Using Wealth & Smarts To Improve Their Community: Especially The Lives Of Children. Bravo Maxine Clark and Bob Fox!

(2-20-18)  What would you do if you won the lottery? Everyone has thought about it. Instant wealth. Travel the world first class? Buy multiple homes? Expensive cars? Indulge yourself with luxuries?

Maxine Clark and Bob Fox are two St. Louis, Mo., based philanthropists who are using their self-made wealth to dramatically help others, especially children. Maxine’s interest in kids should be no surprise. She’s the founder of Build-A-Bear Workshops! (Yes, my granddaughter has three stuffed animals from our local store.)

I was lucky to spend time with Maxine – (Bob was sick with the flu) – when I spoke recently at the Spirit of Provident Annual Gala, a fund raising event and celebration hosted by Provident, a mental health provider  founded in 1860 by James Yeatman to help the sick and the poor in St. Louis. What you read is not a misprint. It was founded in 1860!

Provident was honoring Maxine and Bob at the gala, but the day before that event, the couple arranged for me to speak at the Clark-Fox Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis. My keynote was entitled Misguided and Misdiagnosed: Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System. After my speech, one of my favorite advocates, Susan W. McGraugh, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Law, who works with indigent, incarcerated clients, spoke eloquently about what services were available in St. Louis and what needed improvement. Later that night, Maxine hosted a private dinner for me with community leaders to discuss such topics as jail diversion, better police training, and affordable housing.

I explained that the first step is always for a community leader with clout (a judge, sheriff, or local official usually) to step forward and organize (force) all of those who have some connection with mental health/substance abuse (nearly everyone) to sit down at a table and find ways to collaborate. I said that night what I always say – that it is impossible to provide meaningful mental health services in your community unless you want to talk about supportive housing, job opportunities, easy access to mental health community services, transportation, specialized veterans programs, criminal justice reforms (such as jail diversion), helping children and giving people hope.

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Podcast Part Two: Writing Novels To Finance My Mental Health Advocacy

(2-19-18) Earlier this month, I was interviewed by Psych Central hosts, Gabe Howard and Vincent M. Wales, for two podcasts. The first was posted February 8th. The second segment was posted on the PsychCentral webpage last week coincidently when our nation was reacting to the Florida school shooting. I felt a need to comment on that tragedy, so I decided to delay posting the second half of my conversation with Gabe and Vincent until today. In this segment, they ask me about my days as a reporter at the Washington Post – which out that section includes mild profanity – my novels and finally the subject about which I care the most – what all of us can do to demand better mental health care services. (You can learn more about Gabe here  where he speaks briefly about his illness.)

Podcast: Part Two: More With Pulitzer Prize Finalist Pete Earley

Pete Earley returns to talk more about mental health advocacy and lots of other things. He tells of how he came to co-author a book with Jessie Close and talks of his days writing his own spy novels and several books with former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. He also shares stories from his days as a reporter with the Washington Post, including being part of a “special” squad of reporters. Pete shares some information on some of his forthcoming books and projects, and finally, he advises everyone of what we can do to help advocate for mental health in our own ways. 

I Wish Mental Health Had A Lobby As Powerful As The NRA: Polls show Americans favor changing gun laws but politicians are too scared

(2-16-18) Consider item one:  “We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health,” Trump said in brief remarks at the White House  following the Florida school shooting.

Consider item two:

Report: Mass Shootings and Mental Illness

By James L. Knoll IV, M.D. George D. Annas, M.D., M.P.H. Copyright © 2016 American Psychiatric Association Publishing. All Rights Reserved. 

Common Misperceptions

Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent the most significant relationship between gun violence and mental illness.

People with serious mental illness should be considered dangerous.

Gun laws focusing on people with mental illness or with a psychiatric diagnosis can effectively prevent mass shootings.

Gun laws focusing on people with mental illness or a psychiatric diagnosis are reasonable, even if they add to the stigma already associated with mental illness.

Evidence-Based Facts

Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides. In contrast, deaths by suicide using firearms account for the majority of yearly gun-related deaths.

The overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%. When these crimes are examined in detail, an even smaller percentage of them are found to involve firearms. 

The mass shootings at Virginia Tech, in Tucson, in Aurora, in Newtown, and at the Navy Yard were clearly related to untreated mental illnesses. There were abundant warning signs.

Author D. J. Jaffe argues that individuals with untreated serious mental illnesses are, in fact, more dangerous than the average American. He writes, “Denial of a link between violence and untreated serious mental illness serves the needs of neither the ill nor the public.”

So who is correct?

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A Father Speaks Out: “The two people in the world who loved and cared the most for Alex had absolutely no say.”


The Worst Moment In Our Lives

(2-12-18) The worst moment of my wife’s and my life began with a simple text. “Alex didn’t come home from school. I’m worried.”

I was away on business. This was unlike our Alex. Our sixteen-year-old son usually came home every day after school. We tried to call him and got no answer. We called family and friends but no one could locate him.

Hours later the police found him.

He had left school early. He was in a park and had tried to cut himself. A man and his daughter had seen him and asked if he needed help. Thankfully, Alex had said ‘yes’ and they had made a call.

The police brought him home. I cut my work trip short and came home the next day. I heard my wife cry for help as soon as I walked into the house.

My son was stabbing himself.

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Genetics & Environment Both Factors In Causing Mental Illnesses


Artist’s conception of a network of brain cells. Researchers have found similar signs of disrupted neuronal communication in five psychiatric disorders. 


(2-10-18) While I dislike simply reprinting articles, this Washington Post article is worth posting. Once again, scientists have found evidence that mental illnesses are brain disorders with a genetic link that also is impacted by the environment. Major mental illnesses are not a “social construct,” as many anti-psychiatry groups have argued for years. No surprise to any of us who have a loved one with a serious mental illness.

Five major psychiatric diseases have overlapping patterns of genetic activity, new study show


Certain patterns of genetic activity appear to be common among five distinct psychiatric disorders — autismschizophreniabipolar disorder, depression and alcoholism — according to a new study. The paper, appearing in the journal Science, was released Thursday.

Scientists analyzed data from 700 human brains, all donated either from patients who suffered one of these major psychiatric disorders or from people who had not been diagnosed with mental illness. The scientists found similar levels of particular molecules in the brains of people with autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; other commonalities between bipolar and major depression; and other matches between major depression and alcoholism.

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“Severe mental illnesses demand immediate and targeted attention – not being swept under the rug.” John Snook responds to “worried well” blog

(2-9-18) A recent blog by Dr. Dinah Miller, co-author of the book, Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care, elicited this response from John Snook, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center.  John serves with me on the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness and Serious Emotional Disturbance committee, that advises Congress on the state of mental health care in the nation. I consider both John and Dinah friends and fellow advocates. Clearly, they have much different opinions.

Dear Pete,

I must admit I read Dr. Miller’s piece regarding the “worried well” with some amazement. She completely misses the point — a point that doctors like her have willfully ignored for the last twenty years: severe mental illnesses demand immediate and targeted attention.

Across the nation, rates of homelessness, incarceration, substance abuse and suicide that occur when the seriously mentally ill are left untreated are beyond crisis levels. Needed treatment beds are so decimated that mental health officials increasingly provide care only under threat of their own arrest.

Dr. Miller appears to want to sweep these many failures of the mental health system she represents under the rug as ancient history. Her piece is an impressive attempt at gaslighting – in her world, mental health providers have always considered the needs of the most severely ill. Those suffering with untreated severe mental illness and their families who suffer with them know better.

Let’s put this discussion in perspective.

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