Tag Archives: Mental Illness


(I myself think she’s full of sh— and worse, but if anyone wants to discuss this with me, please read below, or find the podcast and listen to it, then come back and tell me what you think.)

Look for First Person, a New York Times podcast, and the February 16, 2023 broadcast, as I don’t know how to put it up here. The transcript is below, but it’s important as well to hear it, to hear the mothers voice etc.

You won’t be able to listen here, as this photo below is just a screenshot, but it shows you what to look for in your podcast offerings.


He Was ‘Losing His Mind Slowly, and I Watched It’

How do you help someone who doesn’t believe he is mentally ill?

Thursday, February 16th, 2023

This transcript was created using speech recognition software. While it has been reviewed by human transcribers, it may contain errors. Please review the episode audio before quoting from this transcript and emailtranscripts@nytimes.comwith any questions.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

From New York Times Opinion, I’m Lulu Garcia-Navarro. And this is “First Person.” Late last year, New York City Mayor Eric Adams made headlines.

Archived Recording (Eric Adams)

I want to talk to you about a crisis. We see all around us people with severe and untreated mental illness who live out in the open on the streets —

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

He directed emergency workers to transport more people to the hospital for psychiatric evaluations, whether they wanted to go or not.

Archived Recording (Eric Adams)

These New Yorkers and hundreds of others like them are in urgent need of treatment and often refuse it when offered. The very nature of their illnesses keeps them from realizing they need intervention and support.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

And on the other side of the country, this year California is rolling out a new court system to monitor people with serious mental illness and potentially compel them into treatment. These programs are extremely controversial. Opponents like disability rights groups say that forced treatment criminalizes mental illness, doesn’t work, and also doesn’t address the real issue — a lack of care and housing for the people who do want it.

And most importantly, they argue that it’s a violation of a mentally ill person’s civil rights. For caregivers like Kimberly, a mom in California, this is not an abstract debate. Her 22-year-old son has been cycling in and out of psychosis since he was a teenager. And as she’s watched him get sicker over the years, she’s wondered if the only way she’s going to save his life is by being in control of it.

And a note — because of the sensitive nature of this story, we’ll only be using Kimberly’s first name, and we won’t be naming her son at all to protect his privacy and medical history. Today on “First Person,” the case for involuntary treatment.


Kimberly, can you tell me about your son? What was your relationship like when he was little?


My son and I were really close. It was just him and I for quite some time. And he was, I would say, a very attached child. So we did everything together. He didn’t like to be without his mom — very kind, very loving, very enthusiastic. I was his constant play partner because he didn’t have any siblings. And so we just — we did everything together. And I tried to give him the childhood that I never had.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

How old were you when you had him?


I was 21. I got pregnant by accident. And growing up, I had a pretty traumatic childhood that was pretty chaotic. And so I didn’t plan on having children. And so I was not prepared at all.

I dropped out of college for a bit to raise him. And I struggled going back to work and going back to school at night and on weekends.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

A lot of sacrifices, it sounds like.



Lulu Garcia-Navarro

Before things got hard, what did a good day for the two of you look like?


We used to go to Disneyland a lot. I would pick him up if — on an early day, I would take Fridays off, and I would take him to Disneyland. And it was just him and I spending time together. He loved being outdoors.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

When did you get the first sign that something might be wrong?


When he was four years old, he would talk about suicide.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

At four?


Yes. And he would talk about his body image — how he didn’t like his forehead or he didn’t like how fat he appeared, which he didn’t. He was not at all.

He would get night terrors. So I don’t know if that was maybe a sign of — you know, that he could have been battling with something early on, or if it was just, as a young kid, having night terrors.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

How did you see him start to change as he went through elementary school?


He would still make friends easily. But he would have periods of some conflicts with his friends. And I would always try to resolve them. I was usually friends with his — the parents of his friends.

And then as he got a little bit older, I noticed that he was having more anxiety, not wanting to go to school, refusing to go to school. He was always a smart kid. I tried to start him reading early and doing exercises with him. So he was always on the, I would say, above — ahead of his class a little bit.

And then his grades just took a sharp decline in sixth grade. He would ditch school. I would drop him off at school, and he would walk back home. And I was getting notices of delinquency in the mail. One of the teachers had reached out to me, and she suggested getting him evaluated and seeing a psychologist, getting him into therapy.

And I did. And then he was diagnosed with ADHD. And he was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

A lot of teenagers obviously struggle with school, anxiety, depression. When did it become apparent that this was actually something more serious?


It became apparent when he started getting more aggressive towards me, punching holes in walls at, like, 13, 14. He’d break things. And he was always a very loving kid and very kind. And so I knew that this was not his personality.

I didn’t know who — what to do or who to turn to. It becomes almost like that dark secret, the way that you’re made to feel a little bit when I reached out to the school. They made it sound like it was my bad parenting that was causing the issue, that I wasn’t strict enough, that I wasn’t disciplined enough.

And so I would try to discipline more and try to enforce more rules and consequences. And that backfired on me. And it only made him more unheard, misunderstood. And it got to the point where I became afraid of him.

He would throw things at me, throw furniture and things. And I could see in his eyes that he was not — he was not there. And looking back, I think that was — during that time, I think he was really just — really going through the process of losing his mind slowly. And I watched it.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

I’m thinking it must have been terrifying. I mean, you must have been at a loss.


Absolutely. Yes. I was terrified. I didn’t feel like I could share this with most people. It was something that I felt like I needed to hide. The more that I shared, the more it was shocking to other people. And I felt like an outsider.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

As Kimberly’s son entered high school, she spent more and more of her time trying to get him the help he needed.


Reading all of these books and trying to find out as much as I could that all said it was better to get a diagnosis early on because early intervention, early treatment was the most indication of success.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

But getting the right diagnosis wasn’t easy. Throughout his early teens, she was told he had OCD, oppositional defiance disorder, conduct disorder. And then he got a bipolar diagnosis. They tried medications, intensive therapy, inpatient treatment. None of it was working.


He would go missing. The psychiatrist, the treatment team, would need to call missing persons. Police would then go out searching for him and sometimes would find him, sometimes would not. And I would need to go out searching for him.

He started not to trust me. He didn’t understand why he needed to be into these programs. He didn’t believe in their diagnosis that he was mentally ill. He didn’t want to appear different from his peers. And it was such a devastating stigma to him.

He was ridiculed by his friends when he would tell them that he had this diagnosis. And so he would resist any type of treatment.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

So where did you turn next? Where did doctors say it might be good to send him?


His psychologist and his psychiatrist had recommended what’s called a locked facility, an out-of-state school, which was in Utah, because my son had proved that he could not maintain treatment. He needed that type of facility in order to stabilize.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

So walk me through the thought process of considering sending him to Utah. What was it like to make that choice?


It was horrible. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I did a lot of research on these facilities. And there was a lot of mixed reviews. There’s abuse that could go on at these facilities.

And it was extremely hard, you know, the decision to do this. But it was ultimately something I needed to do because he was more at risk staying here, because he was wandering the streets at night. I couldn’t keep him safe. And so they said for his safety, he needed to be in a facility like this.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

Did you talk to him about going, Kimberly? I mean, did you explain to him why you needed him to go to that facility?


I tried to as best I could, but his psychiatrist had told me I could not talk to him about it actually happening and when it was going to be, because he would run away. And he had told me as much. And he had done as much previously in other programs.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

How did you get him there?


They recommended a service that is normally hired for these type of situations, that they come in the middle of the night, around 3:00 AM. And they said that I needed to pack a bag for him. And I could not let him see that. And it was three big huge men that came in the middle of the night and woke him up. And they told him to get out of bed, get dressed. You’re coming with us, and you’re going to school in a different program, and say goodbye to your mom, and —

Lulu Garcia-Navarro



He wouldn’t even look at me. He was so upset with me and so hurt. I was heartbroken. I think I cried for many days after that and wouldn’t leave the house. I knew that he was going to perceive it as — that I betrayed him. And he did.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

The facility Kimberly sent him to in Utah is one of the oldest of its kind in the country. It’s part of the so-called troubled teen industry — for-profit schools that offer the promise of stabilization and rehabilitation in a locked down environment. They flourish in Utah because it’s a parent’s right state, meaning that until a child is 18, their parents have the right to make all medical decisions for them.

That’s not the case in California, where Kimberly lives. Until very recently, these schools were largely unregulated. And there has been documented abuse at many of them. Kimberly’s son was 16 when she sent him to Utah. In the end, he’d be there for about nine months.


His experience there was very traumatic. He saw another kid get stabbed in the eye with a pencil. And when first coming into the program, they put him in a very dark room with just a desk to sit at and very minimal. They call it “destimulation” and what they explained to me as taking away all of your natural comforts and privileges that you may feel entitled to or may feel like you have and kind of breaking them down to the bare minimal necessities for behavior modification.

But he was taking medication regularly. He was able to see a psychiatrist regularly and a nurse. He was given therapy a few times a week and group therapy. He was able to finish school and get caught up.

And I think overall, as far as the treatment for it, I think he improved. And he learned a lot in a forced setting. But he held a lot of animosity and anger towards me for this.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

It sounds awful. I won’t lie.


Yes. It took a long time to repair our relationship and just made him more distrusting of the medications and of any type of professional help, therapy, psychiatrists — completely resistant to it. And he would not answer questions, would not verbalize information. And so I felt like I had to — I had to be his voice.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

But because he turned 18 and was now an adult, new medical and legal protections had kicked in. And they limited Kimberly’s involvement in her son’s care, even though she had a front row seat to how rapidly he was declining at home.


He was having suicidal thoughts. And he felt that he was losing his mind. He stopped caring about his safety, cutting himself. He hit his head against the wall. He thought people were staring at him and following him around.

He had mentioned he heard the TV talking to him. And he would just spend months locked away in his bedroom.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

Then on Christmas Eve, when Kimberly’s son was 20, he had a major psychotic episode. He became convinced that there were intruders in the house hurting his mom. He jumped out of a second floor window to get help and was brought to the hospital, where he was put on a psychiatric hold.

There, he received a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder for the first time and, with it, a new type of medication.


It was the first time they had put him on a long-acting injection which — of an antipsychotic. And they recommended this because of his history of nonadherence to medication. And he started to improve a little bit.

Our relationship was getting better. He was home all the time. His cognition was coming back. He was able to spend time with me, engage.

But he gained 50 pounds in a matter of weeks on this medication, and he’d becomes swollen. And it made him very self-conscious about his image. He did not want to be associated with schizoaffective disorder.

He started to reject the injections. And by March, he completely refused.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

And by October, Kimberly had become the focus of his paranoia.


He started collecting knives to defend himself against the people that were out to get him. And I learned that I became one of those people that was out to hurt him. And so one night, he had showed up on my balcony, had come in. And he thought that I had stolen from him, and he had a knife. And he pulled a knife on me.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

So sorry, Kimberly.


I was trying to de-escalate him, and it wasn’t working. And he had a wild look about him. And no matter what I tried to calm him down, I wasn’t able to. My boyfriend was here at the time, and he was able to get him to put the knife down.

And then he had told me to call the police, and I did.

They said that they would arrest him and take him in, and if I wanted to press charges. And I said, no, absolutely not. He needs help.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

After the break, Kimberly begins to wonder if the only way to get her son treatment that works is to force it on him.


Every time I tried to get him help, they would ask me if I had a conservatorship. And I said, no, no, what’s that? And they said, well, the only way for you to be involved and for us to legally give you information about what’s going on is if you had a conservatorship.


Lulu Garcia-Navarro

After Kimberly’s son pulled a knife on her, he was taken to the hospital and put on an involuntary 72-hour hold. But the moment that hold kicked in, the clock was ticking. She needed advice. So she turned to the leader of her support group, part of an organization called NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.


She went through this. Both of her children, sons, had been through this. And so she was telling me, do not allow him to come home. In order to get him help that he needed, I needed to demand from the hospital — I had to say that he had no place to safely live — basically declare him as homeless so that they would keep him in the hospital a little bit longer than a 72-hour period to get stabilized. Otherwise, they were going to discharge him.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

What was it like to say that he couldn’t come home?


Oh, it was horrible. It was devastating because I basically had to abandon him. And to him, you know, it’s abandonment. When I put him involuntary into the hospital or when I had sent him to Utah, it’s being abandoned by the one person that loves you the most, who loves you unconditionally.

And so to say that you have no place to go to is devastating. In order to get him help, I have to relinquish him into the hands of other people.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

Kimberly, you did this because you’d gotten advice that it will force the hospital to provide more care beyond a 72-hour hold. Do they at that point?


No. I found out. They kept him over the 72 hours. I think they kept him for about four or five days. But then they said that they would not keep him and they would release him as homeless.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

And that’s what they did. After Kimberly’s son was discharged, he bounced in and out of short-term facilities, periodically disappearing and wandering the streets for days at a time. Kimberly was frantic. She knew that it was no longer safe for him to live at home. And as she tried to impress the severity of his situation onto his doctors, she kept running into roadblocks.


They will not let you speak to the doctor. You can only speak to a nurse assistant in the office. And oh, well he needs to opt in, in order for you to talk to the doctor, and if he’s already mistrusting, that I need to call the police to get him help.

And it’s not like they go up to him and ask him, hey, will you sign an authorization for the doctor to speak to your mom? That’s not going to happen. And so —

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

You’re stuck.


I’m stuck — nowhere to go, nowhere to turn to you.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

So she started looking into something that might give her the power to advocate for her son — what California calls an LPS conservatorship.


An LPS is a Lanterman-Petris-Short conservatorship. And it’s specifically for mental illness. One of the criterias for it is they have to prove grave disability. And the criteria is can’t provide food, clothing, or shelter. And it’s extremely, extremely hard to get.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

And that’s intentional. The LPS conservatorship system was created in the 1960s in response to the practice of locking people up in mental institutions indefinitely. Back then, the bar to subject someone to involuntary treatment was far too low.

So the LPS Act put strict safeguards in place. For one thing, these conservatorships aren’t permanent. And family members can’t request them. A patient has to be referred by a mental health professional. By the way, this is not the same kind of conservatorship that Britney Spears was under.

If a judge approves the LPS conservatorship, a guardian is appointed. Sometimes that’s a family member, sometimes not. But that person can decide where the conservatee lives, consent to medication on their behalf, make medical decisions, and in some cases force treatment.


I thought it would be able to help my son get treatment. When he went into psychosis, he didn’t think that he had this illness. He had what’s called anosognosia — is what I learned is a lack of insight. They don’t recognize it, because oftentimes, they’re in this period of they’re living in a different world that they see that’s very real to them that’s not actually really what’s going on.

And so I’m learning that this is possibly going to be the only way that I could save his life, to get him treatment, and to be able to bring him home, to stabilize him. This is what he needs in order for him to get help, because he is not going to — he’s going to reject it each time.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

How did you feel about that idea at the time? You’ve talked about how much forcing him to do things had caused damage to your relationship.


My opinion changed over time. As he was getting sick, and I realized — he was around 15 or 16 when he was telling me about the side effects of his medication and he didn’t want to take it. And I thought, he knows what his body is telling him. He knows what’s best. I’ll let him make those decisions.

But going through over the years and seeing him decline without medication, and seeing how bad it got where I’m fearing for my life and I don’t know when he’s going to decompensate so bad where he might kill me, he might kill everyone in our family, he might kill himself, he might kill some random person on the street, and I’m reading these stories in the news, and I’m looking at these mass — these mass murderings, these mass shootings, and I hear people say — like, sarcastically my neighbors will say, oh, their parents must be so proud of them, you know.

And I think to myself now going through it. And I’m like, no, we’re devastated. We’re trying to get help for your kid growing up over and over and being shut down everywhere you go and every turn you go to.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

Of course, mentally ill people don’t necessarily commit acts of violence.


Correct, yes. Most people with severe mental illness are not violent. But because of the system that we have, the lack of a behavioral health system that works, our system requires them to be violent, to commit a crime.

This is what I was told by the police. They showed up and they said, well, he’s not harming anybody right now. And he’s not in the process of killing anybody right now. So there’s nothing we can do. And they would take it to that extreme, that they would have to see him. They have to observe it in order for him to be hospitalized, to get the help that he needs, because they can’t be forced.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

So the only way he gets help is if it’s the worst-case scenario. He’s committing a crime against somebody else or he’s threatening his own life.



Lulu Garcia-Navarro

What I’m hearing you say is a big roadblock to him being conserved is this criteria for who counts as sick enough. And I guess I’m wondering in theory, does that high bar make sense to you as a safeguard? Because when we’re talking about a system evaluating so many people, it might not necessarily be a bad thing for the system to be slow and cautious when considering such an extreme option.


It’s a hypocrisy, because the medical research says that the earlier intervention happens and the earlier treatment happens, the more successful. And there’s also — there’s cognitive decline. The longer that someone goes into psychosis, it’s neurodegenerative. And so a lot of them revert backwards.

And I have seen that in my son. He is not the same. And each time, he loses more of his intellect, of his ability to function.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

You see this cautiousness in this case is harmful in some ways.


Yes, absolutely.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

Does the conservatorship actually seem like a possibility?


It seems impossible.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

And why hasn’t someone referred him yet?


[LAUGHS]: That’s a question that I constantly have been asking for the past few years. What I found out was that it comes down to funding.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

Like so much else in the American health care system, it’s a question of who pays. Psychiatric care beds have been disappearing for years. And it’s really expensive to keep people in the ones that do exist.

When a hospital refers someone for conservatorship, they are legally required to keep them until a judge can rule. That process can take months. And it can disincentivize hospitals from referring people in the first place. But money aside, it’s also an ethical question.

Kimberly, I’m thinking about this impossible situation that these mental health care systems put caregivers like yourself in. Speaking more broadly, though, when I hear the word “conservatorship,” I think of people being thrown into institutions indefinitely.

And the director of the Disability Rights Program at the ACLU has actually said, I believe, that conservatorship is America’s most extreme deprivation of civil rights aside from the death penalty. How does that sit with you, that criticism?


Before all of this, before I was as intimately involved, I used to think people should have the right to be in charge of their body, just like how I feel about abortion is that you should — a woman should have the right to decide what happens to their body. I should have the right to decide what — the medication that I take or the right to die, even.

But learning about this, what I now know as anosognosia, is that he didn’t think that he was ill, and knowing that my son is not in a compensatory state where he knows what is medically necessary for him and that he’s going to die — and so I know that is necessary for him, even if it’s temporary, just to stabilize him, so that he can survive, because I know that he’s not likely to survive without it.

And so it makes me angry because I feel like those that are against the forced treatment or the conservatorship are not intimately involved with what’s going on. They have no clue what it is like as a family member to go through this. It’s painful. It’s traumatic. Your whole life takes another course.

Like, all of the dreams that I had for my son — him being happy and just being able to live a normal life — those go out the window. Dreams for myself, for my own life, go out the window. I can’t take vacation like normal people can. I can’t leave him.

People don’t understand what it takes to take care of someone with this illness — through no fault of their own. They didn’t ask for this, and I certainly didn’t ask for this.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

This word you’ve used a couple of times, “anosognosia,” it’s kind of a controversial one so I want to pause here. It means that a person with a psychotic disorder doesn’t have insight into their illness. They think that they’re fine, even when they’re very clearly not.

And that part is not contested, but it also has come to mean something specific, which you alluded to, which is that mental illness is a neurological condition observable in the brain. And it’s become part of this argument for making it easier to treat people against their will. I mean, you could see how it’s a framework that could be abused. You don’t have to listen to what someone wants for themselves if you can dismiss their preferences as part of their illness. I mean, how would you respond to that concern?


The way I would have liken it to is if someone is out in public, and they are choking and they need CPR to survive, and — you’re not going to ask for permission if someone is not able to make that decision. You’re going to give them CPR.

And this is the way, the same way, that I look at it. No matter what rock bottom my son is going to hit — and he has hit it — he’s not going to ask for help. He thinks that the government’s trying to control him and his body. Or it could be CIA agents poisoning his food in the middle of the night. I mean, these are the things that he thinks. And so he’s not going to opt in for treatment. Some of the times, he has anosognosia and has no insight. And there are other times where he’ll have a moment of clarity. And that’s when — those moments of clarity, I could tell, because his memory starts to come back. He can have a relationship with me. He can have a conversation, even.

When he’s so psychotic that he can’t even speak, he can’t read, he can’t write, he jumps off of buildings, not thinking that he’s going to get hurt. It’s those kind of things where you know that the person is not competent enough to opt in for treatment when they clearly need it.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

How do you think about what your son wants? I mean —


I would never force anything on him if he didn’t want it except for when he’s in an acute psychotic moment where it’s clear that he is going to hurt himself or hurt somebody else. When I know that it’s heading that way, even if he wants to try different therapies, if he wants to go off of his medication — and I’m OK with that. But when I see another instance when he starts having severe decline, I’d be able to help him get treatment.

These are always the last resort for parents. When you’re so desperate to get help to save your child’s life, that involuntary treatment is always the last course of action that you take.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

How is your son today? Where is he?


He is in a residential facility. It’s supposed to be an enhanced one that they can dispense medication. But they have to opt in for it.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

When’s the next time you’re going to see him?


Today. I just saw him last night, and I’m going to see him today. I try to see him as much as possible.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

And what is that like? How are you two doing?


Yeah, it’s great right now because he’s been on medication. He was hospitalized in October, and then he came out, and he’s been on medication. And we’ve been having a great time.

I’ve been able to take off of work. I took a family leave of absence, and I’ve seen him almost every day. And I’ve learned to have a lot more empathy. I’ve realized how horrible it is and what it must be like to be him and in his brain and the constant just trauma that he goes through.

We have a really good relationship right now. And I’m scared of losing that because I know he’s decided not to take medication again. I’m seeing him start to change a little bit, become more withdrawn and inside of his head. And I’m scared. I’m scared of that.

And I’m exhausted of this fight. And I’m not looking forward to doing this for the rest of — to continue fighting like this. But I will do it because he’s my son. And I’m going to protect him at all costs when I know that he can’t do it on his own.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro

He’s lucky to have you.


Thank you. I’m lucky to have him. I’m just — if I could take this away from him and take it on myself, I would do it in a heartbeat.


Lulu Garcia-Navarro

“First Person” is a production of New York Times Opinion. If you want to reach us, you can at firstperson@nytimes.com. And please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.

This episode was produced by Olivia Natt. It was edited by Anabel Bacon and Kaari Pitkin. Mixing by Carole Sabouraud and Isaac Jones. Original music by Isaac Jones, Sonia Herrero, Pat McCusker and Carole Sabouraud. Fact checking by Mary Marge Locker.

The rest of the “First Person” team includes Stephanie Joyce, Wyatt Orme, Rhiannon Corby, Sofia Alvarez Boyd, Derek Arthur and Jillian Weinberger. Special thanks to Kristina Samulewski, Shannon Busta, Allison Benedikt, Annie-Rose Strasser and Katie Kingsbury.

40:37 / 41:19

What are/were the most significant barriers to your recovery from “mental illness”?

The biggest barrier to my recovery from what had always been diagnosed as schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder was, I regret to say, the mental health system and psychiatry itself. Yes, for many decades I had been told I was ill and needed interventions like medications and the hospital for my “brittle psychosis”. I was told even that obvious brutalities, like 5-point restraints and seclusion in locked freezing cold cells, devoid of anything but a slab in the wall and a grate in the floor for drainage, were helpful treatments for my condition and not the torture and punishment that I felt them to be. No one or very few people treated me with kindness or any understanding or with the idea that there was hope for recovery, even though I had a genius level IQ and had shown some significant talents in many areas, and still did even when sick. They seemed bent on only one thing: coercion and control, and to prove that they were able to dominate me, and the other patients. If you dared to question their superiority or their information you would either be dismissed as delusional or worse, treated with more abuse.


Needless to say, I lived up to these expectations for many years, and i did not get better or even come near to recovering. In fact, before I took the drastic step of giving almost all I owned away and leaving my home, the state where I had lived for all my life and moving to another 100 miles away, by myself, knowing no one and nothing about it, I ended up again in the hospital and almost did not make it out. Not only did the guards there attempt to strangle me, but the doctor was convinced that I should be committed to the state’s one public facility that provided long term treatment…from which I might not leave for a long time.

Instead, I managed to play the game this sadistic doctor insisted on, and was finally discharged from a city hospital that had spent weeks doing nothing but torturing me, daily throwing me into their seclusion cell or shackling me in restraints …for no better reason than that I “disturbed the unit milieu”.

But discharged I was, with newly acquired PTSD from my treatment there, and within a week I was two states away, safe for the first time from these ministration that had inflicted on me nothing but damage.

It was here, in this northern state that I finally began to heal, with the help not of the mental health system but of a non-licensed therapist (she has a psychotherapist license from the UK) who taught me Marshall Rosenberg’s non-violent communication or NVC, and is the first person I felt sees me for who I really am, not “just another schizophrenic.” Even though I still take medications, I am slowly tapering off of them and doing well after decades on the massive doses I was told I absolutely could not survive without. Why? Because I’m proof of the fact that you can recover from life-long “mental illness” when given enough unconditional acceptance and understanding. When someone sees you and understands you and does not dismiss you, crazy as you might have been told you are, a lot of the craziness just falls away and you become another human being, no more and no less.

There is no normal, there is no abnormal. We are all just human beings trying to get along in society and often society is sicker than “we are” in its demands that we conform to some impossible standard. Maybe my experiences — hearing voices, thinking things that might be called delusions, etcetera — are not common but they are not outside the realm of human experience either. We should rejoice in our differences as in our similarities and look for common cause between us, not find reasons to fear what is Other in each other. Love really is what it’s all about. Maybe that sounds squishy and sentimental, but have you ever met someone diagnosed with schizophrenia who says they both love themselves and feel that they are adequately loved in the world by others?

Institute of Living, 2013, Torture and Illegal Confinement Part 2

Restrained at the Institute of Living 2013

Continued from previous post:

Here’s what SAMHSA the substance abuse and mental health services administration publication has to say on seclusion and trauma:

“Studies suggest that restraints and seclusion can be harmful and is often re-traumatizing for an individual who has suffered previous trauma…

“Further, there is a common misconception that seclusion and restraint are used only when absolutely necessary as crisis response techniques. In fact, seclusion and restraint are most commonly used to address loud, disruptive, noncompliant behavior and generally originate from a power struggle between consumer and staff. The decision to apply seclusion or restraint techniques is often arbitrary, idiosyncratic, and generally avoidable.

“Moreover, some studies indicate that seclusion and restraint use lead to an increase in the behaviors that staff members are attempting to control or eliminate.

I have been traumatized, and not just by hospitals. I was date-raped three times in my twenties and experienced traumatic domestic abuse. The cover sheet on the PAD made very clear that due to these trauma issues, I could not tolerate being secluded or restrained without severe consequences: regression and serious worsening of symptoms. Unfortunately, as soon as the staff saw fit to use physical methods of coercion and control on me, that is to say, punishment, from the first time a staff member grabbed me, all bets were off as to how I would behave. I certainly ceased improving, and my symptoms went downhill. Did they really think they were being kind and compassionate? Violence begets violence….

I tried to get help even when on the unit, at least I tried when I was free to make calls or leave my seclusion, err, forced-voluntary “time-out” two-week-long stay in the so-called side room” last winter. I do not know how many times I called  the patient advocate office, but the sole time anyone made contact was when she came to hand me some paperwork – I believe I was actually in 4 point restraints at the time – some papers I could not read about a forced medication hearing they would be holding. I needed her advocacy, but she never responded to my panicked called. I wanted her help, but she never came by to ask me what I needed. She was less than useful, the fact that I had to go through her, and her refusal to respond contributed to my ongoing panic and desperate feelings of aloneness and depression. No wonder Dr. Banerjee tried to force me into ECT (about which my feelings of horror and revulsion were stated clearly in my PAD).

And where did the ECT discussion come from at all? My PAD states that I would refuse ECT under any and every circumstance. My brother would be my conservator if Banerjee had sought to go down that road, and he would never have made any decision to counter my wishes on that subject. If Banerjee really read my PAD, he would have known that. He told me that “Dr Mucha and I have made the decision to force you to have ECT.” I recorded the conversation in my journal immediately  after it happened and Dr. Banerjee presented it as a two-man decision only, one that I had no choice in.

Regarding ECT and my so-called “depression,” Sanjay Banerjee MD had stopped my 75mg of the antidepressant Zoloft during the first or second week I was there. “Do you really need that?” he had asked, “You don’t seem depressed to me.” Obedient, and in any event glad to get off any medication at any time, I nodded my head, assenting to the change. At least, I thought, if things go haywire, it will not be due to self-fulfilling prophecy, a doctor looking for symptoms he expects to find and conveniently finding them. And at least he will know the reason.

A week later, instead of reinstating the Zoloft, Banerjee blamed my sudden “depression” on my refusal to take Lamictal, a drug I had not taken in 6-9 months. Now he was applying to force me to have ECT, something I was terrified of, convinced it caused deliberate brain damage.

It was this threat, and the brutality with which the decision was made, that started the downhill course of my IOL stay.

The very next day, all hell broke loose. When I entered the conference room, I pushed some important notes I needed Dr Banerjay and Laurie to read across the table in front of them. They refused, claiming that I threw the papers at them. Instead, Dr Banerjay proceeded to berate me, and told me how he had consulted with other hospitals and providers and had read my records against my instructions and Advance Directive, thus violating my HIPAA rights. Moreover, he threatened me with a behavioral treatment plan that would not permit me to do art or writing unless I “behaved.” I hit the roof, telling him I would sue the hospital and complain to JCAHO, then summarily left, slamming the door, an act that stemmed from feelings of utter impotence, because I couldn’t actually say in words anything more effective.

It could have ended there. I could have been left alone, to cool down and calm myself. But no, Dr. Banerjee had to write for stat meds again, and even though I was on the phone and trying to find someone to talk to, to calm myself, I had to be physically dragged off the chair I sat on, away from the phone and brought to the floor in a physical struggle (because they had attacked first, i.e. physically grabbed me, I defended myself, instinctually). They could have waited for me to finish the call. They could have waited to see if I calmed myself. I was not hurting anyone. I did not threaten anyone or myself with harm. ALL that I had done, in terms of physical threats was yell at the phone and refuse to take a pill. Furthermore, it was done and over with. I had left that area and gone to my room. I had then come back and now sat on the chair by the phone, speaking to my interlocutor on the other end. There was no need to pick a fight or encourage a struggle. A wait-and-see policy could have successfully guided things to a better resolution not only for the situation at hand but for my entire hospital stay. As a famous poem by Dylan Thomas ends: “After the first death, there is other.” Once the IOL staff decided to use restraints, there was no going back. The first time broke everything. So, they used them again, and again, and each time more freely and without justification but for convenience and punishment.

Some final points:

CMS regulations on use of Restraint and Seclusion

Restraint or seclusion may only be imposed to ensure the immediate physical safety of the patient, a staff member, or others and must be discontinued at the earliest possible time.

At no point in my stay was anyone ever in immediate physical danger except me, from the staff who were assaulting me…They may have claimed that I bit and fought and resisted, but this was always in response to their manhandling me first. Always. In fact, my medical records show they had restraints re-evaluated and approved while I was sleeping. They even discharged me from the hospital directly from restraints and seclusion, on a day when the usual attending physician happened to be out of town.

(ii) Seclusion is the involuntary confinement of a patient alone in a room or area from which the patient is physically prevented from leaving. Seclusion may only be used for the management of violent or self- destructive behavior. 

This means that IOL’s definition of seclusion as being “kept alone in a room to which the door is locked” is wrong. I protested that I had been secluded all along, for a good two weeks before they instituted formal seclusion. I was not violent or self-destructive, and certainly not imminently dangerous to self or others…Never was anyone in immediate physical danger.) Yet the IOL allowed staff to abuse me and seclude me because I was loud and made people uncomfortable…I was surely not the first person to be so treated and brutalized. It remains traumatizing to this day, and I know it is still happening to patients at the IOL even now, because no one can stop them if they don’t know it is happening. Due to this sort of brutal treatment, my PTSD escalated. I think about what happened there and I can’t stop trembling. I have nightmares every night that literally keep me from sleeping.

“The highest price of all is the price paid by the people who are restrained: their recovery is stalled by a practice that can disempower them, break their spirit, and reignite a sense of helplessness and hopelessness…” from Recovery Innovations

Worst of all, using restraints doesn’t work to make either the patient calmer and safer or the unit a calmer safer environment to work in for staff. In truth, things only go from bad to worse once you restrain an unruly patient…Violence only begets more violence…Moreover, when I was another hospital, I was told by one of their mental health workers that she had wanted to experience the process of being four-pointed so she could identify with patients. She was told no, because as the aide informed me, hospital administrators feared it would be too traumatizing.

Restraints are traumatizing, let’s face it, in order to restrain me the manifold times I have been brutally restrained, putting up no resistance whatsoever, even the most jaded and brutal should have felt a twinge of conscience and questioned why he or she was doing. Unless they had become so inured to cruelty that they no longer considered it degrading and obscene to spread-eagle a naked woman, shackling her legs to the bed posts, so hardened to sadism that they did not consider tying her wrists to the underside of the bed as torture, only a mild form of discipline,  meted out in order to teach her the lesson they had decided to teach her…

I hope you manage to read this letter and look at the supporting materials. You could learn a lot. You have more power than I do in this world, and could change things, if you know they are happening and are wrong. I beg you to think about what I have written to you. The IOL is not an isolated case. Brutality happens in nearly every psychiatric ward and hospital in Connecticut, and I believe this is the reason: As long as seclusion and restraints are permitted in any fashion, brutality and abuse will continue and at rates that are higher than where they are eschewed.

The problem is not that there may remain some exceptional cases who, it is claimed, will need to be restrained, but that someone somewhere will start finding such exceptions and boom, we’ll be right back where we started, with abuse and mistreatment of the most vulnerable. I believe the only way to stop the abuse of seclusion and restraints is to simply stop using them, period. Killing in self-defense is a good defense in law, and every decision to use restraints should be evaluated with similar strict thinking. Say No, we don’t go there, first, and then if done, know that it was a violation of the law and harmed the patient above all else, but under some conditions, this is the lesser evil compared to what might have eventuated without their use.

Now hospital workers are allowed to use restraints and seclusion as legitimate forms of “treatment. But when you permit staff to use violence against even one patient, it imbues their culture with an acceptance of violence as a treatment modality rather than something criminal. Restraints help no one. They are always retaliatory. Always discipline and punishment. Oh, in the short run the unit may seem quieter and easier to manage, but in the subsequent days, when the prisoner in restraints re-enters the community more chaos than ever may ensue.

Please help me. Do something about it today.


New Poem by Pamela Spiro Wagner


Recalling my month-long “treatment” at New Britain Hospital a.k.a Hospital of Central Connecticut on Grand Street, in May 2014, under the supervision of Dr. Michael E. Balkunas


Naked in restraints in New Britain Hospital 2014










Only nine days after that last adders-pit hospital —

You still wear sunshades to protect others from you

though no one out here believes they are in peril.


Nevertheless, the staff there described you

as “assaultive,” dangerous to self and others,

unfit for company or visitors.

Neither accurate nor truthful

they wrote lies for the sake of their convenience.


Now you are a week from making new friends

in far northeastern Vermont,

in a place magically named the Kingdom

and it’s a move your bruised mind

requires, still unable to let go of

the half-nelson grip of hospital guards

bent on eliciting pain, who, when told to strip you

then four-pointed you naked to a mattress,

replaying their favorite rape scene,

yanking each limb apart to expose and humiliate, knowing

that the nurses’ own official policy was hands-off

and would protect their asses.


You want truth, you wish for reconciliation

but how, you wonder, does any Truth or Reconciliation proceed

when so many refuse to acknowledge

that hospital staff broke every rule,

stopping short of murder only

because you submitted nick of time,

your terror strangled in a towel they wound

around your head and face,

before they injected punishment drugs into your buttocks,

then muted the intercom and sealed the door


No one was ever there to bear witness.

That was always the point,

from your father to the hairdresser

and all the hospital staffs in-between.

They’ve made a religion of secrecy

and no one Outside wanted to know

what they didn’t want to know…


Call this, “our family business,”

call it, “a private shampoo,”

call it, “necessary treatment.”

they could always do what they wanted to you.


And when it broke you, as it eventually would,

when your sudden screams split the night,

and no one could explain what drove you

to empty your lungs,

ripping the air to shreds,

they stood aside and declared you

just “one of the family” now,

no better and no different than anyone else,

now that they’d finally fixed you for good.


What Really Happened On W-1 in New Britain Hospital’s Psychiatric Unit in 2014…

I remember names…some of them. For instance, the short, chubby, blond nurse, who was worried about her weight and who was so instrumental in torturing me? Her name was Debra. And the head nurse who seemed so oblivious to the fact that her policies were indeed torture, even though she admitted that she expected the guards to inflict pain on patients when “escorting” them to seclusion in order to “subdue them faster” as she put it to me, openly. Her name was Barbara, and even though I was horrified by things she told me, I believe that she was innocently deluded and believed in her job, did not mean to be mean, not the way Debra seemed to, and honestly wanted the best for her patients. But let me start at some beginning which is to say, anywhere at all, and give you an idea of what I am talking about.

How very similiar Michael and Charlie look…and and no wonder, since they share the same sadism genes!

I have written in multiple places and on many occasions about what happened to me at New Britain Hospital (aka  Hospital of Central Connecticut on Grand Street in New Britain) and I do not want to go into the whole thing here. All you need to do is search on the subject of Michael E Balkunas at this blog and you will get most of the gory details. That said, much that happened has never been told not even here. For instance, that Debra was the nurse who in a sadistic impulse and in an apparent fit of frustration, decided to have the security guards strip me naked when she was secluding me for some unknown (and always unnecessary) reason yet again…as they did nearly daily at W-1 in New Britain Hospital in May 2014….that  it was Debra who was directly responsible for this I have never stated. But I remember her name clearly, and her face….And the fact that after she did this the second or third time she went on leave for several days, and when she came back told me she had almost quit her job.

I was momentarily cheered because I thought perhaps she had had some serious regrets about what she’d done to me. I asked her, Was it because of me? I thought she would tell me yes. She looked at me, and nodded, then said, “Because you are such a challenging patient.”  Huh? I looked at her, and saw no remorse, no regrets only residual anger and scorn…and a certain unrepentant rancor that I had “made her do what she did.” Clearly she felt that I was to blame for her behavior, that I was to blame in general and that it was all justified.

Hospital Seclusion Room

But to get back to what happened. After she had me stripped naked by four male guards, after I loudly and vociferously protested being left alone in that freezing seclusion cell for I never knew how long, I began mildly hitting my head on the wall in protest. They threatened to four-point me and then they came barreling back in and threw me onto a restraint bed. The thing is, I knew, completely naked, I could not take the cold in that seclusion cell. But if they restrained me they would HAVE to cover me with something, and at the very least I would not freeze to death in that  frigid cell for an indefinite number of hours…But when they came for me, they grabbed me and angrily threw me onto a gurney, even though I put up no resistance,  spread-eagled my legs, deliberately exposing my private parts, and shackled them to the corners of the gurney with my arms pinioned above my head until I shrieked in pain even as  they laughed. Then they held me down,  gratuitously I might add, since I was already restrained, compressing my neck and chest, in order to give me the usual three-injection cocktail of punishment drugs — Haldol, Ativan and Benadryl — forcibly slammed into my buttocks. All of this done to me while I was  naked  and immobilized in four point restraints. Then fearing that they would leave me alone there, freezing cold, I screamed  for them to cover me. With a look of disgust, someone threw a draw sheet over me, but no more.

The charge nurse came in for my “face to face” interview to see that all was “proper”  and she visibly and audibly shivered, but refused me a warm blanket, or any at all, due to “safety concerns.” Then she left with the rest of them and  turned off the intercom, so “we won’t have to listen to her scream.” They closed the door behind them, leaving me all alone behind a metal cell door that did not even have an observation window in it.

I screamed from the base of my lungs as deeply and as loudly as I could for as long as I could last. No one took mercy on me or brought me water or a blanket or spoke to me the entire time. Only when, exhausted, I finally lapsed  did they relent and ask, from outside the door,  “can we turn the intercom back on? She is quiet now…” And apparently got assent for that… Because eventually I heard someone flip a switch but nothing more.

After I was  released, the next day, I told the unit director, Dr Michael E Balkunas what they had done to me, and he must have recognized the egregious nature of it because his response is telling. Instead of dismissing it as not so terrible, he said: “They would NEVER do such a thing as that in my hospital. You are a liar!” So he saw how awful it had been, what they had done to me, he just refused to acknowledge it had happened, and that he did not in fact  what his staff  were  up to. But I was never in fact the liar he believed me to be. His stock answer to everything he did not want to see or believe was  routinely that I was lying, but this was not true, and he was so sickeningly dismissive of the truth that I did not wait to listen to  more this time. I was so wiped off the map by his response that I got up and walked out of the interview room  and did not bother with him from then on…I KNEW I  was never a liar, and that in actuality it was the STAFF who lied all the time, but telling Balkunas that would have done no good. He wanted to believe what he wanted to believe and nothing i said got through to him from day one…So I thought, so why bother ?  WHY BOTHER. Balkunas wanted to murder  my body and my spirit, and I could not let him succeed. He could imprison my body in his hospital, but i was damned if i would let him get my spirit. FUCK HIM!

But Dr Balkunas, Michael, you did not in point of fact know what went on at W-1 ever, nor at the ER, when you were there. Abuse was rampant because you encouraged it to be…and you never cared much what they did to achieve “order” so long as it was “quiet” when you were around. So you gave tacit assent to the tortures that they inflicted, and you likewise tacitly approved the very behaviors that you told me  would “never happen on your watch”…Yeah? Well, I feel certain that if they behaved as they did towards me, they had done it before me, and did so to others after I left as well…and they continue to inflict these things on patients to this day.

I will leave it there. Your unit staff and you too, Balkie, are Out of control, and deserve, as my Obama post notes, to be CLOSED down for good.

The other day I made this little polymer clay figure to illustrate what Debra did to me.

Pam in Restraints in New Britain Hospital In May 2014

It blew me away and I could not sleep all night the night I made her….Until Wendy and I decided to heal her, and perhaps heal me,  from the experience, First, talking to the figure in the little bed calmly and with compassion,  we covered her with a thick cotton blanket. That brought me some relief as I no longer felt chilled.  Then we took off the restraints, which despite being made of polymer clay actually slipped right off, and we brought her arms down to her sides so she could sleep in comfort. By the time we were through I felt immensely better.

Neither of us could even imagine treating another human being as Balkunas had had me treated on numerous occasions by routine.


Julie Mad Blogger Interview Recorded at Link Here…



Taking the Mask Off Podcast Ep 004: Unmasking Schizophrenia with Pamela Spiro Wagner

Please listen to this. You will find Cortland Pfeffers intro fascinating, and of course pamela as usual has much to say!

Here is a little new art to entice, just a small drawing i did while at fhe hostel in Boston during the Hearing Voices Congress. I hope to post that power point soon.

Drawing of eyes with tears, exercise



Hostel visitors in Boston (3″ by 5″)

New book on sale now!

Available at Amazon.com here (dont worry about the different covers, it is the same book!):


Learning to See in Three Dimensions

New Book Launch Announcement!

LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS, BOOK LAUNCH INFO: JUNE 2. ARTWALK FRIDAY evening in Brattleboro Vermont. 6-7pm at the Hooker Dunham Theatre and Gallery. Or call the gallery for a privately arranged tour. Or contact pam for further information and a tour of the gallery. Any group of disabled individuals or those who cannot make it to the gallery for the show (it is not not not “accessible”) _ i will provide a reading/ talk and books for sale to any group who can get me there  to speak to them, providing  transportation to make it possible for me to meet with them. All entirely free of charge. 


Don’t worry, be happy!

Recently a friend wrote to me that she was exhausted with worry about whether the future would work out as she wanted it to. She has many concerns and young sons to generate a lot of worries, so i sympathize completely. Nevertheless, this is what i wrote to her and more…

Remember that there are plenty of futures out there and we have absolutely no way of knowing which one will come to us as the present, not until it is the present. So you can spend your time worrying in the present about a future you cannot change by worrying about it (can you?) or you can choose to ENJOY THE FUTURE now by assuming that it will all work out beautifully. That means of course, that freed from worrying about a disastrous outcome, you will enjoy the present, too. Yes, it is possible that what comes will bring disaster, but that pain will be of its time and place alone. You won’t have spent all the weeks and months leading up to it also in pain, dreading what your worry could not possibly change. If disaster does happen, but you spent all that time anticipating the best possible outcome, then guess what? You enjoyed your life, and if disaster happens you can say, well, so this is disaster, but i did not waste my life in fear, worrying myself sick anticipating it. No, no, i enjoyed every minute of a different future that may not have happened, but i lived life to the fullest. Now, life changed but i don’t regret a thing!

I believe that people who can enjoy the best future imaginable also build resilience to the worst future that becomes present in their lives, and in a feedback loop they end up never facing the worst outcome, because in the simple process of facing it, and facing it down, they have already begun to overcome it. But they could not do this without learning the skills of enjoying the best possible future now, instead of worrying. This is how they have become resilient and their resilience feeds back and makes them even stronger when like everyone else, challenges do come their way.

You can do it. You can stop worrying today. You can stop that flow of tormenting thoughts that say xyz is going to happen to ruin everything. How? Not by stopping them but by replacing them with daydreams that are far easier and better. You know how some teachers used to scold the class daydreamer and tell him or her to come back to reality and Stop daydreaming?! Well, i am going to say the opposite: when you are worrying yourself sick, start day dreaming instead, start fantasizing about the dreamiest most glorious future you can give yourself, and then goddam it, give it to yourself! I mean this. Start believing that that future is real and think about you would act and be “if you really knew this” it would change you, wouldn’t it? Well…be that future, enjoy that future as if you know right here and now that it will be on your plate at such and such a time…i promise you, you will enjoy your present so much more than you ever did worrying! And who knows, instead of Not paying the mortgage on time (your worry) you just might end up buying a boat as well as owning your home free and clear (your fantasy)…but even if not, you have not lost anything but your misery. And that, my friend, is a very good thing to lose.




Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2015). The range of conditions includes depression, which the CDC estimates will soon become the second leading cause of disability in the world

Folks, below this I post part of Hillary Clinton’s grand Mental Health Care plan, not because I believe in it, but because I want you all to see what our next president has in store for us. And because I hope you noted what the last thirty years have wrought in DAMAGES. Yes, after all the miracul0us advances of SSRI’s and SRI’s and adjunctive atypical anti-psychotics added to these so-called miracle anti-depressants. OOOooh, we have gotten so much healthier on our miracle pills.YES! We have gotten so much better that we now, get this, commit suicide at a rate 24% HIGHER than we did in 1999, In fact we kill ourselves at our highest rate in 30 years.

Well, I am sorry, people, but this is fucking BULLSHIT, just bullshit. You don’t believe me? Okay, i am used to that. No one ever believes me. So go ahead and read what dear Hillary posted in her Mental Health Care Plan below, from the National Institute of Mental Health. Those are not my numbers but right from the NIMH. So let’s go ahead, take our happy pills and tell ourselves we feel better, go right ahead, but what do we do when another buddy kills herself or himself despite the sweet help of his or her neighborhood pusher, er, psychiatrist???

Well, don’t tell me they did not warn us: ANTI- DEPRESSANTS DO NOT WORK THEY KILL. And it is posted very clearly right there, above.

Okay. Being forwarned is only part of the battle, we have to listen and we have to act.

Sorry for being so strident, I am really sorry.


Go ahead and discount me, I do not care. But look at the statistic I posted above and ignore the implications at your peril.




Federal Support for Suicide Prevention

Suicides, which are usually fueled by mental illness, are rising among numerous population groups, from adolescents and college students[11] to veterans[12] and older adults.[13] The overall rate of suicide increased by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014, and is now at its highest level in 30 years.[14] Over 40,000 Americans die of suicide every year, making it the tenth-leading cause of death nationally.[15] As the former director of NIMH, Dr. Tom Insel, often notes, suicides have 11 victims: the person who dies, and at least 10 people close to them who will never be the same. Hillary believes that suicide is a critical issue that she will prioritize as president. She will:

  • Create a national initiative around suicide prevention across the lifespan that is headed by the Surgeon General: As president, Hillary will move toward the goal of “Zero Suicide” that has been promoted by the Department of Health and Human Services. She will direct all relevant federal agencies, including HHS, the VA, and the Department of Education, to research and develop plans for suicide prevention in their respective settings, and create a cross-government initiative headed by the Surgeon General to coordinate these efforts. She will also launch a citizen input and feedback mechanism, to enable outside groups to comment on agency recommendations, and explore how we can harness technology to reach out to people who need support.
  • Encourage evidence-based suicide prevention and mental health programs in high schools. In 2013, a survey of high school students revealed that 17 percent considered attempting suicide in the last year, with 8 percent actually attempting it. The suicide rate among American Indian/Alaska Native adolescents is even higher, at 1.5 times the national average. There are effective ways to respond. It is critical that school districts emphasize evidence-based mental health education, so that students, teachers, and school nurses are aware of the warning signs and risk factors of mental illness and how to address them. The Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention, released by four leading mental health organizations, includes concrete recommendations that school districts can follow. Hillary will direct the Department of Education to emphasize mental health literacy in middle and high schools and will work with regional and national PTA, school counselor associations, and associations of secondary school principals to encourage school districts to adopt this model policy.
  • Provide federal support for suicide prevention on college campuses. Hillary believes that every college campus should have a comprehensive strategy to prevent suicide, including counseling, training for personnel, and policies that enable students to take leave for mental health Such multi-layered approaches have a proven track record of decreasing suicides. For instance, the Air Force launched an initiative in 1996 that brought together multiple intervention programs and reduced the suicide rate among Air Force personnel by nearly a third in under a decade. Groups such as the Jed Foundation, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and Active Minds have created frameworks around suicide prevention tailored for colleges and universities. Hillary will dramatically increase funding for campus suicide prevention, investing up to $50 million per year to provide a pathway for the country’s nearly 5,000 colleges – whether private or public, two-year or four-year – to implement these frameworks on behalf of students.
  • Partner with colleges and researchers to ensure that students of color and LGBT students are receiving adequate mental health coverage. Evidence suggests that the psychological needs of students of color are disproportionately unmet, impeding their ability to adapt to college life. LGBT students face added burdens as well, with gay youth being four times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide. Hillary will direct the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to work with universities, researchers and community programs to determine how best to meet and respond to the challenges these students face and to provide specialized counseling.



A poem plus art.

Edited on July 29, 2016 and reposted.

The poem below is the introduction to my third book, and my second book of poems, this time with art, which should be published in the spring of 2017 by Sundog Poetry and Green Writers Press, both Vermont publishers.  Wowee!!! I am thrilled. Tamra Higgins of Sundog has generously said that she wants to make sure that I have an art show and reading at the time of the book launching. Moreover  I believe that Sydney Lea, Vermont’s wonderful former poet laureate, who had agreed to write the forward for it when it was still going to be published by CKP will still do so for the new publishers. I feel especially blessed!!!

I am very much a novice watercolorist and these are two beginning paintings.




who may be sitting as I am
in a green recliner with a cup of tea
staring out through the porch
to a darkened streetlamp outside the diner,
with a book in her lap, mine, I hope
the only one I feel I should have to mention
if I mention a book in a poem I write;
to the reader, the nitpicker, the one
who may be wondering why
on p. 47 there are two ands, one
right after another, and whose fault that is;
and to the reader, who may be tired
after a long ride home on the bus
after dark and a meal not worth mentioning
who picks up my book but finds his eyes
closing before he has opened the cover,
I say: Forgive me
I am only a writer sitting in a green recliner
with a cup of tea, I can’t explain
those two ands or the mysterious
streetlamp or warm the feet of a tired
reader in his bed. I can only put music on
and tell him stories to make movies
turn in his head, to let him wake
with the sudden understanding that poetry
may be all it takes to make a life—
well, my life at any rate, and maybe his,
and maybe the nitpicker’s and yours, too,
staring through the porch to the streetlamp
where what happens so mysteriously is poetry—
and the whole night is wrapped
in the words spoken by two strangers
meeting there, or not spoken, which is poetry too,
and all of us who listen are waiting
for the music of what is to happen.