Policy and Advocacy Articles

Why Are You Alive? The Role of Suicide Survivors

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

why-life-matters-note-suicidal-teensConsider these statistics:

One person dies from suicide every 40 seconds.

Every year, over 800,000 people die from suicide, exceeding the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death (globally) for people ages 15 to 29, the fifth leading cause of death among persons aged 30 to 49.

For each adult who died of suicide in 2012, there were over 20 others who made suicide attempts.

Why Doesn’t Kaiser Care About Californians’ Mental Health?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Why Doesn't Kaiser Care About Californians' Mental Health?I’m not sure why, but the healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente appears not to care about the people whose lives it covers in California. That’s the only thing that could logically explain why it has continually failed to fund and staff its mental health services in the state to the level necessary to provide timely and adequate care to its residents.

Kaiser failed so badly to provide this bare minimum care that the state ended up fining it $4 million for systematically putting revenues before the care of its customers who have mental health needs.

In any other system, when a company so poorly fails to live up to its responsibilities, that company would be fired. But in the wonderful U.S. mental health system, Kaiser is given chance after chance to do the right thing. So do they?

Skepticism & Discrimination About Mental Illness Hurts

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Skepticism & Discrimination About Mental Illness Hurts

While we’ve made great strides in the past three decades in helping people understand that a person’s mental illness is as real as the flu, breaking your leg, or having a disease like diabetes, we still have a ways to go.

Too many well-meaning people continue to discriminate against those with a mental illness. They do this in too many ways to mention or list here, but we’ve all seen or heard them.

“Well, I can’t see anything wrong with you, so what’s the problem?”

“Depression’s not a real disease. It’s just something people made up so they wouldn’t feel so bad.”

“You can tell he’s a schizophrenic. You can just see it.”

CIA Torture Report: A Sad Day for Psychologists

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

CIA Torture Report: A Sad Day for PsychologistsThis week marks a low point for U.S. psychologists. Two psychologists were responsible for devising the CIA program that uses “enhanced interrogation techniques” — what the rest of the world calls torture — on certain detainees after 9/11.

It also took the American Psychological Association years to clarify its ethical policies on how psychologists could be involved in the torture of suspects. (In contrast, the American Psychiatric Association — representing U.S. psychiatrists — simply invoked an outright ban for its members from being a part of any torture interrogation.)

One of the two psychologists — who were paid handsomely ($81 million) for their program development — even had the audacity to defend his work to the Associated Press yesterday.

Give Hope this Holiday: Working to End the Stigma of Depression

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Give Hope this Holiday: Working to End the Stigma of Depression

This is the season of giving. There is no greater charity than I can recommend than the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred). They are running an Indiegogo campaign this year that will help fund a handful of great non-profit projects already doing good work.

The iFred campaign asks that you “Help us end the stigma of depression and give hope worldwide.” I couldn’t agree more.

Click to learn more about the campaign and donate something today (even $1 helps!).

‘I Can’t Breathe:’ People with Mental Illness & the Police Response

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

cant-breathe-eric-garner-mental-illness

The outrage for no one being held accountable for Eric Garner’s death at the hands of the police — for selling cigarettes on the street, a petty crime at best — is pouring over.

And it’s no wonder. The officers’ heavy-handed tactics in handling this nuisance crime were over-the-top. Garner repeatedly told the officers, “I can’t breathe,” even as they were suffocating him — apparently oblivious to his very real distress.

If anybody other than a police officer was responsible for Garner’s death, someone would have at least been indicted on a manslaughter charge. But because it was a police officer, no justice will apparently be had.

Sadly, Garner is just the latest in a long history of police “over-zealousness” when it comes to dealing with people who just won’t abide by their instructions. People with a mental illness have long been given short shrift when it comes to being treated with simple decency and restraint by police officers all across the country.

Can New York City Fix Its Mental Health Treatment Problem?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Can New York City Fix Its Mental Health Treatment Problem?New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio believes he can fix New York City’s terrible problem within its criminal justice system and its poor treatment (and mistreatment) of people with mental illness. He’s putting some much-needed money where his mouth is — $130 million, to be specific.

The money will be used to help begin to reform how those with mental illness are treated while in custody, help shunt them over to treatment services as a first response, and train all of its police officers on how to respond to people with mental illness with compassion rather than violence.

But is it enough to address the problems of providing timely public mental health care to those in the criminal justice system, in a city of 8+ million?

Probably not.

How to Degrade a Human Being at JRC

Friday, November 21st, 2014

How to Degrade a Human Being at JRC: Part 1In Massachusetts — supposedly one of the most enlightened and liberal states you can live in in our fine United States — a facility is engaged in a horrifying business. Some have even call it state-sanctioned torture on American soil.

They degrade human beings daily, calling it a form of “treatment.”

They do this regardless of the lack of scientific evidence on the treatment (outside a few flimsy studies published by the facility’s former disgraced director, Matthew Israel). They do it even when important safeguards were lacking for years.

Yes, I’m talking about the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts. And yet another survivor from that institute is speaking out.

Honor Veterans by Acquiring Support Skills

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Honor Veterans by Acquiring Support SkillsIs there a military veteran in your life living with an untreated mental health condition? Are you uncertain whether your support is actually hurting more than helping? If so, you are not alone.

Most of us are not inherently equipped with the skills to understand what our loved ones experienced while serving their country through military service. Yet, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly 30 percent (PDF) of veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11 that have been treated at V.A. hospitals and clinics have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

During the month of November, Care for Your Mind (CFYM) is showcasing an innovative program that coaches loved ones in how to provide healthy support for the veteran in their life.

The #1 Thing Mental Health Advocates Must Agree On for Global Movement

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

mental-health-global-movement

One of the most critical things impacting the future of mental health is happening right now, but very few people know about the process and how to impact change.

The United Nations is currently in draft of the Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals, a road map for a future of global prosperity, equity, freedom, dignity and peace. While it may be a world document, it is so important to realize this is a local, regional, national, and international call to action as it impacts the very fiber of our future.

Yet, unfortunately and for all those that work in the field of mental health probably not surprisingly, mental health is totally absent from the entire current document.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness 2014 Conference

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

program-coverThe 2014 National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Convention in Washington, D.C. in September was, by any measure, a huge success. Mingling with consumers, family members, mental health advocates, and a wide range of mental health providers, I couldn’t help but be swept up in the atmosphere of expectation that often permeates these annual gatherings.

A stellar lineup of guest speakers spoke passionately about their particular battles with mental illness. Both a female celebrity and a former U.S. Congressman from a famous American family shared their struggles with bipolar disorder.

A Virginia state senator told of his beloved son’s final, desperate act — the heartbreaking result of a failed delivery system that denied his son an inpatient bed in a time of obvious need.

The Uproar Over the New Samaritans Radar Twitter App

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

The Uproar Over the New Samaritans Radar Twitter AppEd: We invited Mark Brown (@markoneinfour) to share the perspective from the Twitterverse on a new Twitter app released yesterday by the UK charity, the Samaritans, meant to help people who express suicidal words on Twitter. We also asked the Samaritans for their response to the concerns expressed within this article, but they did not respond to our request.

People are raising concerns about the Samaritans Radar Twitter app launched in the UK on 29th October are coming at it from 6 main angles. At present, the guidance from the Samaritans says that, “Unfortunately, we can’t remove individuals as it’s important that Radar is able to identify their Tweets if they need support.”

The charity has responded by releasing three 1-minute videos to address the concerns, stressing that ‘tweets are public‘.

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