Police Confront Rising Number of Mentally Ill Suspects

James Boyd, a homeless man camping in the Sandia Foothills here, could hear the commands of the police officers who were trying to move him out.

The problem was that Mr. Boyd, 38, had a history of mental illness, and so was living in a different reality, one in which he was a federal agent and not someone to be bossed around.

“Don’t attempt to give me, the Department of Defense, another directive,” he told the officers. A short while later, the police shot and killed him, saying he had pulled out two knives and threatened their lives.

The March 16 shooting, captured in a video taken with an officer’s helmet camera and released by the Albuquerque Police Department, has stirred protests and some violence in Albuquerque and prompted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to begin an inquiry into the death. But it has also focused attention on the growing number of people with severe mental disorders who, in the absence of adequate mental health services, are coming in contact with the criminal justice system, sometimes with deadly consequences.

by Fernanda Santos and Erica Goode, The New York Times

Full Article

Preparing for the Knock on the Door

The knock on the door I knew would someday come was here. It was a bitter cold January night, about 11:15 pm. Two very kind but somber police officers brought news I already had felt in my heart—that my son was never coming home again. My son Joey had been killed earlier that evening. He was the victim I saw wrapped in a white sheet, laying on the pavement on the evening news.

I tried to prepare for this day, for most of my life. Now that it was here I wanted to scream, “No! Not yet! Not now! I’m not ready. It’s too soon. I just talked with him this afternoon and he seemed fine.” But the truth was, he was a little manic; writing a new essay on his computer, making lists for items he would need to begin a new career path—refurbishing properties—preparing to paint his room, and going out to buy a new wristband for his watch.

Since the mental health professionals wanted him to be emancipated from his family I had looked at a property that a friend had that was for sale, that needed to be refurbished, and one in which Joey might live. Although Joey had some experience refurbishing properties, I honestly didn’t understand how the “professionals” thought this plan was supposed to work. He was 45 years old and had never lived on his own. Nevertheless, Joey said, “Yes,” he would be home when I got there around dinnertime. “Yes,” he said, we would then go look at the property.

This would have been the first property that he could live in while he worked on renovating it. He could become independent, which is what his mental health providers had been pushing him to do.

The only other thing I can remember him saying, that last day of his life, was: “Mom, I am so sorry for all the worry I have given you. It will get better soon. I love you.” I have searched my memory many times trying to remember anything else we might have said to each other during that last exchange. But I always came back to those last words: “I love you” because ultimately, what else matters?

What happened between the time I received his telephone call that afternoon and 6:23 pm. that evening, when he ran into interstate traffic is open to speculation. It is my opinion that he just gave up the fight. Do I believe he committed suicide? No, not consciously. Whatever went on in Joey’s mind was not preplanned. It just happened, on the spur of the moment, like so many other things that had happened in his life. It happened without reasoning of the consequences. You see my son was mentally ill.

I can say that now as casually and as a matter of fact as a parent might say, “My child is diabetic,” or “My child has asthma,” or “My child is class president.” Saying someone is mentally ill is usually said—in jest—when your child, or someone does something incredibly stupid. However, I can tell you there is nothing funny about mental illness. When did I stop thinking that discussing the fact that you have a child with mental illness was not something you talked about in polite conversation? Sadly, not until the day he died.

The reasons most people don’t talk about mental illness are varied and multiple. With me it was because of how my son dealt with his illness. It seemed he often felt ashamed and ostracized, as if no one would accept him as a person worthy of love.

Surely we can do better.

I hope my story will help remove the stigma from those with mental illness, and bring those who suffer from this condition an opportunity to come forward and be allowed the dignity to live a productive life; one that does not include jail or prison, as that is how society seems to control a large percentage of our mentally ill population.

To effect changes to the system that is currently in place, we must start by talking to our loved ones. We must be unafraid to share with the world what it’s like to live with those afflicted with mental illness. Mental illness is not the fault of the person. Mental illness is a biological fault sometimes made worse by environment.

We seem to have a need to blame someone for the condition; especially the afflicted one. Hopefully my story will put the “blame” where it belongs; with man’s inhumanity to mankind. When the answers and solutions are not at our fingertips, experts shrug their shoulders and walk away.

Excuses should no longer be tolerated. I believe this is one of the last “closet doors” we need to open. Mental illness affects almost everyone; most simply do not even realize.


Published by The Treatment Advocacy Center

Full Article


Bravelets logoFor every bracelet (or other item) you buy from Bravelets this month, SARDAA will get a $20 donation (if we sell a minimum of 100 items).


Margery’s Picks and Pans: April Book Review

Book Reviewed:      The Day the Voices Stopped: A Memoir of Madness and Hope

By Ken Steele and Claire Berman

The Day The Voices Stopped cover picCopyright 2001

Available on Amazon.com for $11.61   Kindle Edition  $9.99

Reviews of this book:

“Astonishing …. A mind-boggling account that will change the way readers respond to mental illness.” –Kirkus Reviews

“The Day the Voices Stopped will move you to tears, to anger and to action.” –Laurie Flynn, Former Executive Director, NAMI

“Steele’s sobering yet resonant and inspiring narrative refuses to sugarcoat the tremendous force of this disorder.” –Publishers Weekly

“The Day the Voices Stopped is not only gutsy, but gut-wrenching… This book represents a testament to the triumph of the human spirit, Ken’s indomitable will.” –The Pharos

From the book: “Fourteen-year-old Kenneth Steele was listening to the radio at his home in Connecticut when he first heard the voices.  Like Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash – whose life story has been immortalized in A Beautiful Mind – Steele was to spend the next thirty-two years living with the devastating symptoms of schizophrenia: tortured by inner voices commanding him to kill himself. Ravaged by the delusions of paranoia, barely surviving on the ragged edges of society.  In this inspiring story, Steele tells the story of his hard-won recovery from schizophrenia and how activism and advocacy helped him regain his sanity and go on to give hope and support to so many others like him.”

“Once upon a time there was a man named Ken Steele,” I will tell (my children) someday when they hold this book in their hands and are old enough to understand.  He was an American hero,” I will say. –Claire Berman

Ken Steele died on October 7, 2000,

Peacefully, in his own bed.

He would have been fifty-two on October 9th.

How I came to read this book:

Actually, a friend told me about this book on the telephone. I liked the title so I went out and got it. I started to read it and at once like the clear and transparent writing style. The book is well written. It is easy to read. When I got to the third chapter, after Ken is expelled from his home and family by a father who doesn’t want to deal with him or his illness, I was a bit shocked when Ken ends up being lured into a life of male prostitution as a teenager. His traumatic story goes from bad to worse from there, and he spends the next thirty-two years on the streets and in mental institutions, the victim of the relentless voices that insistently tell him to kill himself, which he attempts numerous times. This is definitely a survival story, a memoir of a man faced with insurmountable odds, but who, in the end, overcomes all and thrives. I especially liked the last chapter, in which Ken clearly outlines the political gains made for mental illness by various presidential edicts and acts of Congress. It made me wish that Ken were still around to do the same now.

If you want to read a story about hearing voices from a first person point-of-view, read this book.

If you want to read an incredible survival story, read this book.

If you want to understand how mental illness can affect a person, read this book.

If references to male prostitution, male rape of a teenager in a mental institution, or the male gay lifestyle would offend you, then don’t read this book.  Ken tells his story in a no-holds-barred fashion, and these facts are all a part of his story.

So, I pick this book, thumbs up, with that qualification!

by Margery Wakefield

SARDAA Executive Director, Linda Stalters attended Rep. Tim Murphy’s hearing: “Where have all the patients gone?” and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) event, entitled “Fixing the mental health care system: What Congress can do,” in Washington, D.C.

Linda Stalters and Rep. Tim Murphy

Linda Stalters and Rep. Tim Murphy

In 1950 there were more than 559,000 psychiatric beds in the United States, today there are fewer than 45,000. This staggering lack of inpatient options for those with serious mental illness has put a tremendous strain on public services. Rep. Murphy convened an investigative hearing this week to explore the effects of this shortage, which convened leaders from the criminal justice, law enforcement, and medical communities to testify on how the failures of the mental health system are stressing police forces, jails, and emergency rooms.

The President of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, Michael Biasotti, spoke extensively on the need to expand the use of the Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) model of care. AOT, which is a cornerstone of Rep. Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717), is an evidence-based alternative to inpatient care for those who need treatment and allows them to lead productive lives in the community. In New York, this medical model has decreased homelessness, repeated hospitalizations, and incarceration of those with mental illness by more than 70 percent.

AEI panel 1Until this week the federal government had never incentivizes AOT. But on Thursday, the House passed the Protecting Access to Medicare Act, which includes a section authored by Rep. Murphy to encourage counties to establish AOT programs. The bill is expected to be considered in the Senate and signed on Monday. You can read more about Rep. Murphy’s successful legislative efforts here.

“The legislation passed today is a tremendous step forward in expanding mental health services, and gives our effort to bring mental illness out of the shadows a major momentum boost as the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act moves through the Energy and Commerce Committee,” said Rep. Murphy.

The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which now has 60 bipartisan cosponsors, will be the focus of the a legislative hearing on at the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. This is the first step in the process of bring the legislation before the entire House of Representatives for a vote.

The hearing will focus on how the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act addresses the structural deficiencies in the federal mental health system. Chairman Murphy’s investigations has revealed that individuals diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness are more likely to end up in jail or on the streets because they aren’t getting the treatment they need from our broken mental health system.

On Friday morning, Rep. Murphy announced this critical legislative step at a public policy forum he headlined at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C. The event, entitled “Fixing the mental health care system: What Congress can do,” also featured former Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI); American Psychiatric Association President Jeffrey Lieberman, MD; AEI scholar Sally Satel, MD; and E. Fuller Torrey, MD, of the Stanley Medical Research Institute. The forum will be aired soon on CSPAN and can be viewed on the AEI web site.

It’s No Substitute for the Sun

My psychiatrist is a fan of “happy lamps,” lamps that use full-spectrum bulbs to treat wintertime seasonal depression. A really big fan. Opening his office door is like entering a scene in “Poltergeist”: I’m blinded by a powerful glow that emanates from every direction. I must rely on his voice in the distance calling out to me in order to orient myself. This is how our appointments begin: I go toward the light.

His phototherapy light is essentially the size of a big-screen TV. This gives our appointments a sci-fi type of atmosphere, as if we’re meeting on a holodeck in “Star Trek.” I stare at his theatrically warm smile and his very white, bright teeth, which themselves seem to be glowing. He appears to be an entirely different species than me — a much happier one. He’s a light eater. It seems to have made his skin glow, to have fortified his enamel.

Meanwhile, the only thing I’m radiating is desperation. It feels as if it’s been winter forever, and the forecast is for more of the same. Basically, I want some of whatever he’s on, pronto.

by Alissa Nutting, The New York Times

Full Article

Protein Active in Fetal Development May Also Protect Against Alzheimer’s in Late Life

A new study published yesterday inNature suggests that a protein thought to be a key element in the brains of fetuses during development may play a critical role in dementia in older people. The protein, known by the acronym REST, is severely depleted in the brains of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias, but seems to offer protection against those disorders in healthy older adults….

“Whereas typical genetic investigations focus on genes and proteins that increase the risk of specific diseases, this study examines the role of a protective protein—REST—that appeared to reduce the risk of developing dementia in highly vulnerable older adults with multiple plaques and tangles in their brains….”

….the reported association of lithium with promoting REST activity may open new windows into our understanding and possible treatment of dementias. It may also shed new light on the cognitive impairment that is commonly seen in people with mood disorders.

–Psychiatric News Alert

Full Article

Study Finds 10 Percent of Young Hospital Patients Have Psychiatric Diagnoses

Between 17% and 22% of these patients had a primary or comorbid mental health diagnosis, and all the hospital stays added up to $3.5 billion in aggregate charges to the health care system. The most common diagnoses at the general hospitals were depression (44.1%), bipolar disorder (18.1%), and psychosis (12.1%). Substance abuse was a common comorbidity. In the freestanding hospitals, depression (42.2%), externalizing disorder (10.8%), and bipolar disorder (10.6%) were the most common psychiatric diagnoses.

–Psychiatric News Alert

Full Article

Family-Focused Therapy Reduces Bipolar-Associated Symptoms in Teens, Study Finds

Family-focused treatments have been found to be an effective adjunctive therapy to mood stabilizing medicine in adults with bipolar disorder, but whether this approach holds true in adolescents, has been unclear….New study results showed that adolescents receiving combinational pharmacotherapy and FFT were more likely to have less-severe manic symptoms after two years than those receiving pharmacotherapy with brief psychoeducation.

–Psychiatric News Alert

Full Article

Correction Dept. Investigating Death of Mentally Ill Inmate at Rikers Island

The New York City Correction Department is investigating the death of a mentally ill inmate who was found in an overheated cell last month at Rikers Island after being left unattended for hours, the authorities said Wednesday.

The inmate, identified as Jerome Murdough, 56, was a homeless former Marine who had been arrested on a trespassing charge. He was found dead in his cell at the Anna M. Kross Center at Rikers Island on Feb. 15, officials said.

 by Michael Schwirtz, The New York Times

Full Article