Mental Health First Aid Gets Millions, But Author Claims It Doesn’t Help Americans With Serious Mental Illnesses

(7-13-22) Mental Health First Aid,  a widely popular national training program, is being called “ineffective” in a scathing report issued by the Manhattan Institute, a New York City based conservative think tank.

A newly released study, Mental Health First Aid: Assessing the Evidence for a Public Health Approach to Mental Illness, concludes that the training program fails to “connect mentally ill individuals…with an appropriate level of treatment before a crisis leads to tragedy.”

The goal of the training program is “to teach everyday citizens how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders,” the report’s author, Carolyn D. Gorman, writes. She notes that more than two million Americans have completed MHFA training. Some police departments have elected to use MHFA’s three-day training program rather than the more comprehensive 40 hour Crisis Intervention Team training program.

But Gorman writes there is scant evidence that the program actually benefits or impacts the lives of individuals with symptoms of serious mental illnesses.

In an email exchange, she explained: “Just to be clear, there was no evidence the program helped even non-mentally ill individuals. Mental health was not improved among recipients of MHFA, for those with no baseline need for mental health care, nor for those with a baseline need for mental health care. I make the point only because I often hear arguments that those who take MHFA training ‘feel good that they took the training’ but even for the average person, it is no better than having no training.”

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I Resign From Federal Panel. Time For A Fresh, Younger Advocate To Advise Congress

(7-6-22) After five years, I’ve resigned from the federal panel that advises the U.S. Congress about serious mental illnesses.

I was appointed to be the parent designee on the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) when it was formed and held its first meeting on August 31, 2017.

I am resigning because I believe ISMICC could benefit from a younger, fresh voice.  In my letter, I urge Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, PhD., to appoint a mother, preferably from the BIPOC community, as my replacement, although I have no say in her decision.

Because of the structure of ISMICC, I was appointed to two terms by the previous head of SAMHSA. I want Dr. Delphin-Rittmon to be able to appoint an ISMICC board member of her choosing, especially since she has revitalized ISMICC after it was pushed to a back burner during the final years of the Trump Administration.

Being on ISMICC enabled me to push for reforms. But I also leave with disappointments.

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Washington Post Columnist Salutes PBS Documentary, Features My Son, Kevin Earley

(7-1-22) Stories about the Ken Burn’s documentary, Hiding In Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness, being shown on PBS continue to appear. The Washington Post profiled my son, Kevin, in a Petula Dvorak column. 

Once reluctant, now he uses his full name to talk about mental illness


He was known as “Mike” in his father’s book about mental illness and the hellish journey it was to access care in a dysfunctional system.

“Mike” was wrestled to the ground and Tasered.

“Mike” was receiving encrypted messages from an Oliver Stone movie.

“Mike” broke into someone’s home and took a bath.

“Mike” has “an incurable disease. He will never get better,” a doctor told Mike’s father, best-selling author (and former Washington Post reporter) Pete Earley.

He told the story of the devastating news in the documentary: “It’s unlikely he will ever be able to hold a job, he’ll ever marry, have kids. And there’s a high chance he’ll have an encounter with police, be arrested, may become homeless.”

But at the White House last week and on screens across America, he’s using his full name — Kevin Mike Earley. And he has a graduate degree, a job and a full, artistic life.

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The Importance of Hugs: My Son Writes About Camaraderie Among ‘Hiding In Plain Sight” Participants Who Told Their Stories

Erik and Chris Ewers with fellow film participants, including Kevin, show tattoos.

(6-29-22) Part Two of Hiding in Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness. the Ken Burns documentary shown this week on PBS stations, opened with me describing one of my first encounters with a psychiatrist after my son, Kevin, had a psychotic break while in college. The doctor’s warnings about his future were so bleak that I was devastated. Kevin laughed at them.

The highs and lows during Kevin’s six year journey to recovery are featured in this film by Erik and Christopher Loren Ewers. Most of the other young people interviewed in this brave documentary met face-to-face for the first time at a White House screening but the real celebration for them came this week in Billings, Montana. That’s where therapist Kee Dunning, who offers comforting and invaluable advice in the film, practices. She arranged a two night event at a local theater where standing room only crowds watched the documentary and asked cast members questions.

Here’s Kevin’s report about what happened.

Report from Billings Premier: Redemption and Friendships

By Kevin Earley

I am in awe to be included in the company of the courageous individuals whom I shared space with in the documentary and finally met in person in Billings, Montana during the past few days.

I was first interviewed by the Ewers brothers in what seems like ages ago.  I believe it was about three years ago, but it seems so much longer.  I have watched several of the preliminary edits of the film about mental illness they have been laboring over.  I contributed artwork, paintings, music, comics and a huge swath of my soul I poured into the making of the film.  I, along with many other brave individuals, left it all on the field during the making of this project.  I am honored that the filmmakers did our stories beyond justice.

It kinda felt like destiny meeting these people in person, like kindred spirits whom I have known before in another lifetime, like deja vu greeting them in person after watching so many iterations of the film.  I learned so much about myself by meeting them.

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PBS Documentary Difficult But Important To Watch. Part Two Tonight. So Proud Of My Son For Participating

Kevin discusses his illness and recovery on PBS documentary last night. Tonight, part two.

(6-28-22) I’d watched snippets of Ken Burn’s PBS documentary, Hiding In Plain Sight: Youth Mental Illness, but last night was the first time that I’d seen part one of the completed film.

Listening to youngsters talking about suicide, abuse, trauma, delusions, depression and peer pressure brought on by cruelty via social media was heartbreaking and, at time, brutal to watch.

But it is so important for us to listen to these young persons’ courageous voices, hear their cries for help, and get a glimpse into their worlds. We must not turn our heads or switch channels.

Tonight is the second part of this amazing documentary, airing on PBS, 9 pm EST. Last night, Kevin and I both were featured describing our experiences with his mental illness: bipolar disorder.

Patti and I will be watching tonight.  I hope you will too.

Ken Burn’s Documentary: Hiding In Plain Sight – Youth Mental Illness Premiers Tonight On PBS


(6-27-22) Ken Burn’s Hiding In Plain Sight documentary about youth and mental illness premiers tonight on your local PBS station. 9 pm. EST and 8 CST.