Listening to a Peer

     When my sister-in-law Joanne was diagnosed with cancer, my wife, Patti, immediately began searching the Internet for information and one of the most useful websites that she found was a blog being written by a woman undergoing cancer treatment. Patti became a faithful reader and found this woman’s writings helpful and inspiring. Up until Joanne’s death last year, Patti felt that she, Joanne, and the blogger were in the same foxhole. 

     No one thinks it’s odd to ask for direction from someone who has gone through a life-altering illness  — except when it comes to mental disorders. Too often, persons with mental illnesses are ignored even after they have recovered from all symptoms of their illnesses. Part of the reason for this is stigma and the deeply held belief that persons who are “mentally ill” can’t be trusted to take charge of their own lives.  

 Let me be clear here because this is an emotional subject, especially among parents, of which, I am one. When Mike became psychotic, I did not listen to his ranting. I stepped-in and did what I believed any decent human being would do when someone they love becomes so obviously mentally unstable that they need an intervention.

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A Mid-Week Treat

This month, my son, Evan, graduated from Virginia Tech and is now pursuing a career in film. He already has worked on the camera side of six independent movies.

And my daughter, Kathy, earned her law  degree from the University of Maryland in Baltimore. The speaker at Kathy’s graduation read this poem.  I’d not heard it before and want to share it with you.

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Another Example of The Power of One

 If you are a regular reader of this blog or you know me personally, you realize that I believe one person can make a significant difference in our society and that all of us are obligated, in our own ways, to do something for the betterment of us all. This is one reason why I became a journalist and author. 
There is no better example of how much an individual can change our nation than Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and the Harvard-educated lawyer who is the real-life hero of my fourth nonfiction book, Circumstantial Evidence: Death, Life, and Justice In a Southern Town.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a historic ruling in (Graham v. Florida) that Bryan was instrumental in arguing. More on that later, but first, some background.

Common Sense, Huge Impact

One of the lessons  that I’ve learned visiting mental health programs in 46 states during the past four years is how often a small, common sense change in policy can have a huge impact on helping persons who are ill. 

I saw an example of this when I toured the Los Angeles City Jail, which many of you know has become the largest de facto public mental heath facility in our nation with an average population of 1,400 prisoners with mental disorders.

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A Mother Who Lost Her Daughter But Is Saving Others One House At A Time

Today is Mother’s Day and I would like to tell you about an extraordinary mother who also is an amazing mental health advocate. Her name is Trudy Harsh and she lives in Fairfax, Virginia.

Trudy’s daughter, Laura, developed a brain tumor when she was eight years old. Doctors at Georgetown Hospital in Washington D.C. were able to remove it, but they warned Trudy that Laura would only live for six more years at best. 

As often happens to persons who undergo traumatic brain injuries or have parts of their brain removed, Laura awoke from her surgery a completely different person. She was not the bright, sensitive and loving child that Trudy had given birth to. The parts of her brain that controlled her emotions, especially anger, had been destroyed. 

Tasers and another fatality

Sadly, here we go again.
Another person with a mental illness from Fairfax County, Virginia, where I live, died in an incident with the police on Friday. This time it was after he was shot with a Taser stun gun.
The police responded at 12:41 a.m. to a report that a man was in “psychiatric distress.” When they arrived, he was naked and “uncooperative.” He ignored officers’ commands and became combative, the police said. At that point, an officer shot him with a Taser to bring him under control. The man stopped breathing and died.