Show Me A Kid With A Mental Illness And I’ll Show You A Mother Who Blames Herself: How To Stop Blame

(6-13-19) When her adult son developed a mental illness, Faith Tibbetts McDonald blamed herself. What had she done wrong? Could she have prevented his illness? I asked her to write about how she eventually worked through the blame game and what she learned.

Beyond blame, My personal struggle and resolution

By Faith Tibbetts McDonald.

I was in the grocery store when I bumped into a friend whose daughter was in the hospital being treated for a mental health crisis. I asked how things were going.

Not well. Her teenage daughter hadn’t improved from when she was admitted a week earlier.

“Don’t blame yourself,” I said.

My friend burst into tears. Instinctively, I reached out and brushed one of her tears away.

“Don’t blame your husband, either.”

More tears. I fished in my pocket for a tissue.

“How did you know?” she asked.

How did I know?

Because I have lived in that same space. I’d been where she now was.

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“Put Justice Back In Criminal Justice System’ Two Challengers Oust Prosecutors Who Showed Little Concern For Mentally Ill Defendants

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) Steve Descano defeated Raymond F. Morrogh, the incumbent commonwealth’s attorney in Fairfax County, Va. Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos was defeated by defense lawyer Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. 

(6-12-19) Northern Virginia voters yesterday ousted two long-time county prosecutors who had shown little concern for persons caught in the criminal justice system primarily because of their mental illnesses and/or addictions.

It is unclear whether the results are a reflection of a growing shift nationally toward a better understanding about mental illnesses/addictions or simply a local reaction to two “old school” prosecutors.

Arlington voters chose Parisa Dehghani-Tafti to replace incumbent Theo Stamos. In Fairfax, Steve T. Descano unseated Raymond F. Morrogh. Dehghani-Tafti won by 500 votes, Descano by 1,434. Tuesday’s election was a Democratic primary but neither has drawn a Republican challenger for Virginia’s general election in November.

Both winners are progressive liberal candidates who have promised to use local prosecutor posts to remake criminal justice policy on issues including mental illness, racial disparities in sentencing, marijuana prosecutions and the death penalty. Both widely discussed the need to stop the inappropriate incarceration of persons with serious mental illnesses

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Prosecutor Should Be Ousted For Punitive Treatment Of Mentally Ill Defendants. Vote for Reformer Parisa Tafti.

Reformer Parisa Tafti (left) Hopes To Defeat Theo Stamos (right) In Democratic Race.

(6-10-19) Advocates in Arlington, Virginia are working hard to defeat incumbent Commonwealth Attorney Theo Stamos because of her backward treatment of residents with mental illnesses.

Stamos, who has been a prosecutor for thirty years, is being challenged by a criminal justice reformer,  Parisa Tafti, in tomorrow’s (June 11th) Democratic primary.

Tafti is one of three candidates seeking to unseat prosecutors in Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties in Northern Virginia whose views they see as being retrograde and excessively punitive.

In a strongly worded editorial, The Washington Post endorsed Tafti, a former public defender who is legal director of an innocence-protection organization.

     “Ms. Stamos (has been) criticized for backward-thinking policies…we think criticism of Ms. Stamos — her arbitrary restrictions on the discovery process, overcharging of offenses and seeming tone-deafness to implicit bias in law enforcement — is accurate.

    Ms. Dehghani-Tafti offers a better choice. Her work on innocence protection gives her unique insights into the criminal-justice system and where improvements need to be made. She is right to want to treat rather than criminalize mental-health problems and drug addiction, and to prioritize crimes such as wage theft and elder abuse over petty, nonviolent offenses.

    Her experience has been in protecting innocent people from being wrongly convicted, but she recognizes the need to go after and lock up those who pose a real danger.

Stamos participated in what is one of the cruelest incidents of over-prosecution in Virginia involving a defendant with mental illness.

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97% Success Rate At Helping Homeless Americans With Mental Illnesses and Substance Abuse Get Off The Streets

Navy Green’s common area where formerly homeless residents mingle with affluent neighbors

(6-7-19) How can we help individuals with serious mental illnesses who are chronically homeless, have co-occurring drug and alcohol problems and have been involved in our criminal justice system?

We’re often told such people are “treatment resistant.” A lost cause. Impossible to help.

That’s nonsense.

We have programs that work, we simply need more of them.

Yesterday found me in Brooklyn, New York, attending a board meeting of the Corporation for Supportive Housing, at one of the housing projects that we helped develop.

Navy Green, part of Brooklyn Community Housing and Services  (BCHS), provides permanent supportive housing to 97 men and women who have Axis One diagnoses – people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and persistent and debilitating depression.

These are reportedly the most difficult to house and keep housed.

Yet, ninety-seven percent of individuals living in Navy Green in 2015 either maintained their housing or moved on to greater independence.

You read that right. A 97% yearly success rate. How?

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Should NAMI Have Done More To Keep Successful CEO Mary Giliberti?

(5-3-19) “We burned her out!” Dr. James Hayes, a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness board of directors, told me when I asked why Mary Giliberti abruptly resigned last month as NAMI’s CEO.

NAMI Board Chair Adrienne Kennedy explained that Ms. Giliberti has three children at home. “She is a private person who wants to spend more time with them and the constant travel proved to be too much.”

“Bottom line, Mary gave her heart and soul to NAMI,” added Ron Honberg,  who retired last month as NAMI’s Senior Policy Advisor after 30 years with the organization. “I will always value her leadership for that reason.  She worked 24/7 on making the world a better place for people with mental illness.”

Finally, a current NAMI staffer told me,  “She was always the first in the building and last to leave at night. She spent hours on airplanes visiting out members in their states and was known for taking time from her schedule to work our hotline because she wanted to hear what callers were saying.”

In her official resignation announcement, Ms. Giliberti stated: “With NAMI’s growth over the last five years has come long hours and much travel. As I look at my children as they are finishing middle and high school next year, I have decided that the time has come to devote more time to them.”

Because Ms. Giliberti spent so much time visiting affiliates, she was well-known and popular. Now those members are wondering if NAMI’s board should have done more to keep her.

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Involuntary Commitment Can “Destroy The Human Spirit” Social Worker States. “Engagement Gets Us Much Further.” That Includes Getting Whole Family Involved


Dear Pete,

As I read your blog piece on Assisted Outpatient Treatment, I asked myself, what are we committing people living with serious mental illness to?

And why wouldn’t we start with practices that promote engagement, and offer people help that they find meaningful?

I am a clinical social worker who worked in a specialty clinic for people with psychotic disorders for 17 years. I’ve been involved with clinical training and education of mental health professionals for 24 years, in academic psychiatry and social work.

In my clinical practice, I provided psychosocial assessment, individual and group psychotherapy, clinical case management, and family support and psycho-education.

Throughout my career, I’ve always promoted the use of evidence-based practices that focus on engagement and recovery for people living with severe mental illness. These include family psycho-education, which I call the forgotten evidence-based practice. It is not the same as the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s Family to Family program.

It’s engagement of the whole family in treatment, at a level the person with the illness is comfortable with. It is emotional support, education, and skills training.

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