God Winks: After Their Sons Died Two Mothers Found Hope In Human Kindness and Heavenly Signs

(5-28-18) On Memorial Day we celebrate our veterans who died for us and our country.

I not only think about veterans but all those who have died and are dying because of a mental illness and our refusal to help them in their daily battles with brain disorders. Consider this email that I received from a mother this week.

Dear Pete,

I am happy to read that your son is doing well. My son, Art Anthony Hargreaves,  died last month from complications caused by his schizophrenia and diabetes. Alone in his little government studio apartment. He refused to go to a group home stating, “They’re illegal.” His case manager and others said there was nothing they could do. We were waiting on me trying to become his guardian. It just all moves too slow. Time ran out.  I miss my son.

Only those who have walked this walk truly understand. I kept telling his case manager that I was so afraid I might get a phone call informing me that my son Art had died. Art was such a sweet soul. Schizophrenia took his brain, than his body, but never his Soul, his love of nature and animals, and dare I say his Mom. I was in ICU recovering from a stroke-at my weakest, when Art left this world, and when I received the news.

Would you help me get word out about the Harvard Brain Bank for research on Mental Illness.  My son, and my whole family are donors. Unfortunately they could not harvest my son’s brain for research as the body must be quickly refrigerated and there is only a 3 hour window of time to do this. I did call Harvard Research Center and strongly suggested they put that information on donor cards…in case of death. 

Click to continue…

Joanna Walker Shares Her Recovery Story Through Her Daughter’s Original Song: On Another Day. Bravo!

(5-25-18) I had no idea.

I’ve known for years that Joanna Walker was a tireless advocate in Northern Virginia for individuals with mental illnesses. What I didn’t know until I attended a recent This Is My Brave  performance was that she had once been depressed and suicidal. Nor was I aware that she was a talented signer who chose to tell her story both with words and by singing a poignant original song.

On Another Day was written by her daughter, Emily. 

Thank you Joanna and Emily for sharing your talents. And thank you, Jennifer Marshall and This Is My Brave for continuing to offer opportunities to individuals with mental disorders to share their personal recovery stories!

Click to continue…

Treatment Advocacy Center Joins Campaign To Get Christopher Sharikas Out Of Prison Into Treatment

Twenty year anniversary in prison for a crime with a recommended eleven years maximum.

Sana, Christopher, and James (step father). Christopher has spent twenty years in prison for a crime with a recommended maximum eleven year sentence. He has paranoid schizophrenia. 

(Update:  Just to be clear, the Treatment Advocacy Center, which encourages everyone to sign the Sharikas-Campbell family petition calling for Christopher to be pardoned by the governor, has a helpful tool that allows residents of Virginia – and only residents of Virginia — to send a letter to Governor Northam urging him to take action. So, if you live in Virginia, please do so. It’s quick and easy. And if you live outside of Virginia, by all means, please sign the petition  to show your support. Sorry for the confusion. These are two different items – a letter for Virginians and a petition for anyone who wants to help.)

(5-22-18) The Treatment Advocacy Center has thrown its weight behind a petition drive to get Christopher Sharikas pardoned by Virginia’s governor and transferred to a state mental hospital where he can get treatment for his paranoid schizophrenia.  Hopefully, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and other organizations will join TAC’s move.

I first wrote about Christopher’s case  in September and tipped off The Washington Post. Its reporter, Rachel Weiner, wrote a detailed story about him that same month.

Here’s a quick recap.

Sana Campbell, (her first husband, Christopher’s father, is deceased and she has remarried), told me that her son began showing signs of paranoia and schizophrenia in his early teens. His untreated illness became progressively worse and when he was seventeen, voices in his head began commanding him to get to New York City.

Christopher flashed a knife at a woman, then ran away. The police showed up at his house, but no charges were filed. The next afternoon during a worsening psychotic break, Christopher pulled his knife on a 24 year-old woman and demanded her car keys.

Amy Greenwood quickly gave him the keys to her car. Christopher next demanded her purse, which she also handed over. He stabbed her in her back and fled, only to crash her car a few hours later while she was being treated.

Yes, it was a horrific crime prompted by mental illness. No one questions that or excuses it. But Christopher’s case soon took several twists, all unfavorable to the ill teenager.

Click to continue…

New Video Shows How Fairfax Officials Joined Together To Create Model Diversion Program For Residents With Mental Illnesses

Please watch this short video about diverting persons with mental illness into treatment!

(5-18-18) I am so proud of how Fairfax County, Virginia has become a national model in diverting persons with mental illnesses into treatment rather than having them languish in jail.

For eight years after my book was published, I would return to my home county embarrassed after visiting communities that had embraced Crisis Intervention Team training, problem solving dockets, the sequential intercept model and post release programs.

I was frustrated and ashamed because there was little interest or support for any of these programs in Fairfax.

That’s no longer true.

Now because of collaboration and inspired leadership by our Board of Supervisors, Sheriff, Police Chief and other elected officials, a major cultural shift has happened.

Now when I give a speech, I brag about how Fairfax County has become a leader in mental health reform!

We still need to work on building supportive housing. We still need to push for expanding problem solving dockets (mental health and drug courts). We now need our judges and prosecutors to understand that individuals charged with both misdemeanors and felonies should be eligible for diversion because it is not the crime that should be the determining factor but whether or not the accused has a criminogenic personality. (Persons with chronic, serious mental illnesses often get charged with felony assault for resisting arrest.)

But the change in Fairfax has been breathtaking.

If your community leaders are unaware about the national Stepping Up initiative, you need to  copy and send them the video posted above. Tell them that diversion is not only a way to end the inappropriate incarceration of persons who are sick but also a smarter way to spend precious public tax resources.

Congratulations Fairfax County!

Click to continue…

Powerful HBO Documentary About Disturbed Children & Two Programs You Should Watch

(5-14-18) Here are three programs you should watch.

Number 1:  Virginia state Senator Creigh Deeds and Dr. Tom Insel are featured in a jarring look at children with serious emotional disorders and mental illnesses in the HBO documentary – A Dangerous Son. (Watch trailer above.)

Number 2: At the conservative, Republican Heritage Foundation,  psychiatrist and addiction specialist Dr. Sally Satel, author and advocate  D. J. Jaffe, and the National Alliance of Mental Illness’s Capitol Hill expert Andrew Sperling discuss whether government programs are helping or harming mental health care delivery.

Number 3: PBS’s Minds On The Edge program continues to be one of the best shows ever broadcast about what happens when someone gets a serious mental illness in America.

Click to continue…

Parents Insist Son’s Death Was Preventible: Tried To Get Him Help Numerous Times. Not Dangerous Enough, Yet Ended His Own Life While Mother Struggled To Stop Him

(5-11-18) Pat and Jerry Wood insist their adult son’s death could – and should – have been prevented. Instead, on this coming Mother’s Day weekend, the family will be holding a  private memorial for Brian Patrick Wood. Their account is one of the most disturbing examples that I have read about barriers to treatment – not only in Virginia – but across our nation. (Their son’s death happened in Loudoun County. I recently posted a blog from a distraught father who complained sheriff’s office deputies arrested his son after he’d called them for help. The sheriff responded in a follow up blog.)

Our Son’s Preventible Death – An email to Pete Earley from Pat and Jerry Wood

Dear Pete,

On March 22, our son, Brian, took his own life. My husband and I very strongly believe that Brian’s suicide could have been prevented if the first group of medical responders and sheriff officers who we called had acted appropriately.

What follows is a reconstruction of events to the best of our recollection and a question as to why officers who responded to our 911 call did not exercise their authority to use an ECO (Ref: Emergency Custody Order that allows a person to be taken to a hospital against their will in Virginia) to assist our son who clearly did not have the clarity of thought to act in his own interest.

As Brian became increasingly delusional and paranoid over a period of months, he called the (Loudoun) sheriff non-emergency number several times.

Brian had called them when he lived in an apartment in Leesburg and continued to do so when he moved to our house in Sterling.  Officers had come to our house in Sterling to investigate imagined break-ins and “suspicious people” loitering around the house at least twice or three times in the 2-3 weeks prior to Brian’s suicide.

Deputy Suggests Family Get ECO On Their Own

Deputy P. Brick (#3198) responded to these calls several times and became acquainted with Brian and his mental health status.  Because Brian did not present himself as being a danger to himself or others during these calls, Deputy Brick told us that he could not take Brian in for a mental health evaluation and we agreed with him at that time. The last time Brian asked officers to come to the house, Deputy Brick suggested trying to get an ECO ourselves from the magistrate on the grounds of “inability to care for self”. Please note that Brian had been hospitalized in Loudoun County several times over a 7 year period and had a history of being taken in by the sheriff’s office through emergency custody orders issued on our behalf by the magistrate. He had also been taken for mental health evaluations several times directly by the sheriff’s officers because of complaints by neighbors or, in one case, because of a domestic assault.

Click to continue…