Message from Mary Ross, FFS (Family and Friends Coordinator)

Mary_RossOn the subject of gratitude, as I began writing this I didn’t recall that this is the month we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, but it might have been a prompt.  I wish to share a daily practice which I’ve adopted  that puts a lift in my days.  It is simply to take the time, ideally before falling asleep at night, to think of three things for which I’m grateful.

On a light note, I rarely get to the third one and I’m asleep, i.e. a
natural sleep aid too!  In my search for stress reduction, which many people share these days, I’ve heard from a number of health sources to take the time for this simple reflection, thus it caught my attention. Originally I thought ‘oh, I’ll be calling up the same things over and over’….but no, it’s interesting how creativity follows. I often reflect on the day closing and some goodness I saw in it. Doing it before sleep, as one source says, as one enters into a subconscious mind state, it puts one in a positive rather than negative, worrisome mode.

I read that  the renowned psychologist, Ram Dass, expressed ‘gratitude at the end of his life for a stroke he suffered’ in that he believed his mind (thinking) prevented him from entering ‘enlightenment’. This relates to the idea that I’ve come across in my quest for positives in adversity, that one challenged, such as living with a brain disorders, may have access to a ‘higher plane’, which others not so challenged lack access to.  I have to believe.

With Heart,

Mary Ross

Message from Katie L, Schizophrenia Alliance, Coordinator

katie-lWith Thanksgiving approaching, I am grateful for all the hard work and dedication through the years, of the SA members. Because of their generosity and effort, I and others have benefited with support and friendship that otherwise would not have occurred.

This month we all look back on everything that has happened and we try to find those things that have been positive and helpful. SA is a great thing to add to my list. Whether you’re a group member, a group leader, or a visitor, I would like to thank you for your time, effort and generosity. You are so valued and I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with hope and happiness.

Thank you,

Katie L.

Message From Executive Director, SARDAA


Dear Friends,

Another year to celebrate gratitude.  So many things to be grateful for ­ how do we count them all? Personally, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be deeply involved with the Hearing Voices of Support #HVoS initiative.  A courageous multimedia initiative, educating professionals, the public and diagnosed individuals, eliminating stigma/discrimination, advocating for access to treatment and dignity for people living with schizophrenia­related brain illnesses while including the very voices that are most important, those of diagnosed individuals and those who care for them in a sensitive respectful manner.

BULLETIN: SARDAA’s Hearing Voices of Support and the focus on schizophrenia-related brain disorders in now, historically for the first time, emblazoned on a Times Square jumbotron.  Millions of people will see our message now through January.  That means they will be viewed during the Thanksgiving Day Parade and New Years Eve.  Be sure to look for it on 1500 Broadway.

If you have not already done so, go to the Facebook page hearingvoicesofsupport and ‘like’ the page and share it with all of your connections.  Please go to the website, watch the videos and make a supportive comment.

It would be fantastic if you would post your own video on the HVoS facebook page with your positive story. We must change the perceptions and change treatment. We are working hard to prepare the experiential exhibit of HVoS to effect more impact on the public.  We are working with theBloc in NY to present the exhibit in May, 2017.

When we change the language and perceptions so that EVERYONE understands that neuro­circuitry disorders are treatable and people deserve dignity and medical treatment, then parity will be realized.

With sincerest Gratitude, Linda Stalters, MSN Executive Director Schizophrenia And Related Disorders Alliance of America

Ignorance was Bliss by L.H. Soltres

Moving from New Jersey to Columbus, Ohio was a decision made after extensive research and planning. Never had I seen such green grass nor had I ever met so many lovely smiling people. Suddenly listening to country music while driving through fields of wheat became a glorious experience that made me feel alive again after ten years of going to doctors who spoke to me as though I were a hypochondriac. It had been my intention to bring my family over but this never did come to fruition. When I became severely ill I was terminated by my employer due to absenteeism during the probationary period. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis shortly thereafter. Between paying for Cobra and my apartment I lost everything due to Long Term Disability being denied and having absolutely no income.

Some of my MS related health issues are: C.A.P.D. (Central Auditory Processing Disorder,) Trigeminal Neuralgia, Photophobia and Low Vision. I contacted the state agency for help to get back to work (or back to school and work.) I was advised that the health issues I had reported did not match the documentation from different doctors. Asking for large print with a note from my neuro-ophthalmologist seemed to be met with resistance as I was told that the specialist needed to provide detailed documentation regarding my condition. I can appreciate protocols needing to be followed but all of this in addition to calls repeatedly not being returned and being spoken to in a patronizing manner when I was always polite and respectful was disconcerting.

I put in a formal request for a full copy of my files from both divisions of the state agency with whom I had been trying to work and received the first copy on 04/24/2009. I physically collapsed when I saw that all of the notes from my visits to a L.C.S.W. (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) were in the file despite the fact that I NEVER signed a release for psychological notes.

I contacted the director of the counseling facility; she claimed that I had signed the release. Weeks later I found the “release” she had referenced, the box for psychological notes WAS NOT CHECKED. This situation would be upsetting for anyone but because I was the victim of rape it was especially heart-wrenching. The attack had occurred many years prior. I was 17 and had managed to fight off one boy but he then assisted the other boy by holding me down. During counseling I had explained that I was extremely thankful that it DID NOT happen two times but now with my MS how could I fight someone if God forbid it should ever be necessary? The counselor did not seem to be listening and I eventually stopped going to her because she was often a thousand miles away. I mention this because her notes, that happened to be on the very first page, contained information that was completely false. She wrote that I “was raped twice by men taking advantage in a social setting.” “Both situations were two men restraining her while they raped her. This was beyond human comprehension. I continued through all of the state agency files and saw numerous incorrect quotations there as well.

To read the complete article, please click here.

Suicide: How To Recognize The Warning Signs

Suicide rates in the U.S. have risen dramatically in recent years; in fact, it’s estimated that one person dies by suicide every 13 minutes, or about 40,000 each year. With such a terrible loss of life, you might think that most people would be well educated about how to spot the warning signs in a person who is having suicidal thoughts and how to help. But the truth it’s often difficult to acknowledge that a person we love is in danger out of the fear that we’ll upset or offend them, or perhaps put the idea of suicide in their minds if it wasn’t already there. Suicide is not an easy topic to talk about, but it’s an important one to be informed about.

Many different things can cause suicidal thoughts: chronic pain, mental and mood disorders, PTSD, a past of abuse, or current substance abuse, to name a few. One of the best things we can do for a loved one who has dealt with any of these things is to let them know we’re there for them, that we’re listening, and that we won’t judge. Coming forward to ask for help can be difficult or even impossible for some, but if they know they won’t be shamed, it may be easier for them to open up.

To download the report, please click here.


Psychiatric Beds: Getting from Not Enough to Safe Minimum

The information deficit around mental illness treatment and policy is especially deep on the subject of psychiatric beds, both public or private.

Neither the federal government nor any of the states has identified or established population-based “safe minimum” bed target numbers. No member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has either, even tho ugh nearly all the 34 member nations have reduced their psychiatric beds over recent decades and continue to do so, with accompanying reports of negative impacts on patients and their communities.

We do know that, by early 2016, more than 96% of our population-adjusted state mental health beds had been eliminated over a 60-year period. Mental health advocates and providers, law enforcement and corrections officials, homelessness service providers and emergency room personnel, families and policymakers all were reporting significant and sometimes dire consequences from resulting bed shortages and increasingly calling for more psychiatric beds.

Yet we all operate without empirical evidence of just how many more beds are needed. How many beds per capita do we need to reduce the number of people who deteriorate to the point of committing crimes, hurting themselves or others, becoming homeless or suffering any of the innumerable other consequences that are relatively common when serious mental illness is left untreated?

Nobody knows for sure.

Bed Supply Calculation

In “Psychiatric Bed Supply Need Per Capita,” our September 2016 background paper on the topic, we suggest that two conditions associated with bed shortages provide the most promising starting point for developing evidence-based, safe-minimum targets: psychiatric “boarding” times in hospital emergency rooms (ER) and inmate waitlisting in jails and prisons.

The American College of Emergency Physicians reports that ER boarding of psychiatric patients is now virtually universal in the United States, with some patients waiting weeks for hospital admission. “The severe shortage of all types of psychiatric beds across the United States affects not only whether people are admitted for inpatient treatment but also how long they wait for a bed,” Elizabeth La and colleagues wrote in a May 2016 Psychiatric Services study. At the same time, a majority of states report maintaining wait lists for forensic beds, with some inmates waiting months for admission to a bed.

To download the report, please click here.

New Research on Mental Illness Behind Bars

The drumbeat of surveys, studies and statistics detailing the plight of individuals with serious mental illness in jails and prisons continued in the summer of 2016 with the publication of new publications from organizations examining the treatment of mentally ill and other disabled inmates. Locked Up and Locked Down, a September 2016 study by the Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities (AVID) Prison Project, reports that an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 inmates in the United States are currently held in solitary confinement (also called “segregation” or “isolation”) – “placed in small single person cells for 22 – 24 hours per day, for days, if not months or years at a time.”

“Notably, many of those housed in segregation found their way there due to behaviors associated with a mental illness,” the AVID report says. Elsewhere, 30% – 40% of the inmate population in solitary confinement is estimated to be mentally ill, translating into at least 25,000 and as many as 40,000 individuals.

Devastating Conditions 

For these inmates, the impact of confinement and isolation is “devastating,” according to Locked Up. Cut off from most forms of human contact and environmental stimulation, “inmates in segregation have little access to programming, services or treatment.” Mental health therapy and structured activities are typically not available to them, and treatment is likely to consist exclusively of prescriptions to psychotropic medications.

“For inmates with mental illness, these conditions can have a catastrophic impact,” author Anna Guy writes. “Inmates in segregation routinely report extreme sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation, psychiatric decompensation, hallucinations and behaviors relating to self-harm and even suicide.”

To download the complete report, please click here.

At a Loss for Meds, Venezuela’s Mentally Ill Spiral Downward

MARACAY, Venezuela: The voices tormenting Accel Simeone kept getting louder. The country’s last supplies of antipsychotic medication were vanishing, and Mr. Simeone had gone weeks without the drug that controls his schizophrenia.

Reality was disintegrating with each passing day. The sounds in his head soon became people, with names. They were growing in number, crowding the tiny home he shared with his family, yelling obscenities into his ears. Now the voices demanded that he kill his brother. “I didn’t want to do it,” recalled Mr. Simeone, 25. He took an electric grinder from the family’s garage. He switched it on. But then, to spare his brother, he attacked himself instead, slicing into his own arm until his father raced in and grabbed the grinder from his bloody hands.

Venezuela’s economic collapse has already decimated its health system, leaving hospitals without antibiotics, surgeons without gloves and patients dying on emergency room tables.

Now, thousands of mental health patients — many of whom had been living relatively normal lives under medication — are drifting into despair and psychosis because the country has run out of the vast majority of psychiatric medicines, leaving families and doctors powerless to help them, medical experts say.

Mental institutions have released thousands of patients because they can no longer treat them, according to physicians. The patients still being cared for now suffer in crumbling wards that can barely even feed them. Doctors and nurses fear violent attacks and say they have little choice but to tie their patients to chairs, lock them up or strip them of their clothes to prevent suicides.

To read more, please click here to visit NYtimes

VA a leader in the prevention and treatment of SUDs

Over 560,000 Veterans Treated for Disorders in 2015

VA is a leader in the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders (SUD), providing treatment for over 560,000 Veterans, including treating over 61,500 Veterans with opioid use disorders, such as heroin or prescription opioid use disorders, in FY 2015.

Patients with less severe substance use problems may receive brief interventions and/or SUD pharmacotherapy in primary care or general mental health settings.

Specialty Programs Cover Wide Range of Treatments

For those with more severe disorders, specialty SUD treatment programs provide intensive services including detoxification, psychosocial treatments, medication to reduce substance use, case management and relapse prevention, and treatment for co-occurring mental health conditions. Over 152,000 Veterans received care in specialty SUD treatment programs in FY2015.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the most evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorders.  MAT includes counseling or psychotherapy, close patient monitoring, and medication, including methadone, administered through an Opioid Treatment Program.

VA has been expanding access to MAT for patients with opioid use disorders. According to the latest data for 2016, VA has treated 23,117 patients with MAT,  up from 19,333 patients in 2014, a 20% increase in patients treated in just 1.5 years.

Making Patients Safer

In addition to providing comprehensive health care services for patients with substance use disorders, VHA has also implemented innovative programming to reduce risk and harms related to opioid use disorders.

Reversing an Overdose

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse a potentially fatal opioid overdose.  VA implemented an Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution program in 2014.  Patients at elevated risk of accidental or intentional overdose receive training on how to identify an overdose and a use a kit including naloxone to reverse the overdose and save a life. The program has dispensed 42,568 naloxone prescriptions to 37,349 patients.

Helping Staff Identify Patients at Risk

VA used predictive modeling techniques to develop a decision support system to help health care providers estimate patient risk of opioid overdose, display risk factors, and encourage use of clinical strategies to reduce risk.

The Stratification Tool for Opioid Risk Mitigation (STORM) is available to providers in VA nationally and can be used to reduce the likelihood of an adverse event in patients already using opioid medication, taking opioids illicitly, or considering an opioid analgesic prescription.

To read more, please click here.

House Passes Mental Health First Aid Act

By Alex Ruoff |

• Bill would extend training programs to help police, teachers assist those with mental health issues

• Senate, House lawmakers need unified bill to send to president

A program to train first responders, law enforcement and teachers to assist anyone in a mental health crisis would be extended through 2021 under a House bill approved Sept. 26. The House approved by voice vote the Mental Health First Aid Act (H.R. 1877), which would direct the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to again award block grants for training programs in mental health first aid. “The kinds of education programs that this legislation will provide funding for have been shown to be effective and efficient at teaching people the signs of mental illness and how to drop the stigma of that illness so that someone in need can get help,” Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) said in a statement. The bill would authorize roughly $15 million per year for SAMHSA’s mental health training program from 2017 to 2021. The bill would expand grant eligibility for the SAMHSA program to include programs to train veterans and law enforcement on how to recognize and respond to persons with mental illness. The program previously only focused on teachers and emergency responders. The Senate passed a similar bill (S. 1893) in January. The Senate version, introduced by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), focused on youth mental health services. A spokesman for Jenkins told Bloomberg BNA lawmakers in the House and Senate hope to soon create a unified bill in conference they can send to the president.