Tag Archives: mental illness

Look Forward to More Shootings: What the Sequester Means for Mental Health Services

6 Mar

The mental health advocacy group Mental Health America reports that 1.3 million children and adults are at risk of losing mental health services based on the cuts dictated by the sequester.

That means more mentally ill people will die. In all likelihood, more police officers will die. Unless our elected officials figure out how to stop squabbling and do their jobs, we will be seeing an uptick in the number of shootings this year.

Whenever there’s a school shooting, politicians blame our broken mental healthcare system. Some of them do it to throw the heat off of gun control. Others like the sound of it because they can nod and provide vaguely concerned sound bites about how disgraceful our current system is in the hopes that their constituents will think they’re doing something about it. But more than a million people, including children, may lose their mental healthcare because of the sequester, and I don’t see anyone in Washington evincing any concern.

MHA reports that the sequester also slashes over two million dollars from national youth violence prevention initiatives–the very programs most needed to counteract school shootings. None of the politicians who were grandstanding about this problem a few weeks ago seem the least bit conflicted about allowing that axe to fall.

Substance abuse treatment will also feel the pain of the sequester with an estimated 10% reduction in budget for federally-funded treatment programs and resources. Grants funding research in substance abuse treatment will also be cut. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ numbers for 2007, 26% of violent crimes in the U.S. were committed by people under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.


Our country is like a dysfunctional family denying its role in their children’s trauma.

For a good overview of what the sequester means for mental health services, I recommend this article by The American Prospect:

“Study Points to ‘Shared Biology’ between 5 Psychiatric Disorders”

2 Mar


From CBS News’s website:

“For the first time, researchers were able to see if there are any genetic variants that are linked to not just one of those disorders, but to all five. ‘And there were,’ Dr. Jordan Smoller, one of the lead researchers in the study, said on ‘CBS This Morning.’

Smoller, a psychiatry professor at Massachusetts General Hospital, explained, ‘There were several regions of the genome, several variations that seemed to increase the risk for all five. It’s important to realize, of course, that this is a small part of the genetic component of these disorders, but it points to a shared biology.’

The researchers took this approach because disorders often cluster in families. Smoller added, ‘It’s not only that, we sometimes see the same family being affected with multiple kinds of disorders, so there was some evidence that there would be shared links, but this is the first time we’ve been able to see specific DNA variations.'”

Thanks to the blog Depression Time for originally posting this. I highly recommend checking it out:

“The Neglect of Mental Illness Exacts a Huge Toll, Human and Economic ”

21 Feb
From the editors at Scientific American:

“The human and economic toll is enormous yet often hidden. Untreated mental illnesses in the U.S. cost more than $100 billion a year in lost productivity, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Local hospitals and clinics must cope with associated chronic physical diseases. Schools have to open more special education classes. Courts and jails handle a large number of individuals who suffer from untreated mental illnesses. Suicide ranks among the top 15 most common killers in the U.S. (in the top three among young people), and 90 percent of cases can be attributed to mental illness.”

“The Sanctuary Model”

20 Feb


Consider this one-stop shopping for educating yourself about the multitudinous psychological, neurological, emotional, physical, behavioral, interpersonal, intergenerational, and societal effects of trauma resulting from abuse, particularly domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse. Their website describes the Sanctuary Model as “a theory-based, trauma-informed, evidence-supported, whole culture approach that has a clear and structured methodology for creating or changing an organizational culture” and goes on to define a concept called “safety culture” as a model for treating trauma that works to provide four levels of safety: physical safety, psychological safety, social safety, and moral safety.


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“I Called Them for Help, and They Killed Him”: Policing the Mentally Ill

18 Feb

A twenty-six year-old man with Down Syndrome was killed by three police officers in Maryland today. His crime: refusing to vacate his seat in a movie theater.

Robert Saylor wouldn’t leave his seat after the film Zero Dark Thirty ended,  saying that he wanted to watch it again. The theater’s employees chose to handle this by alerting three police officers who were working there as security guards. The officers handcuffed Saylor and put him face-down on the ground, causing him to asphyxiate. His death has been ruled a homicide.

You can read more about the death of Robert Saylor here:


This tragedy is not merely an example of several individual law enforcement officers using poor judgment. All too often, when police respond to a call for help, a person with mental health issues needlessly dies.

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“Driving Somewhere Beautiful” by Mike Snell

16 Feb

“I had always resisted pressure to seek medical help for what I saw as my uniqueness. I preferred to believe that my moods were an essential and perhaps defining characteristic of my personality. My depressive phases were emotionally painful but I believed they allowed me a privileged access to a kind of truth too difficult for most people to bear. My heightened moods were the best of me, concentrated and distilled into a point so fine it could pierce the membrane separating me from the outside world and allow me to connect with the universe in ways that felt almost supernatural.”


Incidentally: check out the Icarus Project website: theicarusproject.net. Think Psychology Today meets Adbusters. The non-profit organization “envisions a new culture and language that resonates with our actual experiences of ‘mental illness’ rather than trying to fit our lives into a conventional framework.” It’s an interesting lens for defining and understanding mental illness, and a good counterbalance to the sterility of psychiatric definitions. I’m not as down on meds as they are, but with the trend of over-medication and the recent spike in bipolar diagnoses, a frank discussion of the flaws inherent to psychiatric culture and a discourse to define mental illness in more philosophical, humanist terms seem very much in order. Definitely worth checking out.

“The Maria Bamford Show”

14 Feb

In 2006, stand-up comedian Maria Bamford had a nervous breakdown in the middle of a set and dropped off the comedy scene to stay with her parents in Duluth MN while she got her head together. During her convalescence, she created “The Maria Bamford Show,” a series of video shorts chronicling her interactions with her parents, sister, and friends as she tries to find stability.

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