NAMI: Challenging Mental Health Stigma In The Black Community

In the black community, there is a negative stigma surrounding mental health. Instead of seeking professional help for conditions such as depression and anxiety, many in the community resort to self-medication (drugs, opioids, alcohol, etc.) or isolation in an attempt to solve their problems on their own. This issue of masking pain is especially prevalent amongst black men.

Speaking from experience, I know how black men grow up in culture that tells us “men are not supposed to cry,” that we “should deal with problems on our own.” This only enforces the idea that it’s not okay for us to say we are hurting inside. I’ve spoken to countless friends who, out of fear of being labeled as weak or less than a man, don’t want to acknowledge or vocalize any of their pains. This is true for me as well, as there have been moments in my life when I was afraid of sharing my true emotional well-being (or lack thereof) to close family and friends.

These are topics I talked about on my show, The Roommates Podcast. Due to my openness talking about mental health challenges, I received countless emails from young adult, black listeners who shared with me their struggles in the darkness. The more I used my platform to discuss topics relating to mental health in our community, the more others felt empowered to speak up and seek help for their own issues. This led to my desire to challenge stigma and bring light to mental health in the black community.

“Help”

Last May, I wrote and directed “Help,” a film created with the intention of beginning a conversation about mental health in the black community. The film follows the fictional story of a young black man named Raheem, who appears to have it all together on the outside, but has hidden struggles within.

Raheem is a successful man living in the Houston area; he is loved and respected by his community. He has a great career as an oil broker, a supportive wife and a large community of supportive friends. Though when Raheem is alone, you see his struggle with depression.

Raheem struggles to decide whether he should seek help from a mental health professional. When he shares this with his friend Kendrick, he’s told that “black men don’t go to counseling.” This scene is powerful because not only does it reinforce Raheem’s negative perception of getting help, but it also sheds light on the attitude towards mental health in the black community.

While he is by himself, there are thoughts in his head that constantly reinforce everything negative he believes about himself. Yet, whenever someone asks him what is wrong, Raheem says: “Nothing, I’m fine,” and then redirects the conversation with a joke. Sadly, Raheem’s story is reflective of many in the black community—millions of men who are suffering on the inside, but are too afraid to reach out for help.

Lift Up Your Voice

This year alone, there have been over 6.8 million black Americans who had a diagnosable mental illness. If we are unable to remove the negative stigma surrounding mental health in the black community, we are willingly allowing another generation to grow up without access to counseling and mental health improvement resources that can help them live a happy, healthy life.

Out of my desire to create long-lasting change in the black community, I am using my voice and platform to help others. I have heard one story too many of people in the black community struggling in the darkness, and I don’t want that to continue any longer. Anyone, regardless of how strong they are or how much they appear to “have it together” may be struggling with their mental health. You are not alone in your pain and you are not “weak” or “less than” because you are hurting. It’s time we reach out and ask for or offer help—because that’s what it takes to achieve the true healing we need.

 

Hafeez Baoku is an author, director and host of The Roommates Podcast. His work has been featured on OWN Network, The Houston Chronicle, Fox News 26, Houstonia Magazine, and Houston Style Magazine. You can connect with him at roommateshtx.com

ART: When Is an Artist’s Mental Health Your Business?

What does an understanding of an artist’s life story bring to bear on their work? It’s an old question, and of course, one that doesn’t have an easy answer. Biographical information can enrich our understanding of a practice, but it can also narrow a viewer’s focus, forcing critical interpretations through a distorting lens.

We certainly don’t need to know everything about an artist to appreciate her output—whether she smoked or drank; slept with men, or women, or both; was ever arrested, or took LSD, or loved cats—but a hunger for such details is understandable. We are, after all, a curious species.
In the case of so-called outsider art, or art made by those distant from the “art world” (often with mental health complications), it’s an even thornier issue. Curators, and those charged with translating and presenting the story of art to a wider public, have difficult choices to make. What details are relevant, rather than just salacious? Where is the dividing line between honest explication and exploitation?
In conversations with several figures, various aspects of this dilemma come into focus. First, and perhaps most obvious, is that there is no blanket statement or best practice to follow when resolving art’s relationship to mental health. Each artist’s situation is unique, and should be approached as such. Secondly, this is still a dialogue that is in flux, and one in which the foundational vocabulary—including basic terms like “outsider”—are very much contested. The lack of a shared language is itself uncomfortable.

Breaking Down Boundaries

It’s no surprise that

or outsider art—we can perhaps agree to drop the quotation marks and “so-called” qualifiers—are still wrapped up in questions of mental health. Outsider art’s founding moments were with publications and collections that had their roots in psychiatric institutions, from Hans Prinzhorn’s 1920s volumes (including Artistry of the Mentally Ill) to the iconic

collection organized by the French painter

, now housed in Lausanne, Switzerland.

From the beginning, this was art that was both aesthetic and diagnostic. Its interest was partially as a record of psychic maladies, evidence of how differently wired brains might work. (These collections and archives simultaneously provided a fruitful cache of imagery that modern artists were happy to plunder.)
In the 21st century, we’ve started to slowly slough off categorical divisions, as institutions grow more comfortable showcasing outsider or folk art alongside that made by trained or professional artists. It’s a tendency closely associated with a curator like Massimiliano Gioni and key exhibitions that he oversaw or organized, including the 2013 Venice Biennale and 2016’s “The Keeper” at the New Museum.
Installation view of work by Hilma af Klint in “The Keeper” at New Museum, 2016. Photo by Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio. Courtesy New Museum, New York.

Installation view of work by Hilma af Klint in “The Keeper” at New Museum, 2016. Photo by Maris Hutchinson / EPW Studio. Courtesy New Museum, New York.

There are still institutions, though, specifically dedicated to the appraisal and scholarship surrounding art made by extraordinary individuals in uncommon circumstances. But these institutions, focused on folk or outsider art, aren’t organizing exhibitions for didactic purposes; the goal isn’t to lamely exemplify, yet again, what schizophrenia or bipolar disorder looks like in visual terms. And so they’re in a difficult position: making a case for the artistic merit of the work itself, while also deciding what amount of background information is necessary to fully appreciate or comprehend it.

Context Is Key

To get a better handle on this dilemma, I met with Valérie Rousseau, the curator of 20th-century and contemporary art at the American Folk Art Museum in New York. At the time of my visit, two exhibitions were on view, showcasing the work of

and Eugen Gabritschevsky. Wall texts for both shows seem to perform a familiar elision, hinting at unavoidable biographical facts while refusing concrete details.

Carlo Zinelli, Untitled, San Giacomo Hospital, Verona, Italy 1960. Collection of Audrey B. Heckler. Photo by Visko Hatfield © Fondazione Culturale Carlo Zinelli. Courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum.

Carlo Zinelli, Untitled, San Giacomo Hospital, Verona, Italy 1960. Collection of Audrey B. Heckler. Photo by Visko Hatfield © Fondazione Culturale Carlo Zinelli. Courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum.

“We always caricature our fields by saying that we’re all about biographies, and the market builds mythologies around the artist,” she explains, sitting in a gallery full of Gabritschevsky’s fantastical gouache paintings. In the case of these dual exhibitions, Rousseau says, “I didn’t [include] anything specific about their mental illnesses, and everybody is asking me: ‘Oh, by the way, I know it’s not written on the walls—but can you tell me? What exactly was the diagnosis of Gabritschevsky?’ People are savvy and curious about this connection, and they want to know. But I question the validity of giving them the answer.”
Would a different sort of institution, she wonders, feel inclined to share wall-text information about an artist’s struggles with “addiction, hallucinations, social issues, or anorexia,” she wonders? “You have to be careful about what’s relevant. I’m driven by showing great artworks—fascinating artists, complex lives—and you do want to be verbal, and bring the visitors into something that is an exhibition experience.”
At the same time, she notes, what would providing diagnostic or clinical information really add to that exhibition experience? Audiences, weaned on Hollywood and pop-psychology, might fancy themselves experts—but what comprehension does the casual viewer actually have of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia?

Audiences might fancy themselves experts—but what comprehension does the casual viewer actually have of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia?

That’s not to say that curators should sweep mental health context under the carpet entirely. Rather, it’s one thread of a larger narrative.
In the case of Zinelli, who was a patient at the San Giacomo del Tomba hospital beginning in the middle of the last century, his physical surroundings—the jam-packed institution, the pioneering series of studio classes he took part in there—are important, but so are other things, Rousseau stresses. His upbringing on a farm, appreciation of nature, and fond feelings for a beloved dog are also salient details. Likewise, with Gabritschevsky, the artist’s background as an esteemed biologist provides arguably much more context than the knowledge of the mental health struggles that derailed his career.
“I found it interesting,” Rousseau says, “to show the full range of influences that an artist, a creator, could have had.”
Rousseau brings up another vital point: The way we conceive of mental health and categorize patients has evolved drastically over the centuries. The foundational definitions of sanity and normalcy are constantly shifting. “Timeframe is important,” she says. “If you were in a Swiss hospital in 1945, that’s different than being in one here in New York in 2013. Mental illness has changed, along with its diagnostics and treatments.”
Eugen Gabritschevsky, Untitled, Haar, Germany 1947. Collection Chave, Vence, France, no. 1647. Photo by Galerie Chave © Estate of Eugen Gabritschevsky. Courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum.

Eugen Gabritschevsky, Untitled, Haar, Germany 1947. Collection Chave, Vence, France, no. 1647. Photo by Galerie Chave © Estate of Eugen Gabritschevsky. Courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum.

Carlo Zinelli, Untitled, San Giacomo Hospital, Verona, Italy 1967. Collection of Gordon W. Bailey. Photo by Adam Reich © American Folk Art Museum © Fondazione Culturale Carlo Zinelli. Courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum.

Carlo Zinelli, Untitled, San Giacomo Hospital, Verona, Italy 1967. Collection of Gordon W. Bailey. Photo by Adam Reich © American Folk Art Museum © Fondazione Culturale Carlo Zinelli. Courtesy of the American Folk Art Museum.

As a result, a curator who decides to play armchair psychiatrist, at great historical remove, would run the risk of being both inaccurate and unethical.
“I hope my shows refuse the pathologizing of the artist,” says Gioni, whose recent curatorial work has been instrumental in mingling mainstream and outsider practices. In his mind, part of our thrall to the latter has to do with “a certain romanticism, a desire for sincerity” that is lacking in the larger art world.
Take

, a recently lauded artist from the early 20th century who was influenced by spiritualist movements of the times. Catalog copy on the artist casually suggests that she had “visions”—but what does that even mean?

“These objects and stories help us understand that the rules and notions of conformity and eccentricity are historical, and relative,” Gioni says. “Af Klint had visions or hallucinations—I don’t know if they were pathological or not, but we have enough history under our belts to understand that the definition of pathology is relative, and historical, and cultural. And to be reminded of that might help us also have a healthier relationship with our fellow humans.”

Risky Choices

Despite the fact that boundaries between these types of artmaking are slowly dissolving, prejudices and anxieties remain—tied to both artistic legacies and markets.
Rousseau points to the case of

, the subject of the Antigua and Barbuda Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. Walter is an artist whose work I encountered there, and later wrote about, focusing on the more colorful and anecdotal elements of his backstory (and doing my own part to dance around mental health issues by including the problematic word “visionary” in my headline).

Installation view of “Frank Walter: The Last Universal Man 1926-2009” on view at the Pavilion of Antigua and Barbuda at the Venice Biennale, 2017.

Installation view of “Frank Walter: The Last Universal Man 1926-2009” on view at the Pavilion of Antigua and Barbuda at the Venice Biennale, 2017.

The Pavilion, and its hefty accompanying catalogue, is a fascinating case study regarding the choices curators can make in dealing with complicated artists. In Rousseau’s reckoning, the Pavilion organizers “really dig into all the possible biographical facts they could—they don’t have an art-historical approach for that publication, which surprised me.” At the same time, she says, “I think the tone was right. I think it was a point of view that was risky.”
But what’s next for an artist like Walter, after the Biennale? Will it be the Serpentine or the American Folk Art Museum? Rousseau somewhat wistfully notes that, once an artist’s work has been received in a particularly high-profile manner, it’s difficult to change course.
“It’s impossible or often misperceived to send them back, to associate them again to a niche, specialized presentation like in our museum,” she says. “It’s [as if]: ‘Oh, no, he doesn’t belong anymore in this category.’ I’ve seen that so many times. It’s interesting how this whole process of recognition in the art world is more like an irreversible path, from one step to another. And I think outsider or self-taught artists do not escape that program.”
In other words, the biographical drama of Walter’s life might act as a wedge to generate (justifiable) interest and intrigue. Meanwhile, the paintings themselves—divorced from those details—are indeed fascinating and adept. If we fast-forward three decades, perhaps Walter’s oeuvre might be assimilated into a larger art-historical narrative that doesn’t dwell too much on his personal eccentricities or mental health. That might all depend on the steps his estate takes, institutionally, as well as the decisions it makes in terms of how his work is packaged, exhibited, and contextualized.
It’s a process that Rousseau and Gioni both allude to, in the case of canonized artists from

to

,

, or even

: At first, the details of the individual life are tantalizing. But after we’re generally familiar with those details, we can somehow move on and appreciate the art on its own terms.

The Challenge of Living Artists

As if this conversation wasn’t complex enough, there’s another wrinkle: the considerations at play with living artists who may have mental health issues or, more specifically, developmental disabilities. Perhaps no New Yorker has been more involved in promoting work from such artists than Matthew Higgs, the director of White Columns, who has created a thriving network between his non-profit institutions and centers around the country, like Creative Growth in Oakland and and Visionaries + Voices in Cincinnati. For these practitioners, he stresses, one thing swiftly trumps the viewer’s curiosity about an artist’s background: the right to privacy.
“Certainly, with historical work, it now seems pretty accepted that the biographical narrative is part of the work of self-taught, outsider, and folk artists,” Higgs says. “But it’s much more complicated when showing the work of living artists with disabilities.”
Here, the balance is twofold: Not encroaching on an artist’s privacy rights—especially in the case of those who are “not in the position to articulate” them directly—while also highlighting the positive work being done by non-profit organizations. “When you go to the desk at White Columns,” Higgs says, “the press text will explain that this is an artist who is affiliated with a center that supports artists with disabilities. But we wouldn’t then go beyond that into establishing a narrative around their medical circumstances or mental health issues.”

What Do We Talk about When We Talk about Mental Health?

Eccentric. Visionary. Prophetic. It often seems like institutions, galleries, and the media have developed a series of lightly coded terminology with which to tip-toe around issues that can’t, or shouldn’t, be fully unpacked in the case of a wall text or short catalog essay.
Is the vocabulary we have, I wondered, lagging behind the rest of the field itself? If so, Gioni sees a silver lining, that “these artists, artworks, and objects are still putting our system in crisis to such an extent that there’s not yet a word for it. That’s the hopeful aspect.”

It often seems like there is a lightly coded terminology used to tip-toe around issues that can’t, or shouldn’t, be fully unpacked in the case of a wall text or short catalog essay.

Andrew Edlin, who runs an eponymous New York gallery and also helms the Outsider Art Fair, is less optimistic when I bring up the handful of phrases that seem to resurface so often within the field. “I don’t particularly like any of these words,” he says. “Visionary can be appropriate at times, but I tend to think of

. Eccentric seems like a euphemism to describe someone who’s a bit weird. There’s that well-known line: The difference between someone who is eccentric and crazy is how much money they have!”

And perhaps, he suggests, the repetition of rote or cliched phrases is simply the byproduct of a certain laziness. “I don’t think we are lacking in vocabulary at all,” Edlin says. “If a writer sticks to the idiosyncratic qualities of each artist, there shouldn’t be any problem in finding the right words to accurately talk about his or her work.”

What Difference Does It Make?

We generally want to know more about all the artists we love—whether or not those facts actually enhance our understanding of the work they make. We crave gossip and insider dirt, or at least a broader picture of a life. “That’s one of the reasons why the Calvin Tomkins [profiles] in the New Yorker are so fascinating,” Higgs says. “It’s one of the rare opportunities to get a glimpse into an artist’s background, what their parents did, how they grew up, what their circumstances are—all of which is useful information.”
But with outsider artists, it’s important not to indulge in sensationalism under the guise of scholarship. Rousseau does admit that, in certain cases, a deeper understanding of someone’s mental health or related background can be fruitful. She points to

, an artist who has Asperger’s Syndrome. “Because of his love for inventories and numbers, it’s not an un-useful fact to know,” she says. “He also has a photographic memory. It helps you understand a cause and effect. But that’s not often the case.”

In other instances, seeing beyond biographies and categorical distinctions seems to be a way out of the morass. “I’m led to believe that there is no difference between the ‘eccentric’ artist and the professional artist, when they’re dealing with matter and materials,” Gioni says. “In the moment they sit down to make, I ultimately don’t think there’s any difference in the knowledge they have of their hands meeting the material.”
Susanne Zander of Cologne-based Delmes & Zander echoes that sentiment. Her gallery represents the likes of

and

. “Essentially, we are not that interested in the mental history of the artist,” she says. “The selection of the artists in our program is based mainly on the quality of their work, irrespective of whether or not it was produced specifically for the art market. It’s important for us that the quality is on a par with established art production, and that the artists are judged not for any of their psychological problems—but rather for the quality, individuality, and autonomy of their artistic work.”

As for the basic phrase “outsider art,” Zander feels that it has lost its usefulness. “We feel that the term ‘outsider’ focuses too strongly on the personal situation of the artist and misleads the public, who neglect the actual work itself. We see each work not in reference to a classification or terminology, but for what it really is.”
“The most respectful way to talk about an artist with any condition or pathologies is to stick to the facts,” Edlin says. “If there are things that are unknown—but evidence that suggests certain possibilities—than that’s exactly how it should be put across. Focus on the work, and use the biographical info to help interpret the artmaking process.”
At the same time, Edlin recognizes that an exceptional background can add another dimension to the appreciation of the work. “One of the most interesting and exciting results of accurately explaining the details of the lives of outsider artists—or any artists who have overcome incredibly challenging circumstances—is that their art becomes even more transcendent and uplifting for the viewer,” he continues. “It’s important to remember that figures like

,

, and

were some of the most downtrodden artists we’ve ever known. Genius resides in some of the most unlikely of places.”

When Ignorance Is Bliss

Disko Girls (Anonymous), untitled, 1970s-1980s (archive-# 1). Courtesy Delmes & Zander, Cologne.

Disko Girls (Anonymous), untitled, 1970s-1980s (archive-# 1). Courtesy Delmes & Zander, Cologne.

Disko Girls (Anonymous), untitled, 1970s-1980s (archive-# 32). Courtesy Delmes & Zander, Cologne.

Disko Girls (Anonymous), untitled, 1970s-1980s (archive-# 32). Courtesy Delmes & Zander, Cologne.

“Despite thorough research it has not been possible to identify the artist behind these drawings, found in Germany in the late 1990s,” read the press statement for a group of 50 stunningly idiosyncratic colored-pencil drawings that Delmes & Zander showed at this year’s Independent art fair in New York. Based on its content, the series had been dubbed “Disko Girls,” a title that was “attributed to the work out of respect for the unnamed and unknown author.”
Here, finally, is a case study that happily short-circuits everything we’ve just discussed. For the moment, it’s possible to stand in front of these strange portraits—titillating, disturbing, campy, playful, raw—with absolutely zero baggage.
Perhaps art-historical sleuthing will turn up the artist’s identity in the next few years. Perhaps we’ll find out that he was an orthodontist in Cologne who drew on the weekends, or that she was a university student who copied designs from advertisements and pornographic magazines. Biography will become a magnifying glass used to zoom in on what was once peculiar, elusive, and magnificently foreign about the artist. With any luck, that day will never come.
By Scott Indrisek

Potentially Preventable Tragedies involving Mental Illness in Ohio

The purpose of assembling these is not to demonize persons with mental illness. The people involved in these incidents
are our children, siblings and parents. But because they (i) have serious mental illness, (ii) often do not recognize their
need for treatment, and (iii) are ‘protected’ by HIPAA, we can not help them get treatment until after they become danger
to self or others. Rather than preventing violence, the law requires it. Congress can help by (i) eliminating or reforming
SAMHSA which supports policies that prevent our relatives from getting care (ii) implementing demonstration projects of
Assisted Outpatient Treatment, (iii) instituting HIPAA reforms so we can get info needed to care for our relatives; (iv)
require agencies to prioritize mental “illness” rather than mental “health”, and (iv) end the IMD Exclusion in Medicaid.
Roselawn, Hamilton, OH
On October 22, 2009, James House III, a man with paranoid
schizophrenia, fatally stabbed 93-year-old Ida Martin. House had
been released four months ago from court monitoring after serving
10 years in a mental health facility for stabbing a woman in 1998.
Cincinnati Enquirer, 10/23/09; WKRC, 10/23/09; WLWT.com,
10/22/09
Columbus, Franklin, OH
On October 17, 2009, Daniel James Neeley fatally shot his mother
and wounded his sister. In 911 emergency calls, Neeley’s sister,
Bethany Lafountain, told dispatchers that her brother is a paranoid
schizophrenic. Prior History: On August 5, 2000, Calvin Neely
attacked his father Calvin Neeley who told officers his son has
mental health issues and was not taking his prescribed medicine.
Dayton Daily News, 10/26/2009; Springfield News Sun, 10/28/09;
WHIO, 4/28/10; The Columbus Dispatch, 4/28/10
Columbus, Franklin, OH
On May 2, 2009, Anthony Tilley, a prison parolee with schizophrenia,
knocked on the door of his next-door neighbor at 3:30 a.m. and
stabbed Undra Amos to death. Columbus Dispatch, 11/25/09
Hamilton, Butler, OH
On March 23, 2008, Vincent Blanda killed his 5-month-old daughter,
Brooklynn Blanda, by shaking her. At the time of Brooklynn’s death,
Blanda was not taking his medication for mental illness.Hamilton
Journal-News, 1/13/10
Columbus, Franklin, OH
On October 3, 2011, 40-year-old mentally ill Alesia Sheppard fatally
stabbed her boyfriend, 62-year-old Larry Edwards. Her symptoms
include “auditory hallucinations, delusional beliefs, paranoia and
erratic and impulsive behaviors.” She was ordered held in a secure
psychiatric unit at Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare until she could
be restored to competency. The Columbus Dispatch, 10/4/11, 3/5/12
South Euclid, Cuyahoga, OH
On March 11, 2012, 30-year-old Quentin Diggs killed his 61-year-old
father Oliver Diggs and attacked his 58-year-old mother Brenda with
a brick. Diggs had a long history of mental illness, and his parents
had always tried to help him. He had a history of domestic violence
against his parents. Witnesses said Quentin Diggs attacked his
mother, and then his father tried to protect her. Fox 8, 3/11/12
Canton, Stark, OH
On January 26, 2011, 60-year-old Alana Monroe fatally shot her
husband, 54-year-old James Monroe, before overdosing on pills. A
judge ruled that Alana Monroe was legally insane when she fatally
shot her husband and had paranoid schizophrenia. Newsnet5.com,
1/27/11; Canton Rep, 7/28/11, 9/7/11

Copley, Summit, OH
On August 7, 2011, 51-year-old Michael Hance killed seven people
during a shooting rampage before he was killed by police. Hance
shot his girlfriend Rebecca Dieter at their home and then moved to

an adjacent house where he shot 51-year-old Craig Dieter, 67-year-
old Russell Johnson, 64-year-old Gudrun Johnson, 16-year-old

Autumn Johnson, and 16-year-old Amelia Shambaugh. Hance then
pursued 44-year-old Bryan Johnson and 11-year-old Scott Dieter
through neighboring backyards and shot both. Polixw asked Hance
to drop his weapon, but shot him when he refused. Hance’s family
believed he had untreated mental illness, though the disagreed on
the diagnosis. He had “delusional beliefs” that airplanes were
polluting the area and the proof was on the stained roof shingles atop
homes. According to the final investigative report Hance was a
depressed, sometimes paranoid. ABCNews.com, 8/8/11; Plain
Dealer, 8/9/11; Beacon Journal, 10/8/11
Bono, Lucas, OH
On October 31, 2010, 24-year-old William ‘B.J.’ Liske, killed his 53-
year-old father, William Liske, Jr., his wife 46-year-old Susan, and
her son 23-year-old Derrick L. Griffin inside their home. There was
“blood everywhere in the house.” A relative said B.J. was dangerous
and had threatened Susie before. Police said that he suffered from
Schizophrenia and at one time had been off his medications. Liske
had repeated encounters with law enforcement that resulted in jail
time and mental health treatment. Five months before his death,
William E. Liske, Jr., called the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office to
report that his 24-year-old son had walked off after yelling at him and
pushing him during a confrontation at his pole barn. The elder Liske
said he had brought his son home for a weekend visit from the
Sandusky group home where he lived. He said his son was
schizophrenic and apparently wasn’t taking his medication. “He is
angry and uncontrollable,” the elder Mr. Liske wrote in a June 4
statement for the sheriff’s office. “I do not want to press charges, but
he needs to do his meds like most mentally ill individuals.”
ToledoOnTheMove.com, 11/1/10; ToledoBlade.com, 11/1/10,
11/2/10, 9/15/11; CBSNews.com, 11/2/10;
MansfieldNewsJournal.com, 3/22/11; Las Vegas Sun, 9/15/11
Dover, Tuscarawas, OH
On September 5, 2010, Jason Lee Gordon fatally beat his girlfriend,
33 year old Gina Harper. Gordon suffers from bipolar disorder and
schizoaffective disorder and had been admitted to mental institutions
both as a juvenile and an adult. NewsNet5.com, 9/5/10;
19ActionNews.com, 9/6/10; The Times-Reporter, 1/3/11
Enon Beach, Clark, OH
On January 1, 2011, 57-year-old Michael L. Ferryman fatally shot 40-
year-old Clark County Deputy Suzanne Waughtel Hopper before he
died in a shoot out with police in a trailor park. Previously, Ferryman
was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2001, after a shootout

with authorities in Morgan County. Ferryman stayed at various state
facilities for over three years due to his mental illness.
DaytonDaileyNews.com, 1/3/11, 6/28/11; Columbus Dispatch, 1/4/11
Mansfield, Richland, OH
On April 3, 2010, Mansfield Dan Redman, 27, fatally shot John D.
Williamson, 61, in the back of the head while he was sleeping.
Redman, who had been staying with Williamson, said he couldn’t
control his actions. “It was like I was in control of my eyes, but
nothing else. I didn’t want to do it,” said Redman. Redman’s mother
said her son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia
when he was 16, and couldn’t afford to stay on medication. Mansfield
News Journal, 4/7/10
Southington, Trumbull, OH
On July 31, 2012, 60-year-old Royce C. Honaker fatally shot his wife,
58-year-old Donna Honaker and called 911 to tell dispatchers he had
just killed his wife. Family members said that Royce Honaker
suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and his condition had
worsened in the last six months. He believed, among other things,
his wife was poisoning his food. Family said she moved out of the
house but returned frequently to care for him and make sure he was
safe. Donna Honaker had taken her husband to Trumbull Memorial
Hospital’s psychiatric care center to be evaluated, but he checked
himself out three days later against doctor’s advice. Tribune
Chronicle, 8/3/12
Newport, Washington, OH
On August 1, 2012, 48-year-old Mark Stevens shot his neighbor,
Patrick Arnold. Neighbors said that Stevens, who had a history of
mental illness, behaved erratically and made people uncomfortable.
In 1985, he had been found incompetent to stand trial on an
attempted murder charge.Marietta Times, 8/3/12; TheNewsCenter.tv,
8/4/12
Lakemore, Summit, OH
On January 8, 2009, Daniel Tice fatally shot his estranged wife,
Brandi Tice, 28 with a single gunshot wound to the head. After
keeping SWAT officers at bay with Noah, his 4-year-old son by his
side, Daniel Tice was shot by police. Daniel Tice suffers from bipolar
disorder. Family and police said Tice stopped taking his medication.
Akron Beacon Journal, 1/10/09
Colerain Township, Hamilton, OH
On January 24, 2009, Timothy “Timmy” Sturgel shot his adopted
father Jerry Sturgel, 51, Mary Sturgel, 40, and Mary’s daughter,
Emily Hurst, 13 and set the home on fire. Timmy was diagnosed with
bipolar disorder and reportedly heard voices. Sometimes the voice
told him to do bad things. Hamilton County court documents show
Timmy had been ordered to undergo psychiatric care and treatment
at least four times since he was 20. Colerain Township police had
been called to the house previously for a psychiatric emergency as
recently as May 2008, according to records. Cincinnati Enquirer,
1/24/09, 1/25/09, 1/26/09
Dayton, Montgomery, OH
Eric Tyrone Moorer, a mental patient on a weekend pass from the
Dayton Mental Health Center, walked into a bar near the Center and
shot two men to death there. Dayton, Ohio News (Dayton
Metropolitan Area), November 17,
Marietta, Washington, OH

On August 19, 2002 Faran L. Sebring, 43, shoved Hames Lupardus,
42, of Marietta, into oncoming traffic while the two men were walking
together at night. The state’s report indicates Sebring was hearing
voices around the time of the incident and that he feared Lupardus
was trying to kill him. Psychologists determined Sebring was
suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The
Marietta Times (OH), February 26,
Noble, OH
In March 2004, Fred Mundt, a 29-year-old man from Lebanon OH,
beat, raped and murdered his girlfriend’s 7-year-old daughter,
Brittany Hendrickson. Mundt’s mother, Sara Mundt, said her son has
depression and a bi-polar disorder. WTAP News, March 16, 2004
Marietta Times (OH), March 16, 2004 Akron Beacon Journal, 12/8
Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH
Timothy Ward, 20, of Cleveland, pled guilty to strangling 19-year-old
La’Erica Patterson to death on their first date. Police later found her
body in a toy chest in Ward’s room. Ward said that the “devil made
me do it” and was diagnosed by a court psychiatrist as a paranoid
schizophrenic. Ward had a history of killing family pets and had once
attacked a former girlfriend but had no prior troubles with the law.
Plain Dealer (Ohio), October 1,
Lucas, OH
Stephen Everett, 19, raped, robbed, and murdered Rhonda Douglas
on March 29, 2002 in her Lucas County home about six weeks after
he was released from the Lucas County Youth Treatment Center.
Everett was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression at age
13. He stopped taking medication before the murder, and drinking
and drugs exacerbated the illnesses’ effects. Toledo Blade,
November 21,
Alliance, Stark, OH
Felicia Jennings, 35, was charged with involuntary manslaughter,
child endangering and abuse of a corpse for disposing of her
newborn twin sons in a plastic bag for trash pickup. Jennings has
been diagnosed with schizophrenia and borderline personality
disorder and twice was committed for mental health care. She was
apparently not taking her medication at the time she gave birth to the
twins at home. Akron Beacon Journal, November 22, 2002 The
Repository (Ohio), March 13,
Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH
Jay D. Scott was given the death penalty for murdering 74-year-old
Vinney Prince, a Cleveland delicatessen owner, during a robbery in
May 1983. Prison doctors say Scott has schizophrenia and suffers
from a “history of psychosis characterized by delusional thought
process, paranoia and bizarre behavior.” He hears voices, set his
cell on fire several times, screams incoherently and bangs his head
on the wall Scott was executed on June 14, 2001. The Columbus
Dispatch, April 15,
Columbus, Franklin, OH
Gregory A. Pack stabbed social services caseworker, Nancy
Fitzgivens, to death on October 16, 2001 at his home in Columbus,
OH, after she told him that Child Protective Services would be taking
custody of his children. Pack had a history of bipolar disorder.
Columbus Dispatch, April 27,
London, Madison, OH

Veniamin Linnik, 43, a Ukrainian immigrant with paranoid
schizophrenia, beat his father to death after a night of drinking on
December 14, 2003 inside the London, OH apartment. Columbus
Dispatch (Ohio) May 22,
Akron, Summit, OH
Paul Michael Fassnacht, 32, stabbed and killed his stepmother on
September 10, 2006, in her home. Prior History: According to
records, police and paramedics have been called to Fassnacht’s
home seven times since December 2003 for incidents stemming from
mental illness. The most recent call came in January. In an October
2005 incident, Fassnacht was described as schizophrenic and said
he heard voices and a tapping sound on his windows. In an August
2004 incident, he was said to be yelling obscenities to himself and
punching himself hard enough to fall to the ground. Barbara Lenc, a
neighbor, said she noticed Fassnacht behaving strangely on several
occasions. He would pace alongside the house, wring his hands, talk
to himself and stomp, Lenc said. Akron Beacon Journal, September
12, 2006, November 2,
Alliance, Stark, OH
On February 18, 2007, Morgan Ellis, 53used a gun to fatally wound
his wife, Debra, 44, shortly before shooting himself. Family
members and relatives described Morgan Ellis as a man struggling
with mental illness. Aaron Ellis, 23, who shared the home with his
parents said “He had a problem, he had a serious problem. In his
mind, he thought the world was against him. He took everything out
on her.” Aaron Ellis said one reason he lived with his parents was to
help safeguard his mother. “I had been worrying about my sister for
years,” Jeffrey Carter, Debra Ellis’ brother, said. “He had some
serious issues. I didn’t think he would go this far.”Canton Repository,
2/19/07
East Palestine, Columbiana, OH
Ernest B. Robinson, 21, formerly of East Palestine, OH, pleaded
guilty to causing the death of his 5-month old daughter on August 14,
2002. Robinson had been treated for bipolar disorder and had taken
medication for the illness, though he hadn’t taken medication for the
past five years. Morning Journal News (Ohio), August 25,
Columbus, Franklin, OH
Police say Robert Villalon, 46, attacked his mother Lucia Villalon, 75,
on December 11, 2002 in their home in Columbus, OH. Both the
defense and the prosecuting attorneys agree that he should be
permanently committed. Columbus Dispatch (OH), October 14,
Cleveland, Cuyahoga, OH
Eroge Thomas, a 45-year-old man with paranoid schizophrenia,
stabbed and killed his boss in a downtown Cleveland, OH hotel
restaurant on July 28, 2003. Thomas attacked 29-year-old head cook
Amy Brin in the restaurant’s kitchen and stabbed her 13 times with a
large chef’s knife in front of their co-workers. Thomas, who court
records show was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1981,
was on parole after serving 20 years in prison for another murder. In
1980, he robbed and fatally shot Charles Nixon, 23, of Cleveland.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, August 1, 2003; 218/04; 1/23
Huber Heights, Montgomery, OH
On July 22, 2004, Duane Allen Short, 36, shot and killed his wife,
Rhonda Michelle Short, 31, and her friend, Donnie Ray Sweeney, 32
in Huber Heights. Short had recently been diagnosed with bipolar

disorder and depression, but had flushed medication down the toilet.
The Dayton Daily News, September 21,
Miami Township, Clermont, OH

Christina Miracle, 25, a woman with mental illness, killed her 6-year-
old son on February 6, 2004 after she stopped taking her psychiatric

medication. Miracle thought she was bringing her dead brother back
to life and baptizing her son. Prior History: In March 2003, Miracle
began acting irrationally and expressing paranoid fears that
somebody had poisoned her water, family members said. Miracle
was admitted to a psychiatric ward for two days and then released. In
the following days Miracle was re-admitted to the hospital and stayed
for a week. Hospital officials told Miracle’s family she suffered from
major depression and sent her home with medication and orders to
see a counselor. Miracle never sought additional treatment and
discontinued her medications. Cincinnati Enquirer, September 23,
2004;Cincinnati Enquirer, October 13, 2004; Cincinnati Enquirer,
March 1, 2005; Cincinnati Enquirer, March 9, 2005.
Canton, Stark, OH
On July 3, 2004, Sherah N. Bennett, a woman with bipolar disorder,
rammed her car into a delivery truck in Canton, OH, killing the driver,
retired Canton police officer Sheldon Gotschall. Bennett’s attorney
Timothy C. Ivey told the judge that his client is very “functional”
when she is properly medicated. But when her medication is altered
or she fails to take it, Ivey said, problems can arise. Three weeks
before the July 3 crash, Bennett was involved in another crash when
she hit a parked tractor-trailer in a rest area on Interstate 71. After
that incident, according to police records, Bennett told a state trooper
that she was “bipolar and not taking her medication”.
Akron Beacon Journal, September 30, 2004 Akron Beacon Journal,
October 5 & 27, 2004 NewsNet5.com, OH, November 4,
!!!!!Springfield Township, , OH
On August 24, 2004, Paul Thomas Faith, 25 entered a K-Mart store
in Springfield Township, OH, shot and killed one man and wounded
another, then shot and killed himself after leading police on a short
car chase. Faith’s mother said he was diagnosed with paranoid
schizophrenia in 1999. He often heard voices and didn’t take his
medications, she said. “I am angry that the system failed my son,”
Linda Faith said, adding that Faith often wanted to stay in the
hospital but was released because he wasn’t deemed ill enough.
Prior History: Hamilton County court records show that Faith was
twice declared mentally ill and was hospitalized four times between
1999 and 2003.Cincinnati Inquirer, October 6,
College Hill, Hamilton, OH
Michael Meridy, a 20-year-old man with mental illness, stabbed and
beat his grandfather to death at the elderly man’s College Hill, OH
home in November 2003. Meridy told detectives that God and the
devil made him kill Pillow. Meridy suffers from schizophrenia and was
not in his right mind during the killing. Prior History: A month before
the murder, Meridy was taken by family to a psychiatric ward, after
he walked around the house asking if others could hear the voices he
was hearing. Cincinnati Enquirer, October 14, 2004 Cincinnati Post,
October 14, & November 2,
Westlake, Cuyahoga, OH
Daniel Jung, a 22-year-old man with a history of mental illness, killed
his 68-year-old father and injured his mother with the family car in the
driveway of their Westlake, OH home. On October 18, 2004, a judge
ruled that Jung was mentally incompetent to stand trial. Court

psychiatrists who evaluated Jung and reviewed records of past
psychiatric treatment diagnosed him as schizophrenic. Plain Dealer
(Cleveland), October 19,
Columbus, Franklin, OH
On December 8, 2004, 25-year-old Nathan Gale entered a
Columbus, OH nightclub and shot and killed four people, including a
well-known heavy metal guitarist who was up on stage. Gale, who
had taken a hostage after shooting the last victim, was then shot and
killed by a police officer at the scene. Gale’s mother, Mary Clark, said
her son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2003, when
he was sent home from the Marine Corps on an early medical
discharge. “He came home with his medications, and I don’t know if
he took them or not,” Clark said. MSNBC.com, December 15, 2004;
Cincinnati Enquirer, April 14, 2005; Cincinnati Enquirer, May 12,
Hyde Park, Hamilton, OH
On May 31, 2005, Andrew Warrington, a 16-year-old boy with mental
illness, killed his brother Johnny Warrington, 17, in their Hyde Park,
OH home by beating him to death with a baseball bat because he
thought Johnny, was trying to poison him. Warrington suffers from
paranoid schizophrenia and was refusing to take a prescription
antipsychotic medication. Cincinnati Enquirer, 6/16/05, 11/30/05,

12/2/05, 6/12/08, 12/5/08; ChannelCincinnati.com, 11/30/05; WLWT-
TV, 12/16/05; Middleton Journal, 12/17/05; Cincinnati WCPO.com

Cincinnati, Hamilton, OH
William Ushry, a 23-year-old man with mental illness, stabbed a
woman to death after burglarizing her apartment in Cincinnati, OH on
April 25, 2004. Ushry accused his parents of trying to poison him,
took a knife out of his father’s drawer, and left the house. When
Ushry returned, he told his parents he “might have hurt someone,”
said his father. Prior History: After returning from the Army, Ushry
told his parents that the government was reading his mind, that he
was getting messages from the television, and that he could see
spirits. Ushry later lost a job with the Cincinnati Public Schools
because of his mental health problems, his father said. Ushry’s
parents took him to University Hospital, where he was diagnosed
with paranoid schizophrenia. The Kentucky Post, August 12, 2005;
Cincinnati Post, August 19, 2005; Cincinnati Post, September 23,
Middletown, Butler, OH
On September 3, 2005, 25-year-old Michael Carreiro fatally stabbed
his mother, 56-year-old Christine Minnix in his apartment. Carreiro
told detectives he killed his mother as part of a prophecy he received
from a higher power. Carreiro’s stepfather said he suffered from
paranoid schizophrenia. He said Carreiro stopped taking his
medication when he turned 18 and had spent four years in outpatient
mental health care, which was initiated in November 2000 through a
civil commitment proceeding, before he was released on December
7, 2004. Middletown Journal, 9/7/05, 11/8/05, 9/5/06, 11/21/06,
12/12/06, 11/28/06, 12/11/06, 8/10/11, 11/28/11; Cincinnati Enquirer,
9/5/05, 9/7/05; Dayton Daily News, 9/14/05; Journal-News, 10/19/05;
Cincinnati.com, 6/15/11, 12/1/11; Dayton Daily News, 6/21/11
Canton, Stark, OH
Henry A. Sunderman, 32, is accused of raping and killing his infant
niece on March 10, 2006, when Sunderman was baby-sitting 7-
month-old Zoey Sunderman, her two sisters and a brother. Ward
has bipolar disorder and has been on disability for at least five years.
Canton Repository, March 14,

Toledo, Lucas, OH
On March 10, 2006, Sharon John Hawkins, 62, allegedly beat his 77-
year-old roommate, Norbert Konwin, to death at the Foundation Park
Alzheimer’s Care Center. Hawkins has schizophrenia. Toledo
WUPW, 3/29/06; Toledo Blade, 8/8/07
Middleton, , OH
On January 1, 2006, Dean Geldrich killed his roommate, Miranda
Lint, 29, in their Malvern Street home after he bound Lint’s limbs with
duct tape and brutalized her for hours. The judges said they spared
Geldrich’s life because his mental illness — a bipolar disorder with
psychotic features — was an overwhelming mitigating factor against
the death sentence Middletown Journal, 8/9/06, 9/6/06, 9/18/06,
6/5/08; Journal News, 9/27/06; Cincinnati Enquirer, 9/26/06
Youngstown, Mahoning, OH
On March 11, 2007, James R. DiCioccio, 49, choked and killed
Stephen A. Lawson, 34. Lawson died at St. Elizabeth Health Center
shortly after a fight at Illinois Manor, a group home for mentally ill
men. In February 2006, staff wanted him removed to the psych ward
of a hospital, saying he was becoming too violent. Youngstown
Vindicator, 3/20/07
Cleveland Heights, Cuyahoga, OH
On May 26, 2007, Timothy Halton Jr., 27, shot officer Jason West,
who later died at Huron Hospital.
• Nineteen days before, Timothy showed up for a psychiatry
appointment at the downtown offices of Mental Health Service

for Homeless Persons Inc. He had skipped his monthly anti-
psychotic injections recently.. The psychiatrist asked Halton to

stick around for the shot. But Halton left, and the staff never saw
him again. As with Halton’s mother, who struggled to get her
son help, there was nothing the agency could do to compel
treatment.
• On October 4, 2003, Halton’s mother, Jeanette Tiggs, called
police to report Halton’s threats to relatives. Halton says that he
wants “a bullet in his head” and that he is going to “kill a police
officer.” Halton is stopped by police, smashes a patrol car with a
brick and punches Patrolman Mark Merims in the face. He was
sentenced to probation and ordered to take antipsychotic
medication. His probation ended in June 2006, according to
court records.
• On May 24, 2001, Halton’s mother, Jeanette Tiggs, called police
to say her son was threatening to “go kill” President Bush, who
is visiting Greater Cleveland.
• On July 8, 2000, Timothy Halton Jr. punched and kicked a 60-
year-old man who walked past his home. Police get a call from
Halton’s screaming sister, who has locked her brother out of the
home telling them he is bipolar and “violent when not properly
medicated.” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/26/07, 5/30/07, 5/31/07,
10/30/09; The Morning Journal, 6/2/07; Plain Dealer, 6/2/07,
6/3/07; Cleveland Free Times, 6/6/07; WKYC.com, 10/30/09
Mansfield, Richland, OH
On May 7, 2007, Preston Fenderson bludgeoned Larry Gutshall at
his apartment in Dalton Place, a 12-room apartment building for
people recovering from mental illness. Fenderson was a diagnosed
paranoid schizophrenic. Police said they believed Fenderson had
been off his medication. Bacyrus Telegraph (CA), 6/13/07; Mansfield
New Journal, 3/19/09, 3/27/09, 4/1/09, 4/2/09
Canton, Stark, OH

On July 9, 2006, Brian C. Aduddell who has a history of mental
illness, admitted using a cane and a carving knife to murder Charles
W. Evans Sr., 81, and Evelyn C. Evans, 80, inside their home.
Aduddell told police that God told him to kill his grandparents in order
to save the world. Aduddell, whose his grandparents basically raised
him since he was 5 years old, had moved in with the couple the day
before. He suffered from severe mental illness. For at least two years
before the killings, Aduddell’s behavior was erratic. He believed in
UFOs and spent his days writing his bizarre thoughts. His relatives
have said he claimed to chase flying saucers and preach the Bible to
aliens. At one point, Aduddell was hospitalized for mental illness; a
month before the murders he sought treatment at a crisis center in
Wayne County, Stafford said. Aduddell’s mother had schizophrenia
and committed suicide when he was young. That Aduddell wasn’t
treated for mental illness frustrates his cousin, John Gardiner.
Aduddell lacked insurance and when he went to the crisis center and
was told nothing was wrong even though his family knew better,
Gardiner said. Canton Repository, 8/7/07
South Euclid, Cuyahoga, OH
On March 22, 2008, Walter D. Spencer Jr. critically wounded his
mother and killed his father in their South Euclid home. Walter D.
Spencer Jr. suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and may not have
been taking his medication. Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/24/08
Waynesburg, Stark, OH
During the week of August 17, 2008, 22-year-old Joseph P. Grossi of
Waynesburg killed his former roommate, Bruce Bai, 38, after walking
17 miles to Bai’s apartment by stabbing him once in the lower back.
His mother Catherine Grossi said her son bipolar disorder, and
needs medication. Canton Repository, 8/26/08, 1/5/09, 1/13/09
Mansfield, Richland, OH
On December 26, 2007, Larry Evans Jr., fatally shot his brother
Officer Brian Evans, and a neighbor, 44-year-old Robert Houseman
and held police officers at bay for several hours before surrendering.
Evans was off his psychotropic medication at the time. The defense
team, court and prosecution team each hired an expert and they all
agreed Evans, had bipolar disorder and psychosis. WMFD
Mansfield, 9/2/08; Mansfield News Journal, 4/6/10, 4/24/12;
IndeOnline, 6/6/12
Zanesville, Muskingum, OH
On August 29, 2008, John Matthew Hughes, 32, killed Eugene David
Durben. Wendy Pritchard, Hughes’ sister, of Mississippi, said while
she is shocked her brother had anything to do with Hughes’ death,
she wants the Hughes family to know her family is extremely sorry.
Pritchard said her brother has suffered from mental illness for years.
“He’s been diagnosed as a bipolar, paranoid schizophrenic and has
never really gotten any help with his problems,” Pritchard said. “We
aren’t excusing him we’re just hurting ourselves.” Pritchard said the
justice system has never addressed any of Hughes’ problems. “They
just keep putting him in prison and not allowing him to have his

medication,” Pritchard said. “We’ve asked and asked that they keep
him locked up and get him help, but nothing seems to work.”
Zanesville Times Recorder, 9/10/08, 1/23/09
Toledo, Lucas, OH
On July 18, 2010, 24-year-old Lawrence Fitzgerald James was

charged in the fatal stabbing of University of Toledo student 22-year-
old Casey Bucher. James had a history of not taking the anti-
psychotic prescriptions he needed for Schizophrenia and Bipolar

Disorder. Prior History: James was diagnosed with Schizophrenia
and Bipolar Disorder as a teenager, and attempted to claim he was
incompetent to stand trial during a similar case two years ago. He
was released from the Lebanon Correctional Institution near
Cincinnati June 6 after serving time for a 2008 attack in which he
stabbed a gas station attendant who did not comply when he asked
for 70 cents. In both cases, his brother, Lawrence E. James, said he
was not taking the anti-psychotic prescriptions he needed for
Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder When he left the prison in
Lebanon last month, he did not refill his four prescriptions for
psychiatric drugs, according to his brother. Toledoblade.com,
7/21/10; ToledoontheMove.com, 7/19/10, 7/21/10; ABC 13, 7/21/10
Harrsville, Butler, OH
On July 28, 2010, 49-year-old Thomas Smith fatally shot his former
brother-in-law, 56-year-old Clifford Stevenson. A relative said that
Stevenson was providing Smith with food and a place to live.
Stevenson’s sister said Smith was being treated for Paranoid
Schizophrenia and was off his medication. KDKA, 8/01/10; Pittsburg
Tribune-Review, 8/2/10; Allied News, 7/12/11
Dayton, Montgomery, OH
On March 17, 2011, 47-year-old Michelle Walker was shot in the
head. The next day, her son, 27-year-old Glenn Walker was taken
into custody and charged with murder several days later. According
to a family member, Glenn Walker suffers from mental illness.Dayton
Daily News, 3/21/11, 3/23/11; WHIOTV.com, 3/17/11
Colerain Township, Hamilton, OH
On July 12, 2011, 24-year-old Lanny Stoinoff violently shook his
infant niece killing her. Stoinoff asked to hold 1-month-old Roslyn
Stoinoff, then shook her while his mother and sister, the baby’s
mother, tried to get him to stop. Officers arrested Stoinoff, who was
staying at this parents’ home, where he been since being released
from a psychiatric hospitalization a few weeks before. “He had some
mental issues and he was committed like for seven days, and they
released him. Prior History: On June 27, 2011, Stoinoff was taken
from his home by police to University Hospital’s psychiatric unit.
Stoinoff told a nurse at the hospital that he had killed his dog
“because it had demons in it” A deputy called Stoinoff’s father, who
said his son was paranoid schizophrenic and off his medicine .
Cincinnati.com, 7/14/11, 11/26/12; Fox19.com, 7/22/11; WLWT News
5, 7/14/11, 8/10/11

Surging Demand for Mental Health Care Jams College Services

Students may wait weeks for a basic consultation; sometimes even longer to see a psychiatrist
-Jacob Griffin,Executive Director of Student Mental Health Policy Alliance

Colleges across the country are failing to keep up with a troubling spike in demand for mental health care — leaving students stuck on waiting lists for weeks, unable to get help.

STAT surveyed dozens of universities about their mental health services. From major public institutions to small elite colleges, a striking pattern emerged: Students often have to wait weeks just for an initial intake exam to review their symptoms. The wait to see a psychiatrist who can prescribe or adjust medication — often a part-time employee — may be longer still.

Students on many campuses are so frustrated that they launched a petition last month demanding expanded services. They plan to send it to 20 top universities, including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, MIT, and Columbia, where seven students have died this school year from suicide and suspected drug overdose.

“Students are turned away every day from receiving the treatment they need, and multiple suicide attempts and deaths go virtually ignored each semester,” the petition reads. More than 700 people have signed; many have left comments about their personal experiences trying to get counseling at college. “I’m signing because if a kid in crisis needs help they should not have to wait,” one wrote.

STAT requested information from 98 campuses across the country and received answers from 50 of those schools. Among the findings:

At Northwestern University, it can take up to three weeks to get a counseling appointment. At Washington University in St. Louis, the wait time runs nearly 13 days, on average, in the fall semester.

At the University of Washington in Seattle, delays in getting care are so routine, the wait time is posted online; it’s consistently hovered between two and three weeks in recent months. In Florida, where educators are pressing the state legislature for millions in new funding to hire counselors, the wait times at University of Florida campuses can stretch two weeks.

Smaller schools aren’t exempt, either: At Carleton College, a liberal arts campus in Northfield, Minn., the wait list can stretch up to 10 days.

A few weeks’ wait may not seem like much. After all, it often takes that long, or longer, for adults to land a medical appointment with a specialist. But such wait times can be brutal for college students — who may be away from home for the first time, without a support network, and up against more academic and peer pressure than ever before. Every class, every meal, every party can become a hurdle for students struggling with eating disorders, depression, and other issues.

Many counseling centers say that they are often overwhelmed during the most stressful times for students, such as midterms and finals. Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., for example, reports a wait time of up to a month during busy periods.

In most instances, STAT’s examination found, students who say that they are suicidal are seen at once, and suicide hotlines are available for after-hours emergencies. But some students are uncomfortable acknowledging an impulse to harm themselves, and thus get pushed to the end of the line, along with undergrads struggling with concerns ranging from acute anxiety to gender identity issues.

Campus counselors are acutely aware that they’re leaving students stranded but say they don’t have the resources to do better.

“You’re making sure people are safe in the moment,” said Ben Locke, who runs a national college counseling network and directs counseling services at Pennsylvania State University. “But you’re not treating the depression or the panic attacks or the eating disorders.”

‘I NEEDED TO SEE SOMEONE’

Constance Rodenbarger, now in her third year at Indiana University, first sought help at the counseling center in her second semester, as she struggled to deal with an abusive relationship on top of long-term depression. The next appointment was at least two weeks away.

“I was just looking at that date on the calendar and thinking, ‘If I can just make it one more day,’ but then it became just one more hour, and then one more minute,” she said.

“I just couldn’t hang on.”

The day before her appointment, on Nov. 17, 2014, she tried to kill herself.

Her roommate found her, and Rodenbarger was rushed to the hospital. She called the counseling center from the hospital to say she wouldn’t be able to make it in the next day.

“When I called that day and said, ‘I need to see someone,’ I needed to see someone,” she said.

Indiana University now says it connects with all students who seek counseling within two days. But that connection can involve simply setting up an appointment — for up to three weeks away.

“We, like centers across the country, are working on expanding our staff,” said Nancy Stockton, the director of Indiana University’s counseling center. “We certainly need more clinicians.”

Indiana University and several other large schools said they employ one counselor for roughly every 1,500 undergraduates. That’s at the high end of the range recommended by national experts. The numbers reported in an annual national survey are even more stark: In 2015, large campuses reported an average of one licensed mental health provider per 3,500 students.

When students do get in to campus counseling centers, most see therapists, social workers, or perhaps psychologists.

Just 6 in 10 college counseling centers have a psychiatrist available, even part-time, to prescribe or adjust medications, according to the annual survey, conducted by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors. That’s a serious mismatch, given that about one-quarter of college students who seek mental health services take psychotropic medications.

There are other hurdles, too. While many schools tout free counseling, they often cap that benefit. Students at Brown University, for instance, get seven free sessions a year. At Indiana University, students get just two free sessions and then pay $30 per visit.

And it can be hard for students to develop a consistent relationship with a therapist when so many college mental health providers work limited hours. Wellesley College, for example, has a counseling staff which includes six therapists — but three of them are only on campus part-time.

While dozens of colleges provided STAT with detailed information about their mental health resources, the public relations staff at others, including Georgetown University, Dartmouth College, and Grinnell College, refused to provide information after repeated requests.

Others, such as Harvard and Yale, declined to provide specific staffing information. In some cases, such as with the US Merchant Marine Academy, media relations staff expressed discomfort about being compared to other colleges.

Columbia University told STAT it employs the equivalent of 41 full-time counselors for just over 6,000 students, which would be an enviable staffing level, far better than most other schools its size. Columbia said its wait time varies, but did not provide a specific range. All enrollment numbers come from U.S. News and World Report.

A SPIKE IN CRISIS CASES

Demand for counseling on college campuses has been rising steadily for several years.

And the latest data, released in January, show a recent spike in cases of students in acute crisis.

One in three students who sought counseling last year said they’d seriously considered suicide at some point in their lives, according to a report out last month from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. That’s up from fewer than 1 in 4 students in 2010.

And those are just the students who admit they’re in crisis. Untold others don’t know how to respond when an employee at the counseling center asks if it’s an emergency. They may downplay their situation, telling themselves others are in more dire condition or it must not be a true crisis if they have the presence of mind to ask for help.

That’s what happened to Adrienne Baer during the fall of 2015, in her junior year at the University of Maryland. Both her grandparents had recently died. So had a high school friend.

“It was a lot to wrap my head around,” she said. With a push from friends, she decided to call the counseling center. “I didn’t exactly have an education on what their resources were, but I got one,” Baer said.

Baer said she was asked on the phone whether she was experiencing an emergency. She didn’t know how to answer that: No one gave her a definition. So she said no and was shunted to the end of the waiting list. It would be two weeks before she could see a counselor.

She dashed off an angry email to the counseling center the minute she hung up the phone:

“I am currently struggling with the issues I wanted to discuss with a therapist or counselor, but even I don’t know how I’ll be in 24 hours, let alone 2 weeks.…

I don’t know if all that constitutes an emergency or if I need to have a mental breakdown to be seen prior to a two week wait but I am seriously disappointed in the lack of availability in mental health resources.”

That got their attention. She was given a quick appointment for an initial assessment. But for continuing care, Baer was put back on the waiting list. It would be five weeks before she could see a psychiatrist who could prescribe medication.

“I had to wait. There was nothing I could do,” said Baer, now a senior. “It was just a roller coaster that I couldn’t control.”

Sharon Kirkland-Gordon, director of the University of Maryland’s counseling center, said she knows her staff can’t keep up with demand, though she said they’re “working overtime to meet the needs of students.”

Requests for appointments shot up 16 percent last year alone, she said.

Nationally, about six in 10 undergrads seeking counseling are women, and 5 percent are international students. There are roughly an equal numberof freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Kirkland-Gordon has started to bring on part-time seasonal staff to help handle the workload. Many campuses also use therapists who are still in training work one-on-one with students, as long as they report to licensed counselors.

“If we had a magic wand, I think you’d probably hear the same thing from all of us counseling directors,” said Kirkland-Gordon. Their wish list is simple: more resources.

No one is entirely sure why student demand for mental health services is rising; factors may include increased pressure from parents or peers on social media, or a difficult job market. Another possible reason: increased awareness about the risk of mental health conditions.

In the past decade, the federal government has given out tens of millions in grants to suicide prevention programs that raised awareness of risk factors. A generation of students trained by such programs is now in college — and seeking help when they feel warning signs. But not every college got a bump in funding to meet the surge in demand.

“If you want a perfect recipe to generate reduced availability of treatment, that would be it,” said Locke, of Penn State, who also serves as director of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, a national network.

Locke notes that college health centers would never require a student with strep throat to wait two weeks for an appointment. Yet that’s what’s happening to many students with anxiety, depression, and other serious mental health concerns. “It puts the student’s academic career, and potentially their life, at risk,” he said.

As for Baer, she said she made it through that stressful semester by leaning on friends at school and family back in Pennsylvania. She wonders what would’ve happened to an international student or to a freshman without a reliable support network.

“I do feel like I fell through the cracks,” she said, “but I feel like I fell onto a safety net that other people might not have.”

A COLLEGE PRESIDENT SOUNDS THE ALARM

In an era when colleges are ranked by the number of their professors and the quality of their food — or whether their gyms house rock-climbing walls — it can be tough for the counseling centers to make a case for more resources.

Some turn to quick fixes, touting “stress-busting” programs like bringing in puppies for students to pet during midterms or handing out free cookies in the library during finals.

Others are making a concerted effort to respond to the surging demand.

The wait times at Ohio State University were so alarming to Dr. Michael Drake — a physician who stepped into the president’s office in 2014 — that he hired more than a dozen new counselors. That pushed the school’s ratio down to one provider for roughly every 1,100 undergraduates.

“We were doing it to really smooth the pathway of success for students,” Drake said. National data suggest the additional providers will help; 7 in 10 students who seek counseling say the mental health care improved their academic performance.

The University of California system moved to update counseling services in 2014, as wait lists grew and students with acute needs sought care. It took another year to get a dedicated funding stream to hire more counselors, in the form of increased student fees.

“Things start to back up like a traffic jam,” said Gary Dunn, director of counseling and psychological services for the University of California, Santa Cruz. “A lot can happen in four or five weeks during a quarter in college. It really wasn’t OK to have that delay in place.”

Students who have lived through mental health crises welcome more staff. But they also urge better training so that everyone on campus knows to treat mental health concerns as seriously, and with as much empathy, as a physical injury.

Nick, who asked that his last name not be used, was diagnosed with depression before college and had a difficult transition to his freshman year at Ithaca College in upstate New York. “I had no idea how to cope with all of it and I floundered a bit,” he said in an interview.

He sought help early on — during orientation — because he knew he’d likely need it. But he said he was bounced between two counselors and had difficulty getting appointments that fit into his schedule. In the end, he had to pay for a private mental health specialist off campus.

Ithaca did not respond to requests for information on its mental health services, saying its counseling center staff was busy. At the time he sought care, Nick said there were just two counselors for the school’s 7,000 students.

“I was so badly handled. Not by any fault of their own, they were just woefully underprepared,” he said.

This year, by contrast, he had to take time off for a surgery. Getting help with a physical injury was a breeze, he said.

“The administration and professors have been much more understanding and willing to help when it’s something tangible and physical,” he said, “when the doctors can say, ‘Here’s what’s wrong with you and here’s how you can fix it.’”

DRAWING LESSONS FROM TRAUMA

Rodenbarger, the Indiana University student, is still feeling the echoes of her struggles to get mental health help on campus. Her suicide attempt cost her both her job and her off-campus apartment. The medication she was put on cost her a pilot’s license.

But she is recovering — with the help of a mental health provider off campus. She’s easing off the medication. She’s on track to graduate in the summer of 2018 with two degrees, a fine arts degree in printmaking and another in astronautics.

She’s also excited to have seen the school expand its walk-in services for students in need of urgent mental health care. It’s a step forward — and she wants to see more like it.

“Had I gotten help when I reached out for it,” she said, “it would never have gotten to the level that it did.”

Letter from our Executive Director

2017 has been a dynamic year in mental health. For some, it feels like both a lifetime and a single second has passed since the year started back in January.

Thanks to you, some big steps have been made in bringing mental health care in the United States into the 21st Century.

We couldn’t have made progress happen within Higher Education without your generous support.

We maintained coverage for mental health and substance use benefits thanks to the thousands of you who called, emailed, and sent letters to your legislators telling them to make mental health a priority.

Our high student affairs policy standards let peers show their expertise and experience, which opens new career paths and more opportunities to transform lives and services.

This is all thanks to you – with you, we can change the trajectory of thousands of young lives.

We cannot thank you enough for your support. Griffin Ambitions Ltd and Vital Time will not settle for the answers of the past in mental health care and treatment.

With your help, we can take charge of a brighter future—where there is always hope.

To all those preparing for the celebrations, happy holidays from all of us here at Griffin Ambitions!

Be well,

 

Jacob M. Griffin

 

Exemplar: Mental Health Day at the Office

We’ve all heard that we should take a mental health day from time to time, but how many of us are brave enough to actually take one—and let our coworkers and boss know that mental health issues may be the reason for being out of office?

empty desksEFLON/FLICKR – FLIC.KR

Well, Madalyn Parker, a web developer, did exactly that in an email.

She sent an email to her team letting them know she was taking two days off “to focus on my mental health”—and was shocked by the CEO’s response.

She tweeted the email exchange, where it has over 30,000 likes and 8,400 retweets.

MADALYN PARKER/TWITTER – TWITTER.COM

Ben Congleton, the CEO who replied, was so stunned by the outpouring of support that he wrote about it on Medium.

“I wasn’t expecting the exposure, but I am so glad I was able to have such a positive impact on so many people,” he wrote on July 6.

“There were so many stories of people wishing they worked at a place where their CEO cared about their health, and so many people congratulating me on doing such a good thing,” he continues, adding:

It’s 2017. I cannot believe that it is still controversial to speak about mental health in the workplace when 1 in 6 americans are medicated for mental health.

Congleton is sourcing a Scientific American article from December 2016, which goes on to report that “just over one in 10 adults reported taking prescription drugs for ‘problems with emotions, nerves or mental health,'” sourcing statistics from a piece published in JAMA Internal Medicine earlier that month.

A top highlighted quote from Congleton’s Medium piece is “It’s 2017. We are in a knowledge economy. Our jobs require us to execute at peak mental performance. When an athlete is injured they sit on the bench and recover. Let’s get rid of the idea that somehow the brain is different.”

It’s even more difficult for people of color to not only receive mental health care, but to even discuss it.

HuffPost reported in October 2016, “according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of Minority Health, black people are 10 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than white people. There’s a stigma when it comes to black men talking about their mental health.”

And it isn’t just about stigma. They continue: “Despite being disproportionately affected by mental health conditions, black men in America have to deal with a lack of health care resources, a higher exposure to factors that can lead to developing a mental health condition, a lack of education about mental health and other factors that serve as barriers to getting proper help.”

It’s also more difficult for people of color to feel as though others—even medical professionals—can relate to their mental health care; “African-Americans make up less than 2 percent of American Psychological Association members, according to a 2014 survey,” Mic reports. Even more, “Latinos are less likely to report mental illness,” with very few Latinos actually seeking help, according to Latina.

Which is why it’s so helpful and important for people like Congleton and Parker to speak openly about the need to take care of mental health.

“What if we talked about physical health the absurd way we talk about mental health?” ATTN: asked in a video posted on May 26.

Parker wrote about her previous hurdles in navigating a job while handling anxiety and depression, noting, “I struggle with illness. Just as the flu would prevent me from completing my work, so do my depression and anxiety.”

Her point is valid, mental and physical health are treated differently. As the video shows, you wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg, “it’s like you’re not even trying to walk.” Why do we do the same thing to people suffering from mental conditions?

“Smiley” Depression

Staff Reports—

 

When many people think of depression, they often think of sadness — and not much else. This generalization can be harmful to people who experience depression, but may not “look” depressed. For some, depression may look like sadness or exhaustion. For others, depression might look like a smiling face, or a person who “has it all together” — something we think of as “smiling depression.”

It’s important to remember every person’s experience of depression needs to be taken seriously, no matter what it looks like on the outside.2 We wanted to know things only people with “smiling depression” understand, so we asked members of our mental health community to weigh in.

Here’s what they shared with us:

  1. “It’s easier to cheer people up but not myself. I can make them feel great when they’re going through the worst [times], but I cannot get myself happy, really happy. That happiness you see is just a way of not letting people [see] my problems.” — Sofia V.
  2. “I am so tired. So, so tired, all of the time. It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting and pouting or smiling and engaging. [It doesn’t matter if I’m] dancing, running, swimming, eating, brushing my teeth, by myself or in a room full of people or sleeping. I. Am. Exhausted.” — Rinna M.
“Other people don’t get it. What it’s like to feel so trapped and in darkness, because I appear ‘happy’ and strong — even though [it feels like] I’m slowly dying.”
— Nicole G.
  1. “[I] fake it because [I believe] no one wants to hear about [my] depression. [I] fake it because [I am] tired of hearing all the ‘expert’ advice insinuating that [I’m] just [not] trying hard enough.” — Lisa C.
  2. “[I] don’t always wear the mask for other people. Sometimes [I] wear it because [I] don’t want to believe [I] feel as miserable as [I do]. [For me], it isn’t always about making other people with [me feel] OK. Sometimes it’s wearing the mask so [I] don’t lose [my] job or so [I] can just get takeout without being asked what’s wrong.” — Melinda A.
  3. “I can still laugh and give a big belly laugh about things, but on the inside, I feel empty. It’s a weird feeling being happy as much as you can, but your mind won’t follow suit. [I] just feel empty and the happiness isn’t genuine. It’s fake but [I] can’t change that no matter how hard [I] try for it to be a real feeling. Depression drains everything out of me. It takes an enormous amount of strength to appear ‘normal,’ it exhausts me… [My] smile doesn’t reach [my] eyes.” — Rebecca R.
  4. “The problem lies in the fact that no one truly and honestly knows me. I feel like I’m alone every day — even when I’m surrounded by people.” — Jen W.
  5. “[I] constantly doubt whether [my] struggles are real. When [I] finally get the courage and strength to open up about [my] depression, [I] always hear, ‘But you don’t act like you have depression.’ It took me years to come to terms and believe my own struggles.” — Adrianna R.
  6. “Most days, I feel like I’m just barely surviving. Once I’m alone at the end of the day, all I have the energy for is crying. Crying because I’m just so exhausted with life and I’ll convince myself I can’t handle tomorrow and I need to call in sick. But when the next day actually comes, I’m too afraid to not show up. Eventually, after debating with myself for far longer than I should, I drag myself out of bed. The cycle [feels] never-ending. It’s like, if I choose one day to just stay in bed instead of getting up, it would be the most horrible thing in the world, so I eventually always get up, no matter how exhausted I am. It’s inevitable.” — Keira H.
  7. “I try to keep up appearances to protect my family because my depression upsets them. I’m not very outwardly emotional, so everything gets to me more than I show it. I can’t open up to them, because I just get told, ‘Change your thoughts,’ ‘You seem fine, why do you want to go to a therapist?’ It makes those times when I can’t control my emotions even worse. I feel alone, tired and lost.” — Jessica C.
  8. “Sometimes I really, like really want to show people how I’m really feeling, but I just physically cannot take the mask off. It’s like the walls just grow stronger the more I try to tear them down.” — Kira H.
  9. “[I thought] if I faked being happy enough, then maybe I could get a glimpse of what it’s like to be ‘normal.’ I always feel like such a burden on the people [who] love me. [I feel] I have no choice but to pretend.” — Bree N
  10. “The time I’m most encouraging to myself is when I’m telling myself, I can make them laugh so they never suspect anything! I’m funny, right?” — Shelby S
  11. “The physical pain as well as the emotional pain. It hurts to walk, get up, move, force [myself] to smile, try to look ‘normal,’ happy.” — Keara M.
  12. “[ I believe] we are the best actors in the world. Because if I have to explain depression one more time… it’s just easier to fake it until I get home.” — Lisa K.

 

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

 

Far from respecting civil liberties, legal obstacles to treating the mentally ill limit or destroy the liberty of the person

By Herschel Hardin
The Vancouver Sun July 22, 1993
Republished with permission

Herschel Hardin is an author and consultant. He was a member of the board of directors of the Civil Liberties Association from 1965 to 1974, and has been involved in the defense of liberty and free speech through his work with Amnesty International. One of his children has schizophrenia.

The public is growing increasingly confused by how we treat the mentally ill. More and more, the mentally ill are showing up in the streets, badly in need of help. Incidents of illness-driven violence are being reported regularly, incidents which common sense tells us could easily be avoided. And this is just the visible tip of the greater tragedy – of many more sufferers deteriorating in the shadows and often, committing suicide.

People asked in perplexed astonishment: ” Why don’t we provide the treatment, when the need is so obvious?” Yet every such cry of anguish is met with the rejoinder that unrequested intervention is an infringement of civil liberties. This stops everything.

Civil Liberties, after all, are a fundamental part of our democratic society. The rhetoric and lobbying results in legislative obstacles to timely and adequate treatment, and the psychiatric community is cowed by the anti-treatment climate produced. Here is the Kafkaesque irony: Far from respecting civil liberties, legal obstacles to treatment limit or destroy the liberty of the person. The best example concerns schizophrenia.

The most chronic and disabling of the major mental illnesses, schizophrenia involves a chemical imbalance in the brain, alleviated in most cases by medication. Symptoms can include confusion; inability to concentrate, to think abstractly, or to plan; thought disorder to the point of raving babble; delusions and hallucinations; and variations such as paranoia. Untreated, the disease is ravaging. Its victims cannot work or care for themselves. They may think they are other people – usually historical or cultural characters such as Jesus Christ or John Lennon – or otherwise lose their sense of identity. They find it hard or impossible to live with others, and they may become hostile and threatening. They can end up living in the most degraded, shocking circumstances, voiding in their own clothes, living in rooms overrun by rodents – or in the streets. They often deteriorate physically, losing weight and suffering corresponding malnutrition, rotting teeth and skin sores. They become particularly vulnerable to injury and abuse.

Tormented by voices, or in the grip of paranoia, they may commit suicide or violence upon others. Becoming suddenly threatening, or bearing a weapon because of delusionally perceived need for self-protection, the innocent schizophrenic may be shot down by police. Depression from the illness, without adequate stability — often as the result of premature release — is also a factor in suicides. Such victims are prisoners of their illness. Their personalities are subsumed by their distorted thoughts. They cannot think for themselves and cannot exercise any meaningful liberty. The remedy is treatment — most essentially, medication. In most cases, this means involuntary treatment because people in the throes of their illness have little or no insight into their own condition. If you think you are Jesus Christ or an avenging angel, you are not likely to agree that you need to go to the hospital.

Anti-treatment advocates insist that involuntary committal should be limited to cases of imminent physical danger — instances where a person is going to do bodily harm to himself or to somebody else. But the establishment of such “dangerousness” usually comes too late — a psychotic break or loss of control, leading to violence, happens suddenly. And all the while, the victim suffers the ravages of the illness itself, the degradation of life, the tragic loss of individual potential.

The anti-treatment advocates say: “If that’s how people want to live (babbling on a street corner, in rags), or if they wish to take their own lives, they should be allowed to exercise their free will. To interfere — with involuntary commital — is to deny them their civil liberties.” Whether or not anti-treatment advocates actually voice such opinions, they seem content to sacrifice a few lives here and there to uphold an abstract doctrine. Their intent, if noble, has a chilly, Stalinist justification — the odd tragedy along the way is warranted to ensure the greater good. The notion that this doctrine is misapplied escapes them. They merely deny the nature of the illness. Health (Official) Elizabeth Cull appears to have fallen into the trap of this juxtaposition. She has talked about balancing the need for treatment and civil liberties, as if they were opposites. It is with such a misconceptualization that anti-treatment lobbyists promote legislation loaded with administative and judicial obstacles to involuntary committal.

The result, …will be a certain number of illness-caused suicides every year, just as surely as if those people were lined up annually in front of a firing squad. Add to that the broader ravages of the illness, and keep in mind the manic depressives who also have a high suicide rate. A doubly ironic downstream effect: the inappropriate use of criminal prosectuion against the mentally ill, and the attendant cruelty of commital to jails and prisons rather than hospitals. Corrections officials once estimated that almost one third of adult offenders and close to half of the young offenders in the correction system have a diagnosable mental disorder.

Clinical evidence has now indicated that allowing schizophrenia to progress to a psychotic break lowers the possible level of future recovery, and subsequent psychotic breaks lower that level further – in other words, the cost of withholding treatment is permanent damage. Meanwhile, bureaucratic road-blocks, such as time consuming judicial hearings, are passed off under the cloak of “due process” – as if the illness were a crime with which one is being charged and hospitalization for treatment is punishment. Such cumbersome restraints ignore the existing adequate safeguards – the requirement for two independent assessments and a review panel to check against over-long stays. How can such degradation and death — so much inhumanity — be justified in the name of civil liberties? It cannot. The opposition to involuntary committal and treatment betrays profound misunderstanding of the principle of civil liberties. Medication can free victims from their illness — free them from the Bastille of their psychosis — and restore their dignity, their free will and the meaningful exercise of their liberties.

The Vancouver Sun July 22, 1993

Reprinted with permission. Copyright 1993 The Vancouver Sun. All rights reserved.