Posts tagged ‘Mental Illness’

It’s Only Murder if You’re Sane

The Gothamist reports that:

On Wednesday, police found the body of a nude woman in Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem. Although initial reports suggested the woman may have been emotionally disturbed, last night police announced that they were treating Nina Rivera’s death as a homicide.

So, it’s one or the other is it? I don’t know whether this little blurb is a statement on the Gothamist’s “journalism” or the NYPD’s approach. Either way, there’s a severe problem of perception here.

December 6, 2010 at 11:20 am 4 comments

It’s Just Like You’re One of Us (But With a Steel Strap and a GPS).

So this is what it’s come to? We’re willing to tag and track people based on a diagnosis? Oh that’s right, we’re not doing it to each other, only those sick ones we’ve so self assuredly separated out.

South London and Maudsley Hospital is trialling tracking of mental health patients. The tracker system involves fitting patients with a steel ankle strap linked to a GPS tracking system that can then monitor the location of the person.

As Gianna Kali of Beyond Meds wrote, “If you don’t automatically think ‘civil and human right violation’ there is something wrong with you.” I couldn’t agree more and would go so far as to say that you are part of the problem. There are two reasons these things happen — people in power are willing to disregard our rights and  the public is willing to allow it.

In response, a Department of Health spokesperson said;

‘This is a locally led initiative, not a national pilot.

“Patient rehabilitation into a community is an important part of recovery, but it relies on good risk assessment, trust between the patient and the service and patient responsibility. There can be no substitute for staff knowledge of patients to properly assess risk and to make the right decisions to ensure safety”.

Trust between the patient and the service? Is this what trust looks like — a steel strap with a tracking device? Maybe I’m reading this all wrong and they just mean the patient should trust the system. Personally, I have a problem trusting anyone with more power than regard for my interest. Similarly, rehabilitation only calls for patient responsibility. If it called for responsibility on the part of the system, we’d need a new one, rebuilt from the ground up.

What do you think this does for the idea of inclusion, by the way? I can’t imagine that a person wearing a device that advertises their private struggles and places them socially between a criminal and an animal to be studied is very well received in public situations. Perhaps we could forego the cost and complication of these devices and just go ahead with a ball and chain and scarlet letter…oh yeah, rights. We better keep it digital.

August 29, 2010 at 10:30 am

Should Transparency Take this Much Work?

Can a state’s Office of Protection and Advocacy do its job with only half of the information and the other half concealed to shield government agencies and state hospitals instead of  citizens?

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court says it will decide whether Virginia’s advocate for the mentally ill can force state officials to provide records relating to deaths and injuries at state mental health facilities.

I’m not sure why anyone would think there should be such a blind spot in an agency’s assessment of these facilities. Force implies resistance. Shouldn’t information like that be turned over upon request or even voluntarily recorded and addressed?

The justices agreed Monday to review a federal appeals court ruling dismissing the state advocate’s lawsuit against Virginia’s mental health commissioner and two other officials.

Backing the appeal, the Obama administration said the ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond “threatens to undermine the enforcement of federal laws that Congress designed to protect especially vulnerable individuals from the abusive and neglectful practices that can result in injury and death.”

The Virginia advocate’s office, like those in the other 49 states, was created under two federal laws that give states federal money for monitoring the treatment of the mentally ill in state facilities. The first law grew out of public reports in the 1970s of crowded, filthy conditions and abusive treatment of mentally retarded children at the Willowbrook State School in New York.

The issue for the court is whether the Eleventh Amendment prohibits a state agency from going to federal court to sue officials of the same state. The state itself could not be sued in the same circumstances.

Argument will take place in the fall or winter.

The case is VOPA v. Reinhard, 09-529.

To read a brief summary of VOPA v. Reinhard II, click here (PDF).

Excerpt (emphasis mine):

The P&A system in Virginia is the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy (VOPA). In 2006, VOPA sought records relating to three incidents of deaths and injuries to residents of the Central Virginia Training Center (CVTC) and Central State Hospital (CSH) that occurred while these residents were in the custody of the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Substance Abuse Services (DMHMRSAS) (now called the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services).  When DMHMRSAS refused to provide the records, VOPA sought a declaration that this refusal violated federal law…

Additionally, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is in conflict with a recent federal case decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Indiana, who noted that states cannot be allowed to shield their state hospitals and institutions from investigation and oversight — especially not the investigation and oversight created by Congress to fund some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

The Virginia decision has effectively rendered VOPA unable to fully exercise its federal authority to protect vulnerable citizens throughout the Commonwealth, even though Congress specifically created P&A systems for protection purposes.  Without access to the records from state-run facilities, VOPA has no way of completing an investigation—and without a complete investigation, VOPA has no way of protecting Virginians with disabilities from abuse and neglect.



June 22, 2010 at 11:33 am 1 comment

Free John (Psychiatric Prisoner)…Action Requested: via Beyond Meds

Sometimes blogs like this give us the opportunity to do much more than offer up snapshots from  our fairly ordinary lives or our opinions on the state of the world around us. Just as with every word we speak out in the real world, we have a multitude of opportunities to say something that matters. When someone’s words offer us a chance to become a part of the solution, those words become an action whether in speech, on paper or in the glow of our screens — and that is why I so often visit and repost from Gianna Kali’s Beyond Meds.

The following is lifted entirely from Beyond Meds. These are Gianna’s words not mine. I say that to give credit, not to separate myself from it as there is nothing in the post that I do not fully endorse. That’s why it’s here.

John Hunt is a trauma survivor with a diagnosis of ‘paranoid schizophrenia’. He has spent over four years locked up in Carraig Mor psychiatric treatment centre in Cork city, Ireland.

He has been over-medicated on an array of psychotropic medications with dangerous adverse effects. He has had tardive dyskinesia, akathasia and has developed incontinence. His physical/ mental/ emotional/ spiritual health has been severely neglected and has deteriorated since being in Carraig Mor.

He has had no access to a rehabilitation team or psychotherapist and no day release in two years. There are no plans to rehabilitate John and return him to the community where he belongs. He is merely maintained and contained. John and his family have no voice in relation to his future. We are afraid that John’s physical health is being damaged considerably. We cannot stand by and watch this happen any longer.

Sign the petition to free John Please take action here.

Facebook cause: The incarceration of John

The blog: The incarceration of John

Check back later for more links. Grainne is being swamped with calls from reporters today, but she will update me with more links when she is able. Please look a the other work Grainne has done for this blog as it’s extremely inspiring and will also shed more light on what is happening to John.

June 21, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Murder is an Act, Not an Illness.

What do you do when you can’t handle the fact that your son, secure in the knowledge that his parents’ money buys impunity, confesses to a couple of murders? Cry mental illness.

From Gather:

Joran Van Der Sloot confessed to murdering two women and his mother cries mental illness and the death of Sloot’s father caused him to do it.

Anita Van Der Sloot wants everyone to know her son had been suffering from mental illness and had he accepted help, he wouldn’t have been in this situation

According to MSNBC, Anita Van Der Sloot stated that:

“Joran is sick in his head, but he wanted no help. He was a sweet boy who loved animals and his grandmother… Funny, open. He has gradually lost its way. It was insidious.”

Whenever someone does something we can’t make sense of or can’t face, we call it mental illness. It disgusts me to no end. Now, with every negative nuance of a personality labeled a symptom, isn’t everyone who does terrible things mentally ill?

This is a guy who got used to the idea that whatever messes he made for himself (and others) someone took care of him. With enough lies and money, he seemed untouchable so he did whatever he wanted. Sometimes what he wanted was to kill young women. It really is that simple. He’s not mentally ill, he just thought he could get away with it. Killing girls is not a symptom, it’s an act and being a horrible example of a human being is not a mental illness.

Sadly, some people will lend credence to this mental illness claim — at least enough to associate perceived mental illness with a compulsion for violence and that’s a hell of an association to make. Ask any good and gentle person with a psychiatric label. They are not hard to find.

Then of course, if not for the lack of psychiatric intervention, “he wouldn’t have been in this situation.” More to the point, what you’re really saying is that if only he had accepted psychiatric help, these girls wouldn’t be dead — right, Mom — because we all know psychiatry is the one thing that keeps sweet boys from killing.

June 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm 3 comments

Kings County and the Death of Esmin Green: Still Outraged

Some time around 6:30 am, two years ago today, Esmin Green was involuntarily admitted to Kings County’s psychiatric ER where she was ignored for 24 hours, the last of which she spent face down on the floor — writhing at first and ultimately dying in the presence of  the staff members whose job it was to care for her.

Think about that as you glance at the clock, going about your day today — how far 6:30 in the morning seems from your lunch, the end of the workday, prime time television. Think about where you’ve spent your day and how it compares to where Esmin was all that time just two years ago.

I’m still outrageed, still disgusted that we live in a society that allows that and — as long as it’s just those mentally ill over there — accepts it. We’ve created a line and carefully keep who and what lies on the other side out of our sight –as if there really is an us and a them. There isn’t. As long as we have a class of people who can be treated by force we have a public that cares little about what happens to them behind closed doors but there is no class and public. There’s just us and what we do to others, we’re doing to one of our own.

The only real rarity in this story is that it was caught on video. If it hadn’t been you would never have known about it. It would just be another death in another psych hospital — with no one to cry foul. KCHC has been operating like this for decades and even now, in their costly new building, under federal monitoring and with new accountability policies in place — the abuses continue.

I’m going to Brooklyn today — to King’s County. I’m going in remembrance of Esmin Green and in protest of an institution beyond reform. I’m going to stand aside others who won’t accept the state of the system and are standing up in the streets, demanding change — and when I glance at the time, I’ll know I’m where I need to be. Will you?

Previous Related Posts:

Esmin Green Demonstration and Vigil (2009)

Kings County Hosital to be Monitored by Federal Judge

Sexual Assault by Kings County Employee

Kings County: A Call to Action

June 18, 2010 at 10:46 am

iTherapy 2.0

Welcome to the future of reductionist psychiatry. You can now be diagnosed, labeled and treated without a doctor ever having to even look you in the eye or hear the stories that make you tick. Just click the boxes for your symptoms, fill out the questionnaire and the complexities of the human psyche can be unraveled as quickly as e-filing your taxes in the last hour of tax day. Never mind the subtle differences that define us or the experiences that got us here.

This is not some luddite rant about the technology takeover, though to some extent there is a worthwhile wariness in that discussion. I’m talking about the power of the DSM, which was never meant to be a stand-alone collection of boxes to check off in diagnosing, now essentially uploaded and online to be used in just that fashion.

From Australia’s The Age:

MENTALLY ill Australians are increasingly being diagnosed and treated online in virtual psychiatric clinics, without ever seeing a doctor.

Patients suffering from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are being assessed by computer and given ”e-prescriptions” for online counselling courses instead of medication or treatment sessions with a psychologist or psychiatrist…

With e-therapy, patients are clinically diagnosed after completing psychiatric reviews by answering online questions

“Assessed by computer”? It makes you wonder what we need all these psychiatrists for? Apparently all we really need are the DSM committee and a handful of tech guys to work out the interface and we’ll be well on our way to solving those pesky problems that keep cropping up and reminding us how hopelessly human we all are.

One positive point is that it presents a shift from medicine and toward some sort of counseling but I see that aspect of it as short lived. It seems likely to follow the trend of “real life” psychiatry and revert to drug based care, printing out its e-prescriptions for the latest in pharmaceuticals. Also, it makes you wonder — if these kinds of treatments are so effective, why do we need a computer to veer away from drugs? I can see computer based communication and the easy transfer of information as useful but only as a supplement to truly involved care from a living, breathing human – not a replacement. I question the quality of online counseling when compared to real counseling. Of course it’s limited to relatively minor difficulties like depression, anxiety and PTSD. They wouldn’t dare try to treat the as yet uncharted depths of serious mental illness — would they?

In Melbourne, David Austin, the co-director of the National eTherapy Centre’s Anxiety Online program, which is run from Swinburne University of Technology, said the service did not attempt to treat people with more serious conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder but there was scope for that in the future.

“Within five to 20 years we will have a proven e-therapy for most of the psychological conditions. Once you do that, you have 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week low-cost access for everyone,” said Professor Austin.

Everyone. Oh good. At least they’re planning ahead. This is where the drugs are likely to come into play as most things perceived as serious mental illness are treated with drugs as a chemical problem in the brain not simply a coping, life handling or perception problem.

Patients log on anonymously to complete modules on cognitive behavioural therapy and breathing and relaxation techniques through videos, podcasts, online forums and interactive questionnaires.

Next month, courses will begin for people with eating disorders and gambling addiction.

I’m convinced computers can be of some benefit in a therapeutic setting whether it’s to impart information, the support found in many forums or supplemental counseling. The biggest problem, though isn’t in the counseling aspect of it but in the assessing. While the move to computer based diagnosis promises to extend mental health care to more people, we need to question the level of care and its potential to do more harm than good. We’re talking about diagnosing people online that we’ve never met. The internet has proven to be an unreliable way to get to know people. Something gets lost in translation between the keyboard at one end and the screen at the other. That’s why some people hide behind them, filtering and crafting their online persona and others with the best and most honest intentions just don’t come across as themselves. Many would argue that the computer isn’t even a good way to determine whether someone is dateable but somehow we think we can ascertain someone’s mental and emotional state and diagnose them which will have a huge and far reaching impact on the course of their lives.

We are all complex individuals to varying degrees. One can no more experience another’s state of mind through a computer’s screen than the fullness of a symphony through its crackling plastic speakers. I can’t imagine letting the care of someone’s mental well being hinge on that poor a translation.

June 13, 2010 at 1:07 pm

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