health center. 

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