Adding Anosognosia to the DSM

As many of you know, I became an advocate for mental health reform because I could not get my son, Mike, help when he first became psychotic. I had rushed him to an emergency room only to be told that he was not sick enough. He was not considered an “imminent danger” either to himself or anyone else even though he was obviously delusional. Forty-eight hours later Mike was arrested after he broke into a house to take a bubble bath.
I was outraged and that experience caused me to begin campaigning for reforms in our current involuntary commitment laws. I think “dangerousness” is a horrible criteria. It is one reason why our jails and prisons are filled with persons whose only real crime is that they have a mental disorder. It stops loved ones from intervening before an ill person gets into trouble and it contributes to persons becoming homeless and dying on our streets.Click to continue…

A Lecture from a Hero of Mine

I was delighted when I opened my email and discovered that Major Sam CochrenMajor Sam Cochran, who often is called the “Father of Crisis Intervention Training,” had sent me a note. Sam is one of my heroes and has probably saved more lives of police officers, persons with mental illness, and their loved ones, than anyone else in our nation in recent times. He is also a modest and decent guy who is dedicated to helping persons such as my son even though he does not have a family member with a mental illness.

I tell Sam’s  story in my book and describe the key role that he played in developing CIT in Memphis, then spreading it across the nation and now internationally. Talk about someone who is making an impact!

The reason Sam was writing was to give me a well-deserved lecture — in his gentle, Southern way.

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Serenity: Is it Possible?

     When my son, Mike, came over recently to play chess — or should I write to easily defeat me in several chess matches — he arrived carrying a DVD. The title was: The Devil and Daniel Johnston.
      Johnston is a cult figure among artists who have mental disorders because he is a song writer, singer, and artist who has struggled for years with mania.

Psychiatrists vs Psychologists Anyone?

     I couldn’t get home last week from Los Angeles because of the snow storm so I flew into Las Vegas to do interviews for my new nonfiction book. I enjoyed being in the only city in America, I think, that didn’t have snow on its streets or freezing weather. It also was interesting to drive along the famous Strip and see how much it has changed from when I did my research in 1997 for my book, Super Casino.

 While the Luxor is still there with its shiny black exterior and brilliant pyramid tip, it looked puny compared to the new billion dollar mega-resorts that have been constructed recently.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the contrast that you see in Las Vegas.

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My trip to Skid Row

I toured Skid Row in Los Angeles last week and visited an innovative medical clinic that serves the homelessness population there. I also saw a newly built housing project for chronically homeless persons with mental illnesses, and then I ended the day at the Twin Towers – Los Angeles County’s main jail. Many of you know the jail is the largest public mental health facility in our country.

Six years ago, I spent two days on the jail’s seventh floor where the most psychotic prisoners are kept. It is where I planned to do research for my book, CRAZY. But lawyers in the sheriff’s office pulled my invitation citing privacy laws. I tried Cook County in Chicago next, then Rikers Island in New York City, then Baltimore and finally Washington D.C. but none of those facilities would let me in. Finally, my friend, Judge Steven Leifman, got me into the Miami Dade County Jail.

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What should we do when there is a shooting?

I had planned to write today about my trip out of the snow-bound Washington D.C. area to Los Angeles where I toured Skid Row and the Twin Towers, which is the nickname for the city jail. As many of you know, the jail is the largest public mental institution in the U.S.

However, I decided to wait until Monday to post that account because of the police shooting here in Fairfax, Va.  that put Ian Smith, a person with mental illness, into the hospital in critical condition.

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