Archive for mental health

"I was a person": Time to reform our broken mental health system.


Flan post I was a person mental health post

Please take a minute to read this very heartfelt, very important post written by one of our longtime readers. Our mental health system is indeed broken. Ilene is doing everything she can to help rectify that:

Bipartisan Support is Needed to Pass Important Reforms to our Broken Mental Health System

Many people are crying out for stronger gun laws to address the increasing gun violence. The shooting of former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, by a man in a state of psychosis, is often mentioned as a reason for these reforms. I urge those who support stronger gun laws to also support important reforms to our extremely dysfunctional mental healthcare system.

This is not an either/or situation. We need stronger gun control laws and a complete overhaul of our broken mental healthcare system, but I fear this is becoming a partisan issue. I am a flaming liberal, and I support the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (HR3717) which is sponsored by – gasp – a Republican.

HR3717, sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy, contains a very comprehensive set of long needed reforms. The competing bill, the Strengthening Mental Health in our Communities Act (HR 4574), is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Ron Barber, who was shot alongside of Giffords. There are some overlaps, but HR4574 lacks several essential reforms contained in HR3717.

The Barber bill doesn’t reform the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which thwarts the efforts of family members to help their loved ones with serious mental illness and who lack insight (Anosognosia). It also doesn’t include the need for a nationwide set of Assisted Outpatient Treatment laws, which would help people with serious mental illness, who have cycled in and out of the ER and jails, get into much needed, sustained, outpatient treatment.

Finally, it fails to address the Medicaid Institutes for Mental Diseases (IMD) Exclusion, a discriminatory law which bans federal funds to IMDs, which provide the majority of services to people with a mental illness or drug addiction. This includes hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and group housing that provide on-site services and supervision. The Murphy bill includes these needed reforms.

Many people share the misconception that everyone can seek help on their own, manage their own treatment, and live on their own with occasional support. This is unfortunately not possible for a minority (about 25%) of people with serious mental illness. My twin brother Paul had schizophrenia, was treatment resistant, had significant cognitive impairments, and was in that minority.

Paul was treated like a fully functioning adult when released from the state hospital, which led to a roller coaster ride to hell and back and his early death. The “Pauls of today” will continue to become incarcerated, homeless, and die young, and their families will continue to suffer, without the essential reforms in Rep. Murphy’s bill.

Mental Health advocacy groups are calling for efforts to resolve the differences between the two bills, and to create a version which can pass the U.S. House of Representatives. Without true bipartisan support, we could lose those essential reforms contained in the Murphy bill. Please do not let that happen.

Ilene Flannery Wells

Paul's Legacy Project

To learn more about Paul, please read the book about his life; Shot In The Head, a sister’s memoir, a brother’s struggle, by our sister Katherine Flannery Dering.


Mass murder 101 #NotOneMore


guns not one more Richard Martinez mass murder

This thoughtful commentary about gun violence, mass murder, and possible reasons for the uptick in gun massacres comes to us by way of an email exchange I had with my dear friend and mentor, the source of our Cliff Notes series, Cliff Schecter:

I came to my work on guns from studying Criminology in college. I was almost a Crim major. I had no agenda, no hatred for guns (still don't). Hell, for my 40th Birthday my wife surprised me with, among other things, the NRA medals I still had from my days spending summers in New Hampshire doing competitive shooting at a camp.

The fact is what I learned in Criminology made it quite obvious that while there were a number of factors here--but guns were the main culprit. As Michael Moore pointed out we all play these video games, we all watch violent movies. We all have mental illness. [A friend] brought up the virality of certain behavior. I think there is something to that. We are unique, among high income nations, in our willingness to allow hate speech to be broadcast far and wide all day every day on talk radio and Fox, filled with half truths and outright lies, without anyone having equal time to respond. So I have no doubt that these are factors. Look, Richard Poplawski-- the guy who shot and killed three police officers in Pittsburgh-- did it because he thought they were sent by President Obama to "take my guns away."

Ditto the shooter who was headed to the Tides Foundation because Glenn Beck said they were evil and anti-capitalist, etc. He got into a shootout with cops on the freeway. Even when it is not political, it is sociological, and Fox and hate talk play into the worst fears of economically downscale white males.

But again, even with that, there are guns.

What has changed since the 1980s? Most people don't' know this, but concealed carry largely didn't exist before the 1980s. It was only in a handful of states. The NRA's' big project was to normalize the carrying of guns so they could sell more of them. And they have been very successful.

Also, military weaponry--like assault weapons--were not available to most pre-1980s. So, add in the availability of more lethal weaponry and the ability to carry outside your house without anyone blinking an eye, add in President Reagan destroying mental health services with cuts--which has been destroyed many more times since then by more cuts-- and add in that unhinged person, with no institution to go to sitting at home watching Sean Hannity saying Cliven Bundy is a hero. We should stand up to the government! The tyrants! etc. etc.

There are other factors, but to me it is:

1) Gun availability

2) Untreated mental health issues

3) Making hate and fear viral via Fox/Rush, etc.

You combine those 3, with other nations similar to us not possessing any of them on the scale we do, and that gets us there...

Put it all together, you have today's climate.

Thank you, Cliff. Now here's a little Twitter snark to wrap things up:

gun bingoLink


Tuesday Links


UCSB killer

#YesAllWomen hashtag campaign gives voice to victims of misogynistic violence in wake of UCSB shooting

Shooting victim’s father rips ‘rudderless idiots’ in Congress: ‘I can’t tell you how angry I am’

LulzSec hacker helps FBI stop over 300 cyber attacks

Ukraine crisis: Battle to control Donetsk airport

Billionaire involved in $2.6 billion bank scam executed in Iran

Nebraska mayor challenges atheists over faith-based event: ‘Take me to f-cking court — I don’t care’

Ukraine’s leader-elect talks of peace, but the fighting goes on in Donetsk


Gun Control: Soak, Wash, Rinse, Reject -- And It Still Stinks


guns Asperger Syndrome

Every time there's a horrific mass shooting, and sometimes when there's a single random killing, there's a momentary blip on the heart meter over sane gun control laws. A voice or two calling out for reasonable gun regulation.

This past weekend's Isla Vista, California, massacre has once again brought out the cry for gun control. Despite a vast majority of the US population agreeing with this, Congress will continue its spin cycle and do nothing. The latest voice to attempt the seemingly impossible is Sen. Peter King (R-N.Y.)


Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) joined the charge of politicians calling for a review of gun control legislation on Sunday in the wake of a gunman's deadly rampage on the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara.

“This tragedy demonstrates once again the need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill,” he said.

Boy, haven't we seen that so often before? But don't worry, you NRA enthusiasts and right-wing gun nuts, nothing is going to come of this. It's just another case of "soak, wash, rinse, repeat." Wishy-washy, wishy-washy.

Just asking, what is so hard and so wrong with a common sense law regarding guns? We do have some regulations, so it's not a totally foreign concept. We refuse sales of certain automatic weapons, we don't allow people to carry guns openly in many places and we don't let ex-felons purchase guns. Why not a simple bill which might weed out unstable or unqualified citizens from getting them. It would still protect citizen's 2nd Amendment rights. Call it a sanity clause -- but with a loose interpretation of sanity.

In this case, maybe a better word might be a responsibility clause. Anyone of legal age who wishes to get a gun to join the state militia (that's the 2nd Amendment) or even wants a gun for their own personal protection (a very loose interpretation of the 2nd Amendment), needs only to pass a proficiency test to show they know how to safely handle the gun or rifle. At the time of licensing, DGS (Department of Gun Safety) would also assess any overt signs of mental or emotional instability which would not prohibit the applicant from getting licensed. If and only if the inspector feels there is a problem the applicant will be directed to get a mental evaluation stamp from a certified health specialist before the license would be approved.

Now before you go thinking that's an abuse, let me confess that my younger brother has Asperger Syndrome. He was diagnosed years ago. He's the kindest, finest person you'd want to know. Yet, you would only need two minutes talking to him to know there's something a little off. He's still capable of living on his own, he worked for 25 years for the City of Los Angeles, and he's self-supporting. But truthfully he should not have a weapon of any kind.

This brings me to the Santa Barbara area tragedy. The shooter was reportedly diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, so obviously I'm a bit familiar with it. Why was he sold weapons? That truth is, because there's no rule against it.

Despite that, with the dearth of meaningful  restrictions on who can buy a gun, this ill young man went twice to a gun store and plopped down money and bought weapons. That was it. And that's really the sum total of gun control in our nation.

We make people get and renew driver's licenses ever few years for the privilege to get behind the wheel of vehicles, classified as deadly weapons. So what's the harm in doing the same with guns? The only ones who should fear this regulation are those who shouldn't have guns in the first place.

Oh, just as a side argument for this sanity  or responsibility gun licensing-- my brother, when he was younger, decided he wanted to learn how to fly. He paid his money, took flying lessons and passed the flying test. But he was denied a license. Why? Simply because the certifying instructor noticed his slightly different behavior (the Asperger Syndrome) and reported it the the FAA. They interviewed my brother and had him meet with a licensed psychologist. It was determined that he was emotionally unqualified to deal with the stress of flying.

That was the right move. And this same logic and reason should be part of a congressional bill. Let's not stop gun sales. Let's stop gun sales to those who might be unqualified to handle the stress and responsibility. What I propose is not new, nor is it a fail-safe system. Some people will fall through the cracks. But it's sure going to make it safer for all of us.

Watch this distraught father of one victim from the recent shooting. He wants two things-- Congress to get off their asses to do something and he really wants equal rights for all of us -- the right for us to live even if it trumps some interpretation of our right to bear arms.


Female Orgasm Problems - A Head Case Says Cuntim


Sad Woman Bed Orgasm

I don't know much more than any other guy about a woman's ability to orgasm. Truthfully, I've never thought of myself as a Lothario or great lover. I'm honest, compassionate and hopefully do my share of satisfying my wife. If not, then I thank her publicly now for her great acting. What a kind, believable soul she is.

But for those of you men out there that want to know more about pleasing your spouse, or women out there who find their expectations and climax to be less than hoped, there's some explanation and perhaps solutions. According to LiveScience:

The old adage that a woman's biggest sexual organ is between her ears may be true, according to new research that finds that a lack of erotic thoughts during sex is linked to the trouble some women have reaching orgasm.

Women who reported more trouble reaching orgasm during sex also had more automatic negative thoughts during the act. These negative thoughts included everything from those lacking erotic imagery to thoughts of sexual failure and sexual abuse.

Again, I'm no expert. But take some advice from a person who is... Marta Xavier Cuntim, a clinical psychologist in Portugal, told LiveScience.

Pardon my snickering at her name. I think it ranks up there in irony at least, with a man getting advice on erectile dysfunction by Dr. Dick Boner, Dr. King Stiffy or Dr. Rex Pussy.

About one in four women experiences difficulty reaching orgasm for months at a time, and the inability to orgasm is the second-most-common female sexual complaint after lack of desire.

From these statistics, I realize this is a real medical problem and I don't mean to diminish the frustrations many women -- and men -- go through attempting normal sexual bliss. And if there's hopes and cures for these problems, they should be spoken about openly and generously with their respective partners. Communication can be sexy and even arousing if it's honest. But I have a little juvenile streak in me that couldn't help but comment on this name game.

I apologize and shamefully confess that I'm a direct descendant of the Roman noble, Cassius Tiny Dickus. Okay. Now I've said it. I'll take my little boy toy and go sit in a corner for my time out punishment. If I'm lucky, I'll be joined there by Ms. Cuntim. You never know. Maybe she can teach me a trick or two.


Don't Let This Nightmare Come True



With a h/t to our own, Lucian Dixon...

Last night I had the most horrible of dreams -- a nightmare. Well, it was a nightmare in the sense that it caused me to wake up in a panicked state with a veneer of sweat across my forehead.

It went something like this. My son came home with a document -- the results of his psychological testing that was mandated in his application for a full time work position that he really wanted badly. He was a little concerned, so as a loving dad, I asked him what's up? He handed me a paper, the test results. Stamped across it was the word, "APPROVED."

Hell, I couldn't see anything the matter with that. I had more problems with his potential employer administering a psych test to see if he was qualified for this job -- the assistant director of IT for a middle-sized company. It wasn't anything that would have so great an impact that it required this kind of examination.

But it was done. And he was approved. So, the dream was going along just fine until my son asked me to look at the questions -- more of a profile assessment. My son was found to have all of the traits listed below, which were attributed to Psychology Today:

  • American exceptionalism and the need to protect it by strict immigration policies;
  • Anti-abortion under all circumstances (”Life begins at conception”);
  • Pro-capital punishment;
  • Pro-gun rights;
  • “Law and order” attitudes favoring harsh penalties for criminal behavior; Supporters of the “war on drugs;”
  • Anti-affirmative action;
  • Anti-reductions in nuclear weapons;
  • Anti-entitlements; anti-gay;
  • Anti-science (e.g., denial of evolution and climate change);
  • Belief in the promulgation of “Christian values” in schools, courts, and public ceremonies;
  • Reverence for people in uniform; given to patriotic display;
  • A fondness for military solutions to international problems;
  • Biblical certainty in matters of morality;
  • A conviction that those who disagree politically should be the objects of coercion; A view of oneself as beset by evil forces conspiring to take what one has;
  • The equation of compromise with “weakness.”

Oh my God. My son, whom I love, was a conservative. A friggin' Republican right-wing conservative! I panicked. What had I done wrong? I had raised him with love. I had never laid a hand on him and seldom even raised my voice with him. I had traveled with him to many countries to see and experience the world. We'd participated in many charity events. He was a good team player in baseball and soccer. He learned American Sign Language as his foreign language requirement so he could help those who might not be able to hear. He went to university and got his Bachelor of Science degree. He has a long-term girl friend. How could this happen to me -- or more importantly to him?


And then I woke up. My son heard me yelling and rushed in, joining my wife with great concern. I hugged them both when I realized this was a dream. A horrible dream. My son never took such a test. And he assured me that he was still very much a left-leaning Democrat.

Now that should have been the end of it right there. But as with most good spooky stories, it's not.

In an email from Lucian to me which I read last night before retiring, was this study. And these qualities listed above are actually the traits Psychology Today compiled after vast studies and assessments, which best sum up today's right-wing conservative.

Oh, and the horror of it all? How can we survive with thinking like that running rampant among us?

I'd go back to sleep if I wasn't so worried about that dream becoming a reality.

Lesson here... don't go to sleep and let the right wing run free. Let's sleep but do it in shifts. It's the only protection we've got against mass insanity. That and our vote. Keep these Republican wackadoos from reaching office, local, state and national. Don't let the fact that the upcoming elections are "only" mid-terms. They are more important now than ever before. Get your asses out of your chairs and vote.

Don't say you weren't warned.


"Boys Will Be Boys" No Longer Justification For Rape in Montana


Rape in Montana

Sometimes it's great to set a precedent. It opens the doors to those who follow. You might be Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim across the English Channel. Or maybe Neil Armstrong, the first man to step onto the lunar surface. Admirable accomplishments that lead young, middle and old to dream of someday being the first to do something, big or small. I mean, wouldn't that be great?

Well, not always. Seems there's a prosecutor named  Fred Van Valkenburg up on Montana whose office may have just set a first. They has been accused by the Justice Department of bias against female sexual assault victims and of mishandling rape cases according to federal officials this week. But Missoula County prosecutors office thinks its just a smear campaign. They didn't do anything wrong.


It's unusual and may be unprecedented for DOJ to accuse a prosecutor's office of violating the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law and the Safe Streets Act's prohibition against discriminating against female sexual assault victims. DOJ has issued findings involving sexual assault cases against three police departments, a sheriff's office and a campus police agency -- but not a prosecutor's office.

So we're looking at virgin territory here, with this DOJ accusation. If there's smoke where there's fire, lets see what's cookin'.

Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general in DOJ's Civil Rights Division, told Van Valkenburg in a letteron Friday that his office was ill-prepared to prosecute sexual assault cases, treated victims with disrespect and "apparently leaves sexual assault and rape laws largely unenforced."

That's a pretty serious charge against the office. And it seems these claims of abuse and deaf ears by the prosecutors are numerous. One woman described dealing with her assault at the prosecutors office as "traumatic," as if the crime alone wasn't harrowing enough. Others said they were treated with no compassion whatsoever. These alleged victims felt "judged." That's hardly the way any victim wants to be made to feel when they're seeking out justice.

One woman was told that because "there was no video of the incident," prosecutors "wouldn't see this as anything more than a girl getting drunk at a party." What message is that sending? Yet Van Valkenburg who runs the office thinks he's being picked on. He claims these are just a few small examples and they shouldn't be taken with much more than a grain of salt.

Really? They shouldn't be taken seriously. Well how about this:

A clinical psychologist who counseled sexual assault victims said she had heard so many horror stories about the County Attorney's Office that she was reluctant to press charges with the office when she was sexually assaulted.

When even a psychologist with experience in this field is hesitant to move forward with her claim because of first hand knowledge of the abusive handling of such matters by the prosecutor's office, this is only the tip of the iceberg up in Missoula.

In one case, a woman whose 5-year-old daughter was assaulted by an adolescent boy asked why the boy's punishment was two years of community service. A prosecutor told her "boys will be boys," according to the DOJ letter.

Boys will be boys. Well hopefully the new boys and girls examining this office, will bring down the wrath of justice with the power of Thor and his hammer, Mjölnir.

Thor's hammer

Sad as all of this is, this Montana office isn't alone. And sexual crimes against women AND men are vastly under-reported because of louts like Attorney Van Valkenberg. Time to do a bit more investigating the investigators for their improper behavior. Women and men victims deserve better.

Just like the firsts of Ederle and Armstrong, they were followed by second and thirds accomplishing their amazing feats. Let's hope this trend continues with the DOJ.