Thursday, October 31, 2013

Foundation spearheading effort to curb smoking among the mentally ill

 — Anti-smoking campaigns have generally succeeded in educating Americans about the hazards of tobacco use, experts say. Smoking prevalence has declined by almost half in the last 50 years as a result.
But it remains stubbornly high among one group – persons with severe and persistent mental illness. Smoking rates for the mentally ill are more than double those in the general population, according to a commentary published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, co-authored by Jeffrey Willett, vice president for programs at the Kansas Health Foundation.
“The paper is really a call to action to both the public health and the mental health communities,” Willett told KHI News Service. “There is recognition that there are high rates of tobacco use among people with serious mental illness, but there is honestly not enough being done to address the problem.”
Courtesy Kansas Health Foundation
Jeffrey Willett
Persons with serious mental illness on average die 25 years earlier than people in the general population due primarily to smoking- and obesity-related diseases, Willett said.
“This population is rapidly becoming the last frontier (in the effort to reduce smoking),” he said. “In, Kansas, roughly one-third of all cigarettes smoked are smoked by people with mental illness.”
Nationally, 16 million adults with mental illness are smokers. Approximately 80 percent of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia smoke. The rate exceeds 60 percent among those with bipolar disorder.

Read the entire article here:

JAMA Network | JAMA Psychiatry | Partnership Between Tobacco Control Programs and Offices of Mental Health Needed to Reduce Smoking Rates in the United States

JAMA Network | JAMA Psychiatry | Partnership Between Tobacco Control Programs and Offices of Mental Health Needed to Reduce Smoking Rates in the United States

There's an app for that!

Doctors Look To Phone Apps To Treat Mental Illness

Dr. John Kane is a professor of psychiatry at Hofstra University. He directs the Advanced Center for Interventions and Services Research in Schizophrenia. Up till now, he says, mental health care has been slow to join the emerging field of mobile health, or mHealth. But things are changing. Recent mass shootings have drawn attention—and grant money—to the need to address severe mental illness quickly.
"The tragedy is that people with schizophrenia are not inherently violent."
Kane thinks using apps to intervene early will limit the problems that come with untreated psychosis—including crisis medical care. Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health show one in a hundred Americans have schizophrenia.
"The costs are enormous. So if you look at a visit to an emergency room or a hospitalization, we’re talking about tremendous costs."
But the goal of the doctors working on the FOCUS app goes beyond averting trips to the hospital.
Again, Dr. Dror Ben-Zeev: "Our objective is recovery and high functioning.'

Read the entire article here:

Help Advocate Mom, Leisl Stoufer, Start Up Bold Faith Ministries and "Cody's Place".

Bold Faith Ministries is a brand new Non-Profit Organization dedicated to bringing restoration and dignity to individuals and family members affected by mental illness. The ultimate goal of Bold Faith Ministries is to open "Cody's Place", a faith based treatment center that will reconnect it's patients with God and a community of support by providing services in the areas of treatment, advocacy, and homelessness.

Leisl Stoufer is mom to Cody, her beloved fifteen year old son, who suffers from Bi-Polar Disorder. As a result of Cody's illness, Leisl has first hand experience with our nation's broken mental health care system. Her grief from Cody's illness and the constant battle to obtain treatment for him, have led Leisl to champion a cause that is often neglected or in most cases swept completely under the rug. Leisl has become a passionate advocate for treatment for those who suffer from mental illness and who are often left homeless or incarcerated because treatment is denied. 

With her spunky personality, her first hand knowledge of the issue of mental illness, her deep faith in God, and over fifteen years of experience in church leadership, Leisl is the perfect person to start a non-profit. 

But Bold Faith Ministries needs your help! In order to obtain our incorporation as a 501-C3 organization in California, we need approximately $1,000.00 in start up costs. These funds will go directly toward filing and legal fees and will help us obtain our 501-C3 status. 

Join us today and sow into a ministry that will help the lost, the forgotten, and the marginalized. Your contribution will ultimately go toward bringing restoration and dignity to those affected by mental illness.

We sincerely appreciate your generosity and your help.

Blessings to You,
Leisl and the Bold Faith Ministries Team


"For I was hungry and gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me." - Jesus
Matthew 25:34-36,40

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Teresa Pasquini: One mom who advocates for change.

Today I am honored to feature a mom's story of advocacy and, most importantly, of hope.  Her name is Teresa Pasquini and she lives in California.  I urge you to read her story and her testimony in support of Laura's Law, assisted outpatient treatment in California.  

She tells me, "I know that AOT isn't the magic bullet and that there is great resistance which is sad. We need a system of CARE from prevention to AOT."  

And although I'm 2,000+ miles away in Tennessee, I echo her sentiments completely.

Read her story here:  A Mother's Lessons: Reflections from Teresa Pasquini

Read her testimony here:

My full testimony to the Contra Costa Board of Supervisor's Family and Human Services Committee on October 16, 2013:

I am Teresa Pasquini, a Mental Health Commissioner, a member of CPAW and Chair of the Behavioral Healthcare Partnership of Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. I speak today as a mom and family member only.

I want to thank the family members and consumers of the workgroup who have worked with county staff to consider a recommendation on Laura’s Law. I do use the term Laura’s Law because we must not sanitize why we are here and forget the law’s namesake. Laura Wilcox gave her life because of a broken system. In spite of the best intentions we have an unsafe mental health system in Contra Costa. We are here because we have a system that treats too many by jail, after tragedy or not at all. We have lost too many lives because the criteria of danger to self and others are often too late. Laura’s Law will save lives, save families and possibly save our souls.

My son has a long, expensive history of failed treatment under the current Contra Costa Health Services LPS conservatorship program. He would not make it in a Full Service Partnership because it is a voluntary program and he suffers from anosognosia. His care has cost this county over $753,000 in just three years. The county’s burden of my son’s care is truly a stunning record of fiscal and human waste. Lets stop wasting money we don’t have and start a Laura’s Law program for those few who cost so much.

My son is now at Napa State Hospital and my husband and I visit weekly. We have travelled to locked facilities on weekends for over 14 years. We saw three additional families at Napa last weekend and ironically, we were all from District 1, Supervisor Gioia’s District. That is also the same district that a recent murder occurred of a family in Pinole.

There are more Contra Costa County families with loved ones at Napa State Hospital in 2013 then when the MHSA was implemented in 2005. I assume that the alleged Pinole murder client will end up there too. That is expensive treatment after tragedy. That is evidence of the failure of our current system.

There should be a legal risk assessment for the county’s liability of NOT implementing this law. Please request a full system cost breakdown of out of county placements in locked settings where treatment is often forced. Also, the numbers of open county clients revolving through psych emergency and our county jails. And please assess the number of Contra Costa families who have adult children living with them that present a danger to self and others.

As was stated at the recent Board meeting during the discussion of the West County jail grant-Community safety and evidence based programming will benefit Contra Costa. Why wait for jail? Laura’s Law will keep the numbers of those with serious mental illness from entering the criminal system and our very impacted jails.

We don’t need more studying, Laura’s Law is an evidence-based program that will improve community safety and save county funds. Lets stop the human and fiscal bleeding in Contra Costa and create a Laura’s Law program now. Please give clear direction to the Mental Health Director to find the money to implement this law in Contra Costa.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Vote For Agape Outreach Homes to win a new Toyota vehicle!

This Friday, October 25th, Agape Outreach Homes will be competing in Toyota's 100 Cars for Good Program which is a contest that uses Facebook. If Agape is one of the top 2 vote getters, then they will win a new Toyota vehicle. Please help us spread the word about voting for Agape Outreach Homes on Friday, October 25th (this is the only day to vote) at

Any Facebook/Twitter posting and sharing is greatly appreciated. Below is an example Facebook and Twitter post (posting on the voting day you would want to replace "Oct 25" with "today"). If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 865-389-2840. Thanks!

Facebook Post Example:
Please share with everyone & vote on Friday, Oct. 25th for Agape Outreach Homes at (Facebook contest) as they compete for a new Toyota Tundra to help expand their reach and mission in our community.

Twitter Post Example:
Please share & vote on Oct 25 for Agape Outreach Homes at (Facebook contest) as they compete for a new Toyota #100Cars

Vote for Agape Outreach Homes on October 25th in the Toyota 100 Cars for Good Program!

Benjamin Wethington
Executive Director
AGAPE Outreach Homes
5403 Jacksboro Pike
Knoxville, TN 37918
Phone: (865) 689-4871
Fax: (865) 689-2442

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Brain Basics: An excellent resource from the NIMH

Homeless Monroe County man falls through the cracks |

In better times, he lived in a mental hospital, where he and his family say he thrived because of the structured environment and monitoring of his mood and medications.
Homeless Monroe County man falls through the cracks |

How Other States Successfully Implement AOT: Model Laws for Tennessee.

This week "how other states do AOT" will be featured on It's Time To Change Tennessee's  Mental Health Laws, starting with our sister southern state of Louisiana.  From the Louisiana Dept of Health & Hospitals website:
What is Assistive Outpatient Treatment ?
Louisiana’s Law for Assistive Outpatient Treatment  (Louisiana ACT 407) allows the director of a hospital, emergency receiving center or Regional / District Mental Health Director to petition the local court for involuntary outpatient treatment of certain individuals meeting the criteria established in law.  This court-ordered treatment is called assisted outpatient treatment.   This Assistive Outpatient Treatment Law is an important treatment tool that allows individuals, who due to the debilitating effects of their mental illness have a history of non-compliance with treatment, to be court ordered into outpatient treatment without ordering them into more restrictive inpatient care. 
Who is eligible for Assistive Outpatient Treatment ?
An individual may be placed in assistive outpatient treatment only if, after a hearing, the court finds that all of the following have been met. The individual must:
1.      be eighteen years of age or older,
2.      suffer from a mental illness,
3.      be unlikely to survive safely in the community without supervision, based on a   clinical determination,
4.      have a history of lack of compliance with treatment from mental illness that has resulted in either of the following;
       a.  at least twice within the last thirty-six months, the lack of compliance with mental health  treatment has been a significant factor resulting in an emergency certificate for hospitalization or receipt of services in a forensic or other mental health unit within a correctional setting, not including any period during which the person was hospitalized or incarcerated immediately preceding the filing of the petition    OR
        b.  one or more acts of serious violent behavior toward self or others or threats of, or attempts at, serious physical harm to self or others within the last thirty-six months as a result of mental illness ,  not including any period during which the person was hospitalized or incarcerated immediately preceding the filing of the petition
5.  As a result of his or her mental illness, is unlikely to voluntarily participate in the recommended treatment documented in the treatment plan.
6.   In view of the individual’s treatment history and current behavior, there is a need for assistive outpatient treatment to prevent a  relapse or deterioration which would likely result  in the individual becoming  dangerous to self or others,
7.   It is likely that the individual will benefit from assistive outpatient treatment.
What can you do if you have concerns about someone’s eligibility for Assistive Outpatient Treatment?Contact the Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Behavioral Health designated Assistive Outpatient Treatment Coordinator in the region / district in which the individual resides for assistance.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

California's AOT Pilot Program reduces incarceration by 78% among participants

Re: "The mentally ill in our jails," Editorial, Oct. 15
Los Angeles County can easily reduce its jail population by implementing Laura's Law and discharging eligible mentally ill inmates to assisted outpatient treatment. Laura's Law provides mandatory monitored treatment for people with mental illness while they live in the community.
L.A. County's pilot program has reduced incarceration by 78% among participants. It's time to move from pilot to full-scale implementation and determine which jail inmates should be enrolled. 
The county has the means to solve the problem; what's lacking is the will.
D.J. Jaffe
The writer is the executive director of Mental Illness Policy Org.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Great oped by the NY State Association of Chiefs of Police in today's (10/15/13) Albany Times Union. It proves criminal justice can be the ones to fix the mess."

With thanks to Mental Illness Policy Org for this morning's post --

States Mentally Ill Need Treatment Not Incarceration
by Michael Biasotti
Immediate Past President NYS Assoc. of Chiefs of Police

The state Office of Mental Health (OMH) plans to reduce the number of state hospital beds available for people with serious mental illness. As police chiefs responsible for public safety and the safety of our own officers, we believe these cuts will further shift care and treatment of the most seriously mentally ill from the mental health system, where it belongs, to the criminal justice system, where it does not.

When psychiatric beds go down, incarceration goes up.

Here's how the plan looks to us: Because OMH closes state hospitals and refuses to make full use of existing capacity, local psychiatric hospitals become overcrowded. The psychiatrists are put under intense pressure not to admit patients and to discharge those admitted sicker and quicker to free beds for new arrivals. Anyone well enough to walk in and ask for help, is generally not sick enough to be admitted.

This makes involuntary admission — becoming a "danger to self or others" — the only path in. That's when our officers are called on to defuse the potentially dangerous situation and transport the mentally ill individuals to psychiatric hospitals.

We wait hours for psychiatrists to evaluate them, only to find the doctor overrules us and refuses to admit the patient. If the individual is admitted, they will generally be discharged prior to being fully stabilized or having effective community services put in place.

The easier solution for our officers is to take people with serious mental illness to jail, something we are loath to do to sick people who need help, not incarceration. But OMH gives us little choice.

If OMH has excess inpatient capacity, it should make use of it rather than eliminate it.

Michael Biasotti is Chief of the New Windsor Police Department and immediate past president of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police.
Available at

Monday, October 14, 2013

There was time to help Paul Schmidt, but county politics got in the way. For decades, Milwaukee County politicians have ignored calls to build a better system of mental health care in the community.

Paul Schmidt's death revealed gaps in the system.
Milwaukee County's mental health system focuses less on continual care and more on emergency treatment than any in the nation. Despite scandals, studies and promises of reform, the system is like many of its patients:  It never gets better.
Read: Chronic Crisis-A System That Doesn't Heal
The Journal Sentinel has investigated flaws and abuses of Milwaukee County's mental health system for more than a decade.

Group Wants Referendum Asking State For More Money To Treat Mentally Ill « CBS Chicago

Kudos to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and the Chicago politicians, ministers and mental health experts for wanting to spend money treating the severely mentally ill, keeping them out of the jails and prisons. Prevention is key, treatment before tragedy!  Incarcerating and criminalizing the mentally ill as a means to treat them IS A TRAGEDY.  
Congressman Danny Davis says fewer people would wind up returning to the jail, as they do, if they had better access to mental health treatment.
He says, “I don’t think we’re talking about a lot of additional use of money. We’re just talking about…if you keep looking at it…you squeeze it….dice it…slice it….you do everything you can to get the most mileage out of it.”
Read the article, listen to the podcast here:  Group Wants Referendum Asking State For More Money To Treat Mentally Ill « CBS Chicago

Saturday, October 12, 2013

PsychiatryOnline | Psychiatric Services | Persons With Severe Mental Illness in Jails and Prisons: A Review

This morning I came across an interesting study from 1998, discussing the trend of incarceration vs. institutionalization of the untreated mentally ill:  
The presence of severely mentally ill persons in jails and prisons is an urgent problem. This review examines this problem and makes recommendations for preventing and alleviating it.
CONCLUSIONS: Clinical studies suggest that 6 to 15 percent of persons in city and county jails and 10 to 15 percent of persons in state prisons have severe mental illness. Offenders with severe mental illness generally have acute and chronic mental illness and poor functioning. A large proportion are homeless. It appears that a greater proportion of mentally ill persons are arrested compared with the general population. Factors cited as causes of mentally ill persons' being placed in the criminal justice system are deinstitutionalization, more rigid criteria for civil commitment, lack of adequate community support for persons with mental illness, mentally ill offenders' difficulty gaining access to community treatment, and the attitudes of police officers and society. Recommendations include mental health consultation to police in the field; formal training of police officers; careful screening of incoming jail detainees; diversion to the mental health system of mentally ill persons who have committed minor offenses; assertive case management and various social control interventions, such as outpatient commitment, court-ordered treatment, psychiatric conservatorship, and 24-hour structured care; involvement of and support for families; and provision of appropriate mental health treatment.
Read the entire article here:  PsychiatryOnline | Psychiatric Services | Persons With Severe Mental Illness in Jails and Prisons: A Review

Fast forward 15 years.  Not much has changed.  

And in some ways, things are worse.

According to a recent joint study by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriff's Association Justifiable Homicides: What is the Role of Mental Illness?” reports that, while the total number of incidents classed as “justifiable homicides” decreased from 1980-2008, the number resulting from an attack on an officer increased by 67%. At least half the people shot and killed by police each year are believed to have mental health problems, the report said.

“The responsibility of law enforcement officers for seriously mentally ill persons has increased sharply in recent years and is continuing to increase,” the authors wrote. “Inevitably, the increasing number of confrontations between law enforcement officers and persons with serious mental illness leads to some unfortunate outcomes. Among the most tragic are officer-related shootings of the mentally ill individuals, many of which are fatal.”
The report makes three recommendations for decreasing the number of justifiable homicides associated with severe mental illness. 
  • Collect better data in order to increase information about the issue.
  • Return the responsibility for individuals with serious mental illness to the mental health system.
  • Use assisted outpatient treatment (AOT).
 “Justifiable homicides involving people with untreated mental illness are a symptom of our failed mental illness treatment system,” said Doris A. Fuller, executive director. “Fewer officers would come under attack and fewer people with mental illness would die from these encounters if more people with mental illness were getting the treatment they need when they need it.”
Read the full report on website dedicated to Treatment Advocacy Center research and reports.

Friday, October 11, 2013

UT Chattanooga Nursing Students take part in health fair for the homeless

By Zach Taylor, University Relations Student Writer
In coordination with the Chattanooga Community Kitchen (CCK) and with the support of the “Get Healthy Project” grant from Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), more than 80 UTC nursing students and faculty members recently provided a health fair for the city’s homeless community.
With an estimated 4,000 homeless people in the area, it is more likely than not that you will see one of them while walking through downtown Chattanooga. Often, it is impossible to tell if someone if homeless just by looking at them. From unexpected job loss, health issues, or mental illness, the chances of having to suddenly deal with homelessness are far greater than most realize.
For Dr. Miriam Zwitter, nursing professor and head of the grant, one of the most important aspects of the fair was to help form connections to the clients, not as homeless, but as people.
“At least 85% of the homeless population struggles with some form of mental illness. The vast majority of the times, they are not homeless due to any fault of their own, but they were simply dealt a bad hand. If we want to break down the stigma of being homeless, we must move beyond looking at them as second class citizens, but rather as people who just need a helping hand,” said Zwitter.
The Johnson Mental Center provides mental health services and, in conjunction with the grant, provides a wellness clinic once a week for basic checkups.  The health fair featured more comprehensive aid and care for attendees.
Health screenings were given at the fair along with consultations from onsite pharmacists and nutritionists to help point clients in the right direction towards effective preventive care.
Flu shots were given and biometrics done such as blood pressures, pulses, heights and weight, and BMIs were taken.  Clients received individualized care and health coaching information they would have never received.
All clients were provided instruction of effective contraception and women were instructed on how to perform a breast self-exam.
The clinic featured a barber to provide haircuts, as well as a foot clinic to help clean and care for worn and battered feet.
The grant offered a very successful purse, tote, and backpack drive at the School of Nursing and CHEPS, which provided giveaways with toiletries to those attending the fair.  The grand prize was a 30 day bus pass, a huge hit with the clients.
Rachel Nall, a fifth semester nursing student and wellness center assistant through the grant, sees opportunities like the health fair as chances to help raise the health awareness of those in need while also connecting to them.
“These experiences are what I love about nursing. To be able to get out and talk to people while helping them out lets you see what they go through every day. I really think we are making a difference here, and hopefully we can continue to address the needs of our city’s homeless and mentally ill populations,” said Nall.
For more information about Chattanooga Community Kitchen and how you can help out, visit

The latest report on homelessness in Cincinnati found that 34% of the city’s adult homeless population suffers some form of mental illness.

Helping these individuals is a challenge for local service agencies. Psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer of Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services (GCB), Dr. Tracey Skale, GCB Homeless Services Manager Debbie Demarcus, and Strategies to End Homelessness Executive Director Kevin Finn discuss treating mental health issues among our homeless population.

Listen here:

News and Commentary from the Treatment Advocacy Center
October 7 - October 11, 2013
To get news as soon as we post it, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
"New from Dr. E. Fuller Torrey: American Psychosis"
The causes and consequences of deinstitutionalization are the subject of Dr. E. Fuller Torrey’s scathing new book,American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System
"What People Are Saying About American Psychosis"
"Torrey is the conscience of the country and its most articulate spokesperson when it comes to public mental health care,” says Jeffrey A. Leiberman, president of the American Psychiatric Association. 
"Prisons Are a Very Poor Place to Keep the Mentally Ill"
“Thousands of people with treatable mental illness who once might have been patients getting treatment are instead inmates essentially getting punished for being sick,” writes Doris A. Fuller in the Wall Street Journal. 
"Miriam Carey's Family: 'This Shooting Was Not Justified'"
Miriam Carey, the driver last in week’s capitol car chase, was shot and killed by police the day after the Treatment Advocacy Center and National Sheriffs’ Association published a joint study on the use of deadly force by law enforcement who encounter people with mental illness. 
"My Daughter's Treatment Success Story" - personally speaking
A mother shares the story of how involuntary treatment gave her daughter insight into her illness and allowed her to recover and continue treatment voluntarily. 
A big thank-you to Mark Jaqua whose letter to the editor was published in the Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA).
If you have a letter or commentary published, please email a link or a copy so we can save it, acknowledge your reform efforts, and share it with others.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A letter to the Editor: Peter survives because people care.

I came across a letter to the Editor that was posted in the Albany Democrat Herald this morning.  I am re-posting it here because frankly, there are a lot of homeless Peters living in downtown Knoxville.  If you happen to see one of them, stop and think about this letter. I urge you to react with tolerance and compassion on this "World Mental Health Awareness Day".
One of my brothers is mentally ill. A severe paranoid schizophrenic. Talks to himself. Acts erratically. Some attempts at suicide. For 31 years, though, living on his own, shopping for groceries, washing laundry, eating at lunch counters, managing counseling, doctor, dentist appointments, taking the bus to church every day ... but also not bathing — not once! — for more than three years. Ragged looking and stinky, he’s a difficult person to be close to.
Yet Peter is lucky. Our mom got him to take his medications every day. His community of faith welcomes him, provides a special seat for him, calls us when behaviors suddenly change. Bank tellers, waiters, police officers, bus drivers, even fans next to him at a Timbers game perform small acts of kindness I wouldn’t believe if Peter hadn’t told me: buying him an extra coffee, helping him make change, guiding him to the next bus stop, engaging him in conversation. In other words, Peter survives because people care.
Throughout town are many Peters, someone’s brother, maybe even someone’s mom, and many look and behave just like him, even more so. Every one of us has encountered “one of them” at one time or another. But did we care? Or did we look away.
This is Mental Illness Awareness Week, a time to reflect on the Peters of our community and ask ourselves, “What can I do to help?” Volunteer at support centers and crisis lines? Support nonprofits supporting them? Learn more about specific mental illnesses? Buy coffee? Smile and say hello? It all works. It’s all good.
Ed Curtin, Pastoral Counseling Center, Albany, Corvallis, Lebanon (Oct. 4)

Mailbag: Show you care

"Because it’s our job not to whitewash mental illness. It’s our job to stand up for it, warts and all. It’s our job to say that all the stages and severities of mental illness are okay. And true mental illness awareness means educating about, and acknowledging, all of it." Blogger Natasha Tracy

Awareness of Mental Illness Means Awareness of the Not-So-Nice Stories

" ... And so, while it is commendable that the CAMIMH offer hope to people with a mental illness and a positive image of mental illness to the population at large, they leave out a large part of the population who also deserve awareness. They leave out all the people who can’t accomplish extraordinary or even ordinary things because they are just too sick. These people are the faces of mental illness too.
So on this Mental Illness Awareness Week, I encourage you to remember all that we can accomplish—and that is huge things—but I also encourage you to save a thought for your brother and sister who aren’t doing so well right now. I want you to spread the message that there’s nothing wrong with having a mental illness and there’s nothing wrong with being floridly ill. I want you to remember not only the positive stories but also the not-so-nice stories that are an absolute reality for so many.
Because it’s our job not to whitewash mental illness. It’s our job to stand up for it, warts and all. It’s our job to say that all the stages and severities of mental illness are okay. And true mental illness awareness means educating about, and acknowledging, all of it."
Read Natasha Tracy's entire blog entry here:

Diagnosing Self Destruction: On an average day, over 100 Americans take their own lives.

Suicide kills twice as many people as murder each year in the United States, and rates in the military recently surpassed those among civilians. But while scientists have identified some risk factors for suicide—being white, being male, substance abuse, mental illness—they still have little idea what spurs people to take their own lives.

Listen Here:
Produced by Christopher Intagliata, Senior Producer
  • Matthew Nock
    Professor, Department of Psychology
    Harvard University
    Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Jane Pearson
    Chair, Suicide Research Consortium
    National Institute of Mental Health
    National Institutes of Health
    Bethesda, Maryland
  • Matthew Miller
    Associate Professor, Health Policy
    Harvard School of Public Health
    Co-director, Harvard Injury Control Research Center
    Boston, Massachusetts


The causes and consequences of deinstitutionalization are the subject of Dr. E. Fuller Torrey’s scathing new book, American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System.
page 1 - american psychosisPublished by Oxford University Press, the book details the forces that led to the Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1956 (CMHCA), the last bill President John F. Kennedy Jr. signed before his assassination. The CMHCA was designed to initiate a grand new era of small, caring community centers in place of the state psychiatric hospital system inspired by Dorothea Dix and other reformers. Instead, the law ultimately dismantled the treatment system for those with the most serious mental illnesses without ever replacing it.
“On staff at the National Institute of Mental Health when the program was being developed and implemented, Torrey draws on his own first-hand account of the creation and launch of the program, extensive research, one-on-one interviews with people involved, and recently unearthed audiotapes of interviews with major figures involved in the legislation” says in its description of the book. “As such, this book provides historical material previously unavailable to the public.”
The book was released in October to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the CMHCA, which Kennedy signed on Halloween day.
“Many now wonder why public mental illness services are so ineffective,” says. “At least one-third of the homeless are seriously mentally ill, jails and prisons are grossly overcrowded, largely because the seriously mentally ill constitute 20 percent of prisoners, and public facilities are overrun by untreated individuals. As Torrey argues, it is imperative to understand how we got here in order to move forward towards providing better care for the most vulnerable.”
Purchase a copy of the book here. All royalties from American Psychosis have been assigned to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

News from Maryland: Psychosis center aims to prevent violence

The Maryland General Assembly this year approved Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's $1.2 million request to establish a "Center for Excellence on Early Intervention for Serious Mental Illness." The program is aimed at identifying young people between the ages of 12 and 30 who are either in full psychosis or at high risk for becoming so, and getting them into immediate treatment.
The hope is that the program will contribute to a better understanding of psychosis, what triggers it, and how to treat it. Most of all, it is an effort to intervene as early as possible, to perhaps salvage lives that might otherwise be lost.
Read the entire story here (USA Today):

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Man who set self on fire at National Mall identified as having a long history of mental illness.

From Mental Illness Policy Org

The man who died last week after being found severely burned on the Mall was identified Monday night as a 64-year-old resident of New Jersey, and D.C. police said it was “now apparent that he set himself on fire.”
D.C. police gave the man’s name as John Constantino, and said he was 64, and from Mount Laurel.
An attorney who represents the man’s family released a statement Monday night asserting that Constantino acted not out of political motives but as the result of “a long battle with mental illness.’’
Read the entire story here: via @washingtonpost

From NAMI National: State Statistics for TENNESSEE

Mental Illness Is Common
• Of Tennessee’s approximately 6.2 million residents, close to 246,000 adults live with serious mental illness and about 66,000 children live with serious mental health conditions.

Untreated Mental Illness has Deadly and Costly Consequences
• In 2006, 874 Tennesseans died by suicide. Suicide is almost always the result of untreated or under treated mental illness.
• Nationally, we lose one life to suicide every 15.8 minutes. Suicide is the eleventh-leading cause of death overall and is the third-leading cause of death among youth and young adults aged 15-24.
• During the 2006-07 school year, approximately 27 percent of Tennessee students aged 14 and older living with serious mental health conditions who receive special education services dropped out of high school.

Public Mental Health Services are Inadequate to Meet Needs
• Tennessee’s public mental health system provides services to only 34 percent of adults who live with serious mental illnesses in the state.
• Tennessee spent just $88 per capita on mental health agency services in 2006, or $533.6 million. This was just 2.3 percent of total state spending that year.
• In 2006, 67 percent of Tennessee state mental health agency spending was on community mental health services; 30 percent was spent on state hospital care.  Nationally, an average of 70 percent is spent on community mental health services and 28 percent on state hospital care.

Criminal Justice Systems Bear a Heavy Burden
• In 2006, 1,419 children were incarcerated in Tennessee’s juvenile justice system.  Nationally,
approximately 70 percent of youth in juvenile justice systems experience mental health disorders, with 20 percent experiencing a severe mental health condition.
• In 2008, approximately 6,500 adults with mental illnesses were incarcerated in prisons in
Tennessee.  Additionally, an estimated 31 percent of female and 14 percent of male jail inmates nationally live with serious mental illness.

Many Residents Rely on Public Services for Needed Care
• Approximately 16.6 percent of Tennesseans are enrolled in Medicaid.
• Approximately 907,000 Tennesseans are uninsured.

Housing is Unaffordable for People who Rely on SSI or SSDI
• The average rent for a studio apartment in Tennessee is 79 percent of the average Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment, making housing unaffordable for adults living with serious mental illness who rely on SSI. 

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