I Wanted To Die When Police Arrived. Death Was All I Could Think About. I Needed Help. I Got Prison.

Squad Car, Police, Lights, City, Urban, Police Car

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(7-20-20) In a blog last week, Genevieve Johnson, wrote about how she called the police when her husband, Bryan, was experiencing a mental health crisis. He attempted “suicide by cop” and ended up being arrested. From his jail cell, Bryan now describes the incident from his vantage point. Today’s blog is one of a series of blogs about the need to shift responsibility for individuals in crisis away from the police back to social service and the medical community. As always, I welcome your comments on my Facebook page.

Hospital Bed, Yet Jail Cell Instead

Guest blog by Bryan Johnson, currently an inmate in a Florida jail

“Pull your guns out!” I yell to the officers as I emerge from the kitchen into the dining room where they are standing.

I violently wake up and roll over to see the metal bars in front of me; concrete walls all around. I come to the realization that the nightmare is not yet over, it has just begun.

I’m serving 18 months in prison, all because I was suicidal and charged with not just one felony, but three. I have no previous convictions nor rap sheet to speak of. This is my first-time doing jail time and I don’t understand why this happened to a man who simply wanted to die.

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Fairfax Police Chief Helps Subdue Knife-Wielding Attacker During Bible Class

The chief attending a This Is My Brave show. Shown with Jeanne Comeau, NAMI Northern Virginia’s Executive Director, and This Is My Brave co-founder Jennifer Marshall. This Is My Brave shows feature individuals with mental illnesses telling their stories about recovery.

(The photo above has nothing to do with the stabbing incident. Jeanne Comeau and Jennifer Marshall were not at the church. I picked the photo because it is an example of Chief Roessler’s support of mental health in our community. I apologize for the confusion.)

(7-19-20) I’m happy that Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler Jr. was not seriously injured yesterday when an armed man burst into a bible class that the chief and his wife, Gina, were attending and attacked a minister.

A fellow church member, who hurried to defend the pastor, and the minister both were stabbed. Chief Roessler was bitten several times on his arms while helping disarm the assailant.  All three were taken to a local hospital but none of the injuries was reported to be life threatening. The attacker was arrested but not injured.

A county police officer told the Washington Post that the attacker, who has not yet been publicly identified, was mentally ill, but there was no further explanation. It was unclear if the claim was based on biographical information or simply speculation because of how the attack unfolded. I do not believe someone should be described as having a mental illness unless there has been a confirmed diagnosis.

(Update: I was able to confirm this afternoon that the attacker has a serious mental illness.  Also, one of the stabbing victims was injured more severely than initially reported. The minister was scheduled to be discharged from a hospital today, but the congregant who ran to assist him was stabbed in an artery,  and required surgery but is expected to be okay.) 

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My Veteran Husband Became Suicidal: Instead of Treatment, He Got Tasered and Jailed

(7-15-20) Discussions about shifting responsibility for Americans with serious mental illnesses, who are in crisis, away from the police need to continue. Families are being torn apart when the police and criminal justice system respond to calls – often times at the request of family members  – because of a lack of adequate community social services. 

My Husband Needed Help, Instead He’s In Jail

Guest blog by Genevieve Johnson

“You can go to hell too, bitch. I hope you die! I HOPE YOU DIE! Do you see what you’ve done to me? You’ve ruined me, you’ve ruined every man you’ve ever been with. You’ve ruined these children! You bitch!”

It was August of 2018 when my husband screamed these nasty words at me as three deputies escorted him handcuffed out of our home. Beautiful family photos of better days lined every wall in our home. I knew better than to let the words my husband said in the midst of a manic episode get to me.

But they cut so deep and I could feel my face scrunch up as I tried so hard not to cry. The tears flowed anyways as my heart shattered.

I quickly composed myself to go outside to get our four children out of our minivan. They were sweaty from football and cheerleading practice. A female deputy tried to get them out of the van as quickly as possible by turning their trip into our house into a game. She didn’t want them to see their loving father being carted away in handcuffs.

This man, the one who screamed at me that he wished I would die, was not my husband of five years. He was not the man who was my best friend and rock before we became a couple. He was not the man who adopted my older two children to raise and love as his own. His illness had stolen that amazing man away from me and our children.

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Govt. Issues Guidebook For Religious Leaders To Increase Awareness About Mental Illnesses

(7-13-20) Religious beliefs and mental illness can be a touchy subject.

Faith and spiritually often can provide comfort to those in crises. Sadly, some religious leaders encourage individuals to “pray away” a mental illness. Others explain that mental illnesses are the result of an individual not being faithful to God’s teachings. Ministers often are not trained in how to respond when someone in their church has a mental health crisis.

The federal government has issued a guide entitled: Compassion in Action: A Guide for Faith Communities Serving People Experiencing Mental Illness and Their Caregivers that is “designed as a resource to help faith leaders from all religious and spiritual traditions, as well as their congregants.”

The Center For Faith and Opportunity Initiatives (Partnership Center) at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, said the goal of its 42-page guide “is to increase awareness and build capacity to serve people in their midst experiencing mental illness, and to care well for their family or caregivers.”

One in four Americans seek help during a mental health crisis from a faith leader before they approach clinical professionals, the guide notes. To help faith leaders, the guide sets out “seven key principles that offer a way for leaders to address mental illness in their community and to identify the small steps they can take to put their compassion into action.”

“We recognize different faith traditions may approach matters of mental illness from different perspectives. Some faith communities may not believe that modern medicine of the sort described in this Guide can play a legitimate role in wellbeing. The purpose of this Guide is not to disregard such faiths or beliefs. Rather, for faith communities that accept the value of medicine, or those uncertain about how faith and medicine can interact, this Guide recommends an approach that offers the benefits of both faith and medicine.”

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Justice Dept. Plans To Execute Convicted Killer With Schizophrenia & Dementia Unaware Of Why He’s Being Killed


Leading Mental Health Organizations Call on Attorney General Barr to Stop 
July 15 Scheduled Execution of Wesley Purkey Who is Diagnosed with Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease

 (Washington, D.C.) Pointing to the Trump Administration’s commitment to “addressing the needs of individuals with serious mental illnesses” and arguing that “proceeding with his execution would violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on executing people who are not competent to understand the reason for their execution,” three of the country’s leading mental health organizations today submitted a letter strongly urging the Trump Administration to withdraw the July 15 execution date of federal death row prisoner Wes Purkey, and to commute his sentence to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. 
The letter, signed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Mental Health America (MHA), and the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC), cites Mr. Purkey’s childhood history of “horrific physical and sexual abuse” and of psychiatric problems including institutionalizations beginning at age 14. “His diagnoses included schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and brain damage. He experienced terrifying delusions and hallucinations, including the belief that people were spraying a poisonous mist into his room and that drug dealers had implanted a device in his chest that was intended to kill him.” 
The letter from the three organizations can be accessed here.
(7-10-20) Should the federal government execute a convicted murderer with a long history of schizophrenia who has now developed Alzheimer’s disease and may not understand why he is being put to death?

The courts have ruled that a condemned prisoner has to be aware of why he is being executed or he can’t be put to death, but Attorney General William Barr is moving forward without conducting the necessary medical tests to judge the inmate’s competency while withholding medical information as part of his push to again begin executing federal inmates after a two decade moratorium.

Ron Honberg, J.D., former Director of Policy and Legal Affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has written an editorial in Newsweek magazine explaining why he opposes the execution of Wesley Purkey on July 15th, one of four scheduled federal executions under orders by  Barr.

President Trump vowed to revive federal executions, which could explain why Barr is hurrying before the November elections, even though a record 60 percent of Americans favor life without parole over executions,according to the latest Gallup poll.

“As with all death penalty cases, the facts of this one are not pretty,” Honberg acknowledges.

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Consumer Activist Outlines “The Pathway to Dignity and True Mental Health System Reform”

(7-8-20) Discussions about how to shift responsibility for persons with serious mental illnesses away from the police and back on social services and the medical community continue to be debated. I’ve received emails from those who support my views and those who don’t. 

Long-time mental health advocate, Harvey Rosenthal, chief executive of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services – one of the most influential organizations that represents the rights of individuals diagnosed with mental illnesses – used the Fourth of July weekend to write about freedom for those with mental illnesses.

Promoting Liberty and Freedom: The Pathway to Dignity and True Mental Health System Reform

By Harvey Rosenthal, guest post from a different point of view.

I have always viewed the service and support that we offer to each other as ultimately about promoting and protecting freedom and liberty, or better yet liberation. Liberation from the restrictions and limitations that told and still tell us that recovery ‘happens’ for just some people instead of being expected for everyone and that have been imposed at times on us by our field, our academic institutions, our families, friends, neighbors….and ourselves.

There are a number of freedoms to aspire and commit to and, in some instances, to celebrate today.

Freedom from discrimination, devaluation and ridicule from others and from the fear, shame and self-condemnation we impose on ourselves.

Freedom from attacks by some on choice, rights and privacy protections, especially around the right to choose or refuse treatment and where it’s delivered…and the freedom to have access to meaningful legal assistance and psychiatric advance directives.

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