Want To End Stigma? Stop Spending Time and $ On Changing Minds & Fund Research

(3-1-19) We spend much time, money and effort fighting stigma. Charles Goldstein, a parent of an adult son with a serious mental illness, a doctor and a mental health advocate recently questioned the value of such efforts. Put simply: Is it worth our time and money? Here’s a copy of a speech that he gave before the Council for the Advancement of Global Mental Health Research at Columbia University.

Mental Illness, Stigma and Leprosy 

To whom it may concern (and I believe that would be everyone).

My name is Charles Goldstein, I’m a retired emergency physician who’s worked in Phoenix Arizona in a busy metropolitan ER for over 40 years. I’ve worked with the mentally ill who were brought to or dropped off at my emergency room, usually inappropriately, because that’s one of the least helpful environments people with mental illness can be in. Almost none of the time that I was dealing with people with mental illness was I treating them, but more was trying to facilitate an appropriate discharge from the ER to someplace that might help them, a Herculean effort in and of itself. In addition, I have had the good fortune to work with very dedicated people striving to help people with mental illness. For the last 4 – 6 years or so I have become quite involved with organizations that do this good work; through this experience and because my wife, Laurie, and I personally have raised a child (now man) who has serious mental illness, I have a few things to say on the subject.

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John Walked Out Of A Treatment Center and Jumped From A Bridge. Why?

My Brother John

(2-20-19) Programs created to help individuals beat their addictions are cropping up all across our country because of the opioid epidemic. Sadly, some recovery programs either ignore or are ill prepared to deal with co-occurring addictions and mental illnesses.

My Brother Died Because Of Our Failing Mental Health Care System

By Amy Page

Let me tell you about my brother, John.

On October 4th, at roughly 10:50 am, he lost his hard-fought battle with a severe mental disease, Bipolar I Disorder, after countless attempts by him and our family to get help here in Texas.

It’s clear to us that the facility that was court ordered to help him failed.

It accused him of lying about his symptoms, trying to manipulate their program, refused months of attempts by our family to have him transferred to another treatment program, and allowed him to walk out the front door of their facility where he jumped off the bridge of a nearby overpass.

He was 34 years old.

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Blaming A Seriously Mentally Ill Prisoner For His Own Death: Jamycheal Mitchell Had A Right To Refuse Treatment

(2-21-19) A new theory has emerged about why a 24-year old man with a serious mental illness died from apparent heart failure accompanied by a “wasting syndrome of unknown etiology.” Earlier news reports said Jamycheal Mitchell had starved while in a Virginia jail.

The latest theory: blame the victim.

In a 166-page report released this week, a local prosecutor said no criminal charges could be filed against the private firm responsible for providing healthcare to inmates inside the Hampton Roads Regional Jail because its staff was respecting Mitchell’s constitutional rights to refuse medical treatment.

Mitchell wasted away in 2015 after spending 100 days in the jail waiting to be transferred to a state mental hospital. He had been arrested for allegedly stealing $5.05 worth of snacks from a convenience store. His paperwork was delivered to a state hospital but was tossed into a desk drawer and overlooked until after his lifeless body was found in his jail cell.

The Virginia-Pilot quoted Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Morales in the report saying:

“He likely did not understand what could happen to him if he refused these treatments, yet under the existing scheme…companies like NaphCare (hired to provide medical services in the jail) can avoid criminal liability by claiming they followed proper informed consent procedures.”

Let’s review the known facts.

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Legalized Pot: Are Individuals With Mental Illnesses At Greater Risk Of Harm?

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(Photo11: Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images)

(2-19-19) Marijuana and mental illnesses. Does smoking weed put persons with mental illnesses at greater risk of harm? D. J. Jaffe, author of INSANE CONSEQUENCES,  wrote this recently in USA Today. I’ll be curious to read on my Facebook page about your experiences and opinions.  

Marijuana needs warning labels like tobacco for associated mental, physical health risks

The situation is similar to when cigarettes first became extensively marketed; health risks were known but not disclosed, driving disease and deaths.

In his inaugural address on Jan. 1, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, like other governors, announced that he will push for the legalization of recreational marijuana, but he said nothing about what he will do to mitigate the health risks. Before legislators legalize marijuana, they should require bold and direct warning labels to be placed on the packaging as is done with tobacco products. If the states fail to act, then the Food and Drug Administration should step in and require it.

In early 2017, after exhaustive review, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that there are significant health risks associated with using cannabis and cannabinoids. Yet none of the 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana, or the 10 states that have legalized recreational use, gives adequate warnings of those risks.

The situation is similar to when cigarettes first became extensively marketed. The health risks were known but not disclosed, leading to disease and lives being lost. In addition to appearing on the packaging, the warning labels should be displayed prominently wherever the product is sold, in advertising and in mandated public service announcements funded by the marijuana industry.

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Benefits of Bipolar? Ha! Gabe Howard Describes His Life Living With Bipolar Disorder In Compelling First Book:


(2-12-19) Gabe Howard, a contributor to my blog and someone living with mental illnesses whom I admire, has published a collection of his thoughts and writings in a new book entitled: Mental Illness Is An Asshole And Other Observations. 

In two to three page essays he writes about such everyday topics as “How To Handle A Teen’s Dramatic or Manipulative Suicide Threat,” “My Mom Doesn’t Understand What It’s Like To Be Openly Bipolar,” “Integrity in the Face of Adversity,” “How do I Make My family Understand Depression?” and “Why My Spouse Doesn’t Resent Me For Having Bipolar.”

Gabe’s knowledge comes from his lived experiences, which he shares with a wonderful blend of seriousness, humor, poignancy and insights. While everyone is unique, Gabe’s book helped me better understand my own son and others living with mental illnesses, and I am grateful for that.

Gabe was kind enough to allow me to reprint his essay:

The Benefits of Bipolar Disorder by Gabe Howard 

I am often asked, both in person and online, about the benefits of bipolar disorder.

This isn’t an ignorant question. The media is filled with examples of mental illness making people better detectives, artists or creating other ‘super powers.’ The people who ask this question are varied, as well. Family and friends, the inquiring public, and even people living with bipolar disorder all want to know the upsides of this illness.

And it’s a very easy question to answer:

There aren’t any.

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Wearing Racist Blackface Makes National News, So Should Stigmatizing Americans With Mental Disorders

pete earley on dr. phil

(Photo: Robert Sebree for USA WEEKEND)

(2-8-19) From My Files Friday: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and our state’s Attorney General, Mark Herring, are in political trouble because they wore “blackface”  which invokes our racist and painful history. Whenever outrage about an abusive slur or hateful action by a public figure gains national attention, I think about everyday slights that I hear, read or see about individuals with mental illnesses.  Even professionals have engaged in hurtful, stigmatizing speech as this Op Ed that I wrote for USA Today in July 2013, shows.  (Postscript: Dr. Phil never apologized.)

Dr. Phil insults the mentally ill: His remark that the insane ‘suck on rocks and bark at the moon’ stigmatizes people.

“You won’t believe what Dr. Phil just said on his show,” my wife, Patti, told me. “He said insane people ‘suck on rocks and bark at the moon.’ “

“Dr. Phil said what?” I replied.

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