Churches & Mental Illnesses: What Role Should Faith Based Groups Play?

(4-19-19) From My Files Friday: I will speaking at a one-day mental health event next Tuesday hosted by ZION Church in Clarion, Pennsylvania, as part of its community awareness ministry. This is only the fourth time in 12 years that I have been invited by a faith based group to tell my family’s story. Minister Trent Kirkland has invited local leaders to join me after my speech to discuss what services are available in their community when someone has a mental break. Please attend if you live in the Clarion area.

Six years ago, I posted this blog about faith and mental illness. I’d love to read your thoughts on my Facebook page about how your church or religious leaders have reacted to you or your loved ones mental illness. For those of you who are fellow Christians, Happy Easter!

“I Realized God Wasn’t Punishing Me:” Talking in Churches About Mental Illnesses  

Joanne Kelly was in church one Sunday when her minister announced during his sermon: “If you are diligent enough in your spiritual practice, you don’t need psychotropic medications.”

Kelly, who has an adult son with a mental illness, was happy that her son had skipped church that day. She confronted the minister after the service.

“What you said was extremely irresponsible,” she scolded.

Getting within an inch of her face and clearly angry, he replied, “When I give a sermon, I am channeling God.”

Joanne never returned to that church. She found a new one. She also got involved in the National Alliance on Mental Illness, serving as the president of both her local Boulder chapter and the state NAMI group. Then she went a step further. Joanne  joined the Rev. Alan Johnson in an effort to educate the clergy about mental illnesses.

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NAMI “Big Tent” Approach Cited, 3 Retirements of Mental Health Heroes, & New Peer Face In Fairfax

Watch four minute video by NAMI CEO Mary Giliberti citing accomplishments

(4-15-19) This video message by NAMI CEO Mary Giliberti showed up in my mailbox recently, although it was released weeks ago.

According to this press release, she attributes:

“the increase in brand awareness to the growing number of celebrity ambassadors who have supported the cause and shared their experiences as well as high-profile partnerships including companies like Kenneth Cole, Lord & Taylor, Boeing, Michelin, Showtime and IHeart Radio.

Giliberti also outlines the work NAMI has done to advocate for better mental health coverage through Medicaid, her involvement with the Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee, and increased calls for more research in collaboration with universities, pharmaceutical companies and government agencies that guide these efforts.

‘Our message on research is this—if we can have a moon shot to cure cancer, then why not a Mars Shot to find new answers for mental illness!’ Giliberti said. ‘We won’t stop until this vision becomes a reality.”

You might recall that in 2017, after a contentious debate, NAMI members elected a board that supported the executive leadership’s “Big Tent” approach, broadening NAMI’s focus beyond its traditional emphasis on serious mental illnesses.

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Jeopardy Clue Asks About My Prison Book. Hopefully, My Mental Health Expose Will Be Next!

(4-12-19) What a nice surprise!

The screenshot shows a clue from the popular television game show Jeopardy.

The correct answer under the category of true crime books was “Leavenworth,” although host, Alex Trebek, let the contestant off easy by not asking which prison. I did my research inside the U.S. Penitentiary, one of five major prisons in that community.

The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison, was first published in 1992 but it continues to be my best-selling book.Click to continue…

New Hampshire Puts Mentally Ill In Prison Because It Lacks Treatment Beds: Disability Group Applauds Decision To Not Built New Hospital

Therapy cages at state prison

(4-9-19) New Hampshire’s abhorrent practice of housing its seriously mentally ill citizens, who have not been charged with crimes, inside a state prison rather than treating them in a hospital is again making headlines.

Governor Chris Sununu sought to stop this horrific practice by requesting $26 million in funding to build a 60-bed state hospital that would be opened by June 2021 with its own secure unit.

But Democrats on the state’s finance committee rejected Sununu’s plan, opting instead to spend $5 million to renovate rooms in an existing state hospital for a limited number of higher-need patients.

What makes this dispute newsworthy is it has pitted two groups, both created to help patients, against each other.

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Waiting Two Months: An Outraged Patient Complains About Long Wait Times For Psychiatric Appointments

Image result for doctor appointments
 
(4-5-19) Getting an appointment with a psychiatrist often is difficult especially if you live in a rural area or if you have a serious mental illness. Even in urban areas, some doctors do not wish to treat patients who have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.  Others only accept cash because they don’t want the hassle of dealing with insurance reimbursements or Medicaid.
 
Little wonder that individuals in crisis often go directly to emergency rooms. But that doesn’t guarantee that they’ll get speedy help either or ever see a psychiatrist rather than an ER doctor. 
 
At a recent conference, a speaker claimed the average wait time at a hospital ER  in the United States for a non-life threatening emergency was three to four hours. The waiting time for someone with a non-life threatening mental illness was three to four days! 
 
There has been a push in recent years to end psychiatric boarding where individuals in crisis often must wait days in emergency rooms for a bed.  But finding beds either in a hospital or community setting remains problematic.
 
I recently received an email from a California reader who told me how difficult it had become for her to see her psychiatrist regularly. Let me know on my Facebook page how long of a wait there might be in your community and what, if any, steps have been taken to treat persons with mental disorders no differently from others with medical issues.
 
Dear Pete,
 
I’m a mentally person who has been diagnosed with Bi-polar, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Severe OCD and physical ailments.  I’ve attached a message that I have sent to Kaiser Permanente.
 
I’ve been trying to find answers for YEARS to why the wait time for mental health appts. gets longer and longer.  I get answers like: “IF YOU FEEL THAT BAD, THEN GO TO THE ER AND THEY CAN HELP YOU.”

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Using Your Genes To Tailor Anti-Depressants. Will It End Hit-And-Miss Prescribing?

 

(4-1-19)  About two years ago, I was approached by a sales representative who claimed his firm had developed a procedure that would help avoid the all too familiar practice of doctors prescribing a drug, deciding it wasn’t working, prescribing another, etc., until they finally hit one that worked.

Sometimes this hit-and-miss approach can cause real damage. One of my son’s psychiatrists prescribed a pill that made him much, much worse.

Washington Post Reporter Ilana Marcus has investigated the practice of using genes to better prescribe. While I don’t like to post already published articles, her story is worth your attention.  (Please share your stories on my Facebook page about having difficulty or success in finding the best meds that worked for you.) 

Can genetic testing help doctors better prescribe antidepressants? There’s quite a debate.

The Washington Post

Grit alone got Linda Greene through her husband’s muscular dystrophy, her daughter’s traumatic brain injury, and her own mysterious illness that lasted for three years and left her vomiting daily before doctors identified the cause. But eventually, after too many days sitting at her desk at work crying, she went to see her doctor for help.

He prescribed an antidepressant and referred her to a psychiatrist. When the first medication didn’t help, the psychiatrist tried another — and another and another — hoping to find one that made her feel better. Instead, Greene felt like a zombie and sometimes she hallucinated and couldn’t sleep. In the worst moment, she found herself contemplating suicide.

“It was horrible,” she said. She never had suicidal thoughts before and was terrified. She went back her primary care doctor.

In the past, when Jeremy Bruce, Greene’s physician in Cincinnati, treated patients for depression, he followed the same steps for almost everyone: start the patient on one antidepressant and switch to another until something helped. Sometimes, before they found the right treatment, the patient would leave his practice to find a new doctor.

“They would usually be very angry,” Bruce said.

But about three years ago, Bruce tried a new approach.Click to continue…