Friday, June 29, 2012

Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in Knoxville closes its doors for good

"Just remember - it helped people." ~ longtime employee Shelby Grubbs

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

For those of you who've ever wondered what it was like to parent a mentally ill child, here you go ...

(June 22, 2012) For the past two weeks, I have been pondering Ian Stawicki's family, how some people have commented that they should have done more for him, whether they should have taken his guns away before he killed four people at Cafe Racer and one near Town Hall.
The family's burden lies heavy on me because I am the parent of a son about Ian's age, who has lived with paranoid schizophrenia the past 18 years.
For the past nine years I have been teaching a class for parents whose children have a mental illness. I tell the public that recovery is possible in even the most serious cases of mental illness.
I believe this. My son's story is a case in point: He works part time, has his own apartment, cares for two cats and most of all, loves our family and treats us well.
However, recovery does not mean that families with a mentally ill child have also recovered.
All the families I have taught — more than 200 — are deeply grief-stricken. They live with a continual, corrosive fear. They are always hyperalert. They lack support because people fear mental illness and stay away.
They are often blamed for their child's behavior and they often blame themselves because it could be their gene that brought this on their child. They feel as if they can never do enough and they often spend every dime they can find to mitigate the effects, while knowing there is no cure.
They force themselves to give up the dreams most parents have — college, job, family — and tell themselves that the small steps toward some modest level of independence are sufficient to replace those dreams. And finally, they hope and pray that their child won't commit suicide or be the one who murders five innocent people.
Through it all, those parents are putting on a brave face, giving love, learning delicate negotiation skills, working not to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. They ignore odd habits and unwashed bodies, and try to redirect frightening and sad conversations. They try to protect siblings, and carry on, despite almost universal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
I deal with depression and anxiety. I will never be able to retire. But my son smiles now and is proud of the life he has made despite his illness. It takes incredible bravery to build a life of worth when you can't rely on your brain to give you factual information about your world. I am enormously proud of both him and his sister, who remains his most faithful champion.
If you want to assign blame, lay it at the doorstep of all of us who refuse to care for those among us who truly cannot care for themselves, all of us who have not urged our legislators to fund critical programs that help our children get treatment, housing and employment.
Here are a few things we can get to work on right away:
  • Fund hospital stays long enough and early enough in the course of the illness so our children can learn the skills to deal with their illness.
  • Hold the State Health Care Authority accountable for creating barriers that force doctors to choose the cheapest — instead of the best — medication for our children. Their latest, hastily cobbled together plan is the most restrictive in the nation.
  • Help us change the involuntary-treatment laws that say that our child can't receive hospital care unless he or she will almost certainly die or seriously harm others within the next few hours. Instead, allow hospitalization when there is a "substantial" risk, not just an "imminent" risk.
We all have a part to play to prevent such tragedies in the future. We all have some responsibility, not just Stawicki's family and not just mine. We parents desperately need your help.


President of the Washington State Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
First published in the Seattle Times

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The AOT Pilot Program being planned for Knoxville can't begin soon enough.

There are very sick people in our community who are desperate for treatment - these persistent and severe mentally ill citizens should not be sentenced to jail, nor must their deaths be tragic consequences from lack of timely treatment.
From KNS Comments:  "From what I hear they were there yesterday about a suicide attempt and took a gun away. He was mentally ill and they had their chance yesterday to help the man. Instead they ignored his pleas for help and now look, he's dead .... "

Court ordered assisted outpatient treatment saves lives!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Churches and the Mentally Ill

If all churches reached out like this one to people who truly needed compassion, what a wonderful world it would be.

Churches and the Mentally Ill

from the Treatment Advocacy Center's blog:

On Tadpole Angels, Suicide and More - personally speaking

The Tadpole Angel was my mother. To say that she was severely mentally ill is like calling a kettle black.
GeorgiaThe Tadpole Angel's mental illness was the most devastating mental illness I've ever known, and I've been in this business a long time. I was raised by two schizophrenics, one alcoholic and an old black woman, and as a professional, I've been in the mental health business over 20 years. I had nine people in my family who had what the state of Georgia now calls Serious And Persistent Mental Illness. I loved all these folks, and they loved me. They still do, though all but two have passed on.


At any rate, the Tadpole Angel had what would now be called schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. And the Tadpole Angle had an IQ of 167. She could read a thousand-page book in one hour and tell you exactly what it meant. But, after her mental illness struck, she couldn't hold down even the simplest job. Now, The Tadpole Angel had periods of remission from her illness, sometimes for years, when she was in superb health, both mentally and physically. And those were the good times. We loved her then, and we loved her at her sickest, but those were the bad times, especially for The Tadpole Angel. The Tadpole Angel would become suicidal, and make serious attempts on her life. One dark night, more than 20 years ago, she succeeded in killing herself. But I forgive The Tadpole Angel that, and I believe God does too. 
And, there were times when The Tadpole Angel was homicidal. She would tell me to hide all the knives because she might kill us, and I would stash the knieves away in and outside the house, the same way I'd stash The Tadpole Angel's medication around and about, when she was suicidal. My dad never took The Tadpole Angel seriously when she said she'd kill us. He would never have hidden the knives, but I did, because I knew The Tadpole Angel meant what she said. My dad loved The Tadpole Angel with all his heart and thought she was the cutest, sweetest little thing (she barely tipped the scales at 96 pounds) around. And she was the cutest, sweetest little thing around, even when she was sick, but she was like that little girl in the poem who when she was good, she was very, very good. And when she was bad, she was horrid. That describes The Tadpole Angel to a T. When she was good, she was very, very good. And when she was bad, she was horrid.


The Tadpole Angel killed herself while I was in graduate school getting my masters degree in clinical and counseling psychology. For me, that was the night the stars fell from the sky. That, and the night my father, The Once Again Prince, died in my arms, was the nadir of my life. I roared at God with such ferocity that I scared my Uncle Horace, The Country Boy King, the other schizophrenic who raised me. I have never known such pain, before or since. I had not known such agony was possible. Not even in my fight against cancer did I feel pain like that, the pain I felt the nights The Tadpole Angel and The Once Again Prince died.
So I grew up around seriously mentally ill people. I grew up around people whose mental illnesses were devastating. I saw mental illness strike many people in my family down, before their first flowering. I had mentally ill relatives who acted so bizarre you would have run away from them in terror. But, for me, they were just family, and I loved them.
Well, anyway, I grew up in the mental health business. And I was struck down by my own mental illness at age 21, before my first flowering. I had been a brilliant student all the way through high school and college, had done ground breaking work in biochemistry. And I went from being a Prince among Scholars to being a person who couldn't even hold down a job. I eventually returned to being a Scholar and to holding a job, but it took what Tadpole Angel never could stick with: treatment.


Certified Peer Specialist