Civil Rights Violated!

As part of its “medical mysteries” series, the Today Show on Friday aired a segment about Susannah Cahalan, a young New York woman who woke up one day with her left side feeling numb. By nightfall, she had become — as her father, Thomas, later put it — “totally psychotic.”

Susannah would begin “crying hysterically” and then “become giddy.” She was taken to the NYU medical center but doctors there didn’t have a clue why she was acting so oddly. Several times, Susannah tried to escape, and her father said she was “hallucinating.”

Susannah stayed in the hospital a month and a specialist finally diagnosed her as suffering from a rare auto-immune problem called ANTI-NMDAR Encephalitis. Here’s a link to the story

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How do we define “Mental Illness?”

I spent much of yesterday afternoon writing an editorial to submit to USA TODAY about an insulting statement that U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan made Tuesday when she testified before the Supreme Court.

Kagan was testifying in favor of a law that would allow the government to keep inmates locked up even after they had served their time if officials felt they were “sexually dangerous.”

USA TODAY Reporter Joan Biskupic quoted Kagan as saying: ”The federal government has mentally ill, seriously dangerous persons in its custody. It knows that those persons, if released, will commit serious sexual offenses.”

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My mom, the DMV, and the elderly

The Washington Post published an article Sunday in the OUTLOOK opinion section about the quality of health care that three elderly women received. One lived in the U.S., the other in England and the last in France.  I’ll let you discover which country came in last when it came to providing  humane services. I’ve put a link to the story at the bottom of this post.
My grandmother lived with my parents for more than twenty years. She died in our home. She moved in a few years after my grandfather passed away when I was a teenager. I adored her and never thought it was unusual for a grandparent to live in the house.  Last fall, my parents decided it was time for them to sell their home in Spearfish, South Dakota, and move to Virginia to be with Patti and me. My dad is 89 and my mom is 90. Both are in great health. I’m very fortunate.
Having them here, has opened my eyes to how the elderly are treated. Most times when we go out, people are courteous – with one notable exception. When I took my parents to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to get identification cards, my mom was treated rudely.

Already Undercutting Parity?

An article in the Wall Street Journal published on 12-15 under the headline: Workplace Mental-Health Services Expand, Short-Term Counseling Often Cheaper than Therapy Through Medical Plans, should be of interest for those of us who have been advocating for insurance coverage for persons with mental illnesses.
For decades, mental health advocates fought for what is called PARITY inside the insurance industry. What that means is that we wanted insurance companies to treat mental illnesses the same as they did other medical problems.  Most insurance carriers didn’t. They limited how many times a person could see a psychiatrist and they routinely denied medical claims for treatment of such psychological problems as eating disorders.

Happy Birthday Sam Ormes

My good friend, Sam Ormes, turned 80 this week! He is an amazing guy. Happy Birthday Sam!

One of the benefits of being a journalist is that you get to meet fascinating people and Sam Ormes is one of the most colorful and delightful that I’ve met.

While doing research inside the Miami Dade County jail for my book about mental illness, I happened on a tiny cubicle that was crammed with electronic gizmos. I thought that Sam might have been a hoarder because nearly every inch of the space was taken-up by television equipment, cameras, video tapes and stage props, including a rubber chicken hanging on a rope from the ceiling.

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Thinking of Others

Patti and I were fortunate during the holidays because six of our seven children  — that’s right seven —  were able to be with us.  Patti was a widow with four young children when we met. I was recently divorced with three of my own.  Blending two families hasn’t always been easy, but as I watched everyone having a wonderful time, I felt proud — especially of Mike. Two years ago, we were dealing with his fourth serious  breakdown. Now, he is doing great and recently became a peer to peer specialist. I am so proud of him.
Of course, remembering what we were going through, made me think of other families who were in crisis during the holidays. A few days later, I received an email from a NAMI friend.  I asked her if I could post her note on my blog and she agreed after I promised to change the names. What this family is experiencing is all too common. It’s a reminder to all of us that even when our loved ones are well, there are others who still need help and support.