Mental Health

Rape Survivor Jailed

Lovely:

A bipolar rape survivor was jailed for nearly a month in Houston after she broke down while testifying against her rapist. In jail, she was allegedly abused and mistaken as a sex offender. Now she’s suing the prosecutor who sent her to jail, a jail guard who allegedly hit her, and others.

The 25-year-old woman, known as Jane Doe, was the key witness in the trial of serial rapist Keith Hendricks, who received two life sentences for raping multiple women. In court last December, she broke down during questioning and ran from the courtroom, screaming that she’d never return.

She was hospitalized and then jailed because court officials feared she would not return to finish her testimony. Doe’s mom had been told her daughter would be treated in a mental health facility, but instead she was imprisoned for 28 days at Houston’s Harris County Jail, where she stayed in the general living quarters.

The woman’s lawyer, Sean Buckley, said a jail guard punched her in the face after she hit the guard (assault charges filed against her were later dropped) and that another inmate gave her a black eye. The complaint states an inmate “repeatedly slammed her head into the concrete floor” and she “was forced to drink from a spigot attached to a dirty metal toilet,”according to the Washington Post. Some jail staff mistakenly thought she was an offender from her jail record, which wrongly listed her charges as “Arrested for aggravated sexual assault,” according to local station KPRC’s investigation. After the woman testified against Hendricks again in January, she had to wait three more days in jail before she was released on January 14, in case she was asked to give more testimony.

Prosecutors had petitioned a judge for a “witness bond,” which by Texas state law allows a witness to be held without bail to make sure they arrive in court to testify. But a former Harris County prosecutor, a legal analyst, and other attorneys told local station KPRC they’d never heard of a witness bond being used to hold a rape victim.

Buckley filed the woman’s lawsuit against Harris County, the sheriff, the jail guard who hit her, and the prosecutor who asked her to be jailed. In a statement, District Attorney Devon Anderson supported the prosecutor’s decision, though as Jezebel noted, it seemed to suggest the woman’s family agreed to the witness bond while mistakenly thinking she would receive care in a proper facility. Anderson said:

Because the DA’s Office has been notified that a lawsuit is imminent, we cannot go into details about this case… However, witness bonds are a common tool used by prosecutors and defense attorneys when the lawyer has reason to believe that the witness will be unavailable or make him or herself unavailable for trial. A judge must approve a witness bond. In this case the judge and family agreed with the decision to obtain a witness bond.

KPRC’s legal analyst Brian Wice noted perhaps the most tragic result of this case: “At the end of the day she received less due process, less protection than the rapist did.”

This country, and particularly law enforcement and the courts, needs one long seminar on how to treat people who have suffered traumatic emotional injury, whether they be soldiers or rape victims.

Lady Dynamite: A Review

I have had a girlfriend with bipolar issues, and another who has since developed identity diffusion disorder* (formally known as multiple personality disorder).  I’ve worked with informal counselling of families and friends of people stricken with mental illness.  Because of that, I can attest to the fact that it is no picnic to be in their shoes, or anywhere near their shoes (especially when they are not taking care of themselves).

This is why I am so enamored of Maria Bamford who not only handles her affliction head on, but turns it into a comedy both VERY funny and VERY personal.  Her illness is played for laughs.  It’s not the first to do this (“Orange Is The New Black” does this too), but Bamford goes the extra mile by letting the audience know that her mind, while humorous from a distance, is actually pretty scary too.  And she seems to make the audience understand that mania, while enthralling and objectively empowering, actually is dangerous to the point of being life-threatening.  Watching her, you know that Bamford has worked to maintain her stability, knowing what is good for her and what isn’t, but you also know that it is work (and pills and therapy and….) that never ends.

So here’s a review of the show from Slate:

In a scene toward the end of the first season of Lady Dynamite, the Netflix comedy starring Maria Bamford, Maria shares her concern about her lack of friends with her life coach, Karen (played with perfectly vapid sincerity by Jenny Slate).  At first, Karen answers with well-worn therapy jargon, telling Maria, “The only friendship you need to be concerned with is the one with the gal in the mirror.” Maria presses her, saying, “I’m just worried, because the only two friends I have left who will still be friends with me are Dagmar and Larissa”—to which Karen cheerfully responds, “Yeah, because you’re bipolar and you’re incredibly hard to stay friends with. I mean, people are really just going to fall by the wayside. And that’s life … for you.”

What’s remarkable about this exchange is not Karen’s apparent callousness in the face of her client’s troubles. In fact, by the episode’s end, Maria abandons her goal of “no friend left behind,” realizing that not all friendships are worth the sacrifices required to keep them. What makes this scene, and Lady Dynamite as a whole, so refreshing, is that Karen is exactly right. Maria isn’t an easy person to be friends with. She is thoughtful and eager to please, but her good intentions don’t always make up for her bad decisions.  And her desire to help those around her can’t prevent her brain from turning stress into mania, or stop the destructive behavior mania incites.

Maria’s life coach is just one of the many voices of harsh truth throughout the show’s 12-episode season. Some of these truth-tellers are more tactful than others. In the blue-tinted scenes representing Maria’s time in Duluth, MN, taking part in psychiatric outpatient therapy after a severe manic episode, her parents are shown to be kind and patient, but also matter-of-fact about her illness. When her mom scolds her dad for going out just as Maria arrives home, he replies to them both, “I thought we weren’t going to treat her differently just because her frontal lobe went on the fritz.” Her obnoxious best friend from childhood adds her own insight, musing: “Isn’t that funny, all the fame and fortune of Hollywood can’t save ya, if your brain done broke.”

Many of the tone-deaf comments Maria hears regarding her life with Bipolar Disorder (“Actually, I’m Bipolar II,” she tells her life coach, to which her life coach replies, “Right, which means you’re twice as hard to stay friends with.”) are played for laughs. But the humor is that much sharper for its proximity to truth. One of the major themes of the season, and one of the most sincere and affecting elements of Maria’s character, is her struggle to honestly state her own feelings, especially when they are unpleasant or scary. Whether she’s agreeing to act in ad campaigns of increasing absurdity (the most memorable of the bunch being the Bamford Pepper Stepper Pepper-Bot, a backpack-sized robot that feeds whole bell peppers to the jogger wearing it) or buying a nicer house than she needs to please her childhood friend’s aggressive real estate agent (a convincingly intimidating June Diane Raphael), Maria’s inability to say what she really thinks threatens to destroy not only her career, but also her closest friendships and romantic relationships.

While the desire to avoid conflict clearly isn’t new for a TV character (pick almost any sitcom of the last several decades and you’ll clearly find plenty of storylines set into motion by one character withholding information from another), Maria’s fear of sharing her thoughts is based on more than a simple desire to be liked. The character of Maria, like the real Maria Bamford, has good reason to fear how other people might react to her true thoughts., She perceives the world through a lens that is hers alone. This unique view is what makes her such a great comic, and what has earned her such a respected perch within L.A.’s alternative comedy scene. Her albums and specials are full of jokes that range from absurdly hilarious to disturbingly dark, often told in a number of different voices (outside of stand-up, Bamford’s greatest success has been in doing voice work for commercials and animated programs). She is physically small and outwardly cheerful, which highlights by contrast her frequently grim comedic observations. This apparent contradiction is what makes Maria the character, and Lady Dynamite the series, feel so refreshing amid a wide range of half-hour shows featuring stand-up comedians. And it is also what singles out Lady Dynamite’s depiction of mental illness from every other show on television.

Depictions of mental illness on TV have generally grown increasingly nuanced and considered in recent decades, with prestige dramas from The Sopranos to Homeland, treating mentally ill protagonists with seriousness and respect. In the past year, comedies like You’re the Worst, and Crazy Ex Girlfriend have presented characters who are highly functional, frequently charming, and relatively successful, despite living with ongoing symptoms. But Lady Dynamite goes even further. Instead of treating mental illness as an obstacle for a character to overcome, or a device to explain otherwise nonsensical actions, Lady Dynamite builds it into the very fabric of its world. It mines tragedy for comedy, showing us a character who is herself struggling to find the humor within her own terrible pain. It’s the rare comedy that shows us that the reality of mental illness is that darkness can coexist with creativity and fun and hope.

Like Type 1 Diabetes, Crohn’s Disease, or fibromyalgia, Maria’s mental illness will never go away completely. Even after months of psychiatric care, Maria returns to Los Angeles knowing the risk of a manic episode or a suicidal depression isn’t entirely behind her. She actively tries to do the things she knows will help her stay healthy, but the dark realities have not changed, and neither has her desire to make people like her. (When her mother tells her not to look to others for approval, Maria replies, “But that’s literally what standup is, looking for approval from strangers.”).

The wisest advice Maria receives over the course of the first season comes from another comically blunt therapist. While taking part in an art-therapy group at the Duluth psych ward, Maria tries to stop two other patients who are arguing over the magazine cut-outs for their vision boards. Maria says, “Hey, we’re all here to get along.” Without missing a beat, the group therapist corrects her, saying, “No, Maria, we are not. We are all here to better ourselves and sometimes that means expressing your negative emotions in a constructive way.” Trying to set an example, the therapist goes on to tell her patients that they stress her out so much that she sometimes contemplates taking “all the pills” in her desk. She laughs as she says this, patting another patient on the shoulder.

Maria is generally realistic, but she is also an optimist. She believes that happiness, healthy relationships and basic human kindness are not only worth striving for, but are achievable. Her challenge, and the challenge of Lady Dynamite, is balancing that hope and desire for good with the realities of her suffering. The entire show is an exercise in following the art-therapy teacher’s advice: finding a way to use the fear and pain of mental illness to construct something that ultimately brings joy. Just as in life, the truth can be painful, but it can also be incredibly funny.

* No “You sure can pick ’em” comments please.

Spot-On Review of Maria Bamford

Forget Amy Schumer.  Yes Amy is funny, but she’s becoming a bit of a Johnny One-Note. (Yes, we get it, Amy — you are beautiful even if you’re not a size 4, but how many times do we have to applaud your body and being “brave” about it?).

But for my money, the real edge-y woman of comedy is Mario Bamford.

Which is why I am pleased she is finally getting some credit with her new show:

There’s a great song in the musical “[title of show]” that asserts, “I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing / Than a hundred people’s ninth favorite thing.” For two decades, that’s been Maria Bamford’s brand. She’s played small roles on sitcoms; she was the spokeswoman for Target. But the purest Bamford essence could always be found in her dreamy, destabilizing standup routines, which dealt head on with time spent in mental institutions, struggling with a bipolar II diagnosis and an assortment of crippling O.C.D.-ish compulsions. In her YouTube series “The Maria Bamford Show,” which was set in Duluth, Minnesota, where she’d retreated after a breakdown, Bamford played not only herself but various family members, frenemies, and dates—while crooning to her psychiatrist, “If I keep the ice-cube trays filled, then no one will dieeeeeeeee.” In her self-distributed show, “Special Special Special,” she performed in her living room, with only her parents as an audience.

When I first heard about “Lady Dynamite,” Bamford’s new Netflix series, I felt apprehensive, having been burned, in recent months, by too many floppy, over-extended dramedies produced by streaming neworks, such as “Love” and “Casual.” These shows, like “Lady Dynamite,” often dealt with dysfunctional, single Los Angelenos, often on the fringes of the entertainment world, unable to commit to love. But then I watched the first “Lady Dynamite,” and the second, and the third, and soon the weekend was gone and I had to start watching the show all over again, from scratch. Like “Arrested Development,” whose creator, Mitch Hurwitz, co-produced “Lady Dynamite” with Pam Brady (a longtime collaborator with Matt Stone and Trey Parker), the series is not a dramedy but a true comedy. Despite (or because of) the show’s serious themes, it’s stuffed with jokes, visual and verbal, to the point that it’s like a tottery Jenga game. The pilot leans a bit heavily on the meta-comedy—it features a debate between Bamford and Patton Oswalt about how to structure the series—but after that it becomes a real joyride. In certain ways, “Lady Dynamite” shares ground with the terrific “BoJack Horseman,” another comedy about the difficulty of distinguishing ordinary Hollywood misery from genuine mental illness. But it has a distinct vibe, somehow at once celebratory and melancholic, with a hallucinogenic edge. It performs a small miracle by expanding Bamford’s story just enough to make it feel sitcom-like while still maintaining her voice.

The central plot of “Lady Dynamite” tracks Bamford’s Pilgrim’s Progress toward a balanced life in Hollywood, braiding together three separate timelines, each filmed in a slightly different style. There’s “Past,” a bright-neon era from before her nervous breakdown, when Bamford was doing that high-paying gig for Target (satirized, scathingly, as the union-busting Checkmark) but was also careening through bad friendships and awful relationships, ascending toward full-blown hypomania. There’s the gray-blue “Duluth,” set after Bamford moved back in with her Midwestern parents, having been institutionalized for suicidal depression. And there is “Present,” in which Bamford is medicated, gamely trying to restart her Hollywood career, and dating again, while struggling not to repeat the choices she’s made in the past. Each episode ends with a plaintive strain of Dean Martin, with the resonant lyrics, “I don’t know what I’m doing / More than half of the tiiiime.” As with H.B.O.’s “Enlightened,” “Lady Dynamite” is a show that frequently satirizes New Age and therapy speak but that nonetheless has faith in their bedrock ideals.

None of this complicated blend would work without Bamford’s fascinating, hard-to-describe, explosively brittle performance style. A tiny, tense figure in her forties, Bamford has scared-looking eyes and a pointy nose and straw-like (or, sometimes, crazily permed) blond hair, and she holds her shoulders hunched as if in eternal apology; she’s a bit like a comedic Cindy Sherman, using her unthreatening Hollywood-blonde blankness as a screen to project something that’s far stranger and more out of control. She’s fragile, but her jokes are hard. She’s also a skilled shape-shifter who can perform multiple voices—a sexy rich lady, a shrieking cartoon character—who nonetheless seems trapped in her own spasming physicality. In the tradition of performers like Andy Kaufman and Paul Reubens, she’s constantly wincing and screaming and contorting her face, yet she’s also quite sweet, almost deceptively so. One of the smartest things about “Lady Dynamite” is that it doesn’t rely on a self-pitying portrait of Bamford as a pure victim of those around her. Yes, she is a people-pleaser who gets bullied by false friends and crazy agents. Sure, she gets engaged to a newly divorced stuntman with bad credit. But she is also pathologically passive-aggressive in response to any sign of conflict—during one relationship, she hides in the shower and stuffs a sponge into her mouth so that she can scream after every phony, awful interaction. As the episodes elapse, the show builds a fascinating and nuanced portrait of a woman whose magical gifts aren’t all that inseparable from what makes her a little bit impossible.

Maria simply is a pleasure to watch, simply because of her shape-shifting face.  And while she is upfront and honest about her bipolar disorder (bipolar two, she would stress), she doesn’t beat it over the head with the audience.  It is a thing she has; it is a thing she deals with.  Every day.  And she does it with humor and grace and, uh, stress.

Looking forward to season two.

And if you don’t know Maria and her style of comedy, here’s a 2 minute sample:

A Reminder

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

If you — or someone you know — need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Prevalence of Mental Illness

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—10 million, or 4.2%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.2
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.3
  • 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.4
  • 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.5
  • 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.6
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.7
  • Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.8

Social Stats

  • An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.9
  • Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.10
  • 70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness.11
  • Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year. Among adults with a serious mental illness, 62.9% received mental health services in the past year.8
  • Just over half (50.6%) of children aged 8-15 received mental health services in the previous year.12
  • African Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about one-half the rate of Caucasian Americans in the past year and Asian Americans at about one-third the rate.13
  • Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays—sometimes decades—between the first appearance of symptoms and when people get help.14

Consequences of Lack of Treatment

  • Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.15
  • Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.16
  • Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions.17 Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.18
  • Over one-third (37%) of students with a mental health condition age 14­–21 and older who are served by special education drop out—the highest dropout rate of any disability group.19
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.,20 the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–2421 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.22
  • More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.23
  • Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.24

Citations

  1. Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-mental-illness-ami-among-adults.shtml
  2. Serious Mental Illness (SMI) Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/serious-mental-illness-smi-among-us-adults.shtml
  3. Any Disorder Among Children. (n.d.) Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-disorder-among-children.shtml
  1. Schizophrenia. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/schizophrenia.shtml
  2. Bipolar Disorder Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/bipolar-disorder-among-adults.shtml
  3. Major Depression Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/major-depression-among-adults.shtml
  4. Any Anxiety Disorder Among Adults. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-anxiety-disorder-among-adults.shtml
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings, NSDUH Series H-50, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4927. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2015). Retrieved October 27, 2015 from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FRR1-2014/NSDUH-FRR1-2014.pdf
  6. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Community Planning and Development. (2011). The 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2010HomelessAssessmentReport.pdf
  7. Glaze, L.E. & James, D.J. (2006). Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs Washington, D.C. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/mhppji.pdf
  8. National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. (2007). Blueprint for Change: A Comprehensive Model for the Identification and Treatment of Youth with Mental Health Needs in Contact with the Juvenile Justice System. Delmar, N.Y: Skowyra, K.R. & Cocozza, J.J. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.ncmhjj.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2007_Blueprint-for-Change-Full-Report.pdf
  9. Use of Mental Health Services and Treatment Among Children. (n.d.). Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/use-of-mental-health-services-and-treatment-among-children.shtml
  10. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2010). 2010 National Healthcare Disparities Report. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. Retrieved January 2013, from http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/nhqrdr/nhdr10/index.html.
  11. Kessler, R.C., et al. (2005). Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of 12-Month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbitity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 593–602. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=208671
  12. Insel, T.R. (2008). Assessing the Economic Costs of Serious Mental Illness. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 165(6), 663-665
  13. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, The Department of Health & Human Services. (2009). HCUP Facts and Figures: Statistics on Hospital-based Care in the United States, 2009. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.hcup-us.ahrq.gov/reports/factsandfigures/2009/pdfs/FF_report_2009.pdf
  14. Colton, C.W. & Manderscheid, R.W. (2006). Congruencies in Increased Mortality Rates, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Causes of Death Among Public Mental Health Clients in Eight States. Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice and Policy, 3(2), 1–14. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1563985/
  15. National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Council. (2006). Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness. Alexandria, VA: Parks, J., et al. Retrieved January 16, 2015 from http://www.nasmhpd.org/docs/publications/MDCdocs/Mortality%20and%20Morbidity%20Final%20Report%208.18.08.pdf
  16. U.S. Department of Education. (2014). 35th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2013. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/osep/2013/parts-b-c/35th-idea-arc.pdf
  17. Suicide Facts at a Glance 2015 (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicide-datasheet-a.pdf
  18. Suicide Prevention. (2014, January 9). Retrieved March 24, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pub/youth_suicide.html
  19. U.S.A. Suicide: 2013 Official Final Data. (2015, January 22). Retrieved March 24, 2015, from http://www.suicidology.org/Portals/14/docs/Resources/FactSheets/2013datapgsv2alt.pdf
  20. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1999). Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/NNBBJC.pdf
  21. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Mental Health Services Suicide Prevention Program. (2012). Suicide Data Report, 2012. Kemp, J. & Bossarte, R. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.va.gov/opa/docs/Suicide-Data-Report-2012-final.pdf

– See more at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers#sthash.vnHwqtTp.dpuf

RIP Patty Duke

Another 69 year old dies.

As a teen, she won an Oscar for The Miracle Worker.  Duke became best known in later life as an advocate for mental health issues, after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982

Her last two tweets:

Emotional President Moves On Gun Control

White House insiders have long said that the worst day of Obama’s presidency was the day of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

What should have been a 9/11 moment for the whole nation turned out to be nothing — as in nothing changed.  Congress voted against reasonable laws like universal background checks.

It is clear that Obama, facing his last year as president, is not going to rest on his laurels.  Gun violence has killed 146 people in the United States this year.  And it is only January 5.  The Republican controlled Congress has passed nothing relating to gun control. Today he made a moving, and largely extemporaneous (in parts), speech announcing his intentions.

Here’s what the Obama administration plans to do:

  • The federal government will issue guidance that will narrow who can sell guns without a federal license, based on an evaluation of the circumstances surrounding individual gun sales. The idea is to reduce the number of for-profit dealers — as opposed to collectors or people who only give or sell guns to family members or friends — who avoid background checks, whether they’re at a store, at a gun show, on the internet, or anywhere else.
  • The FBI will hire more than 230 more people to help run background checks — an increase of more than 50 percent to the current staff. Lynch said this was in part needed to keep up with rising demand. “We’re looking to improve the efficiency and response time of the system,” she said.
  • The government will also require background checks for people who try to buy restricted firearms through a legal entity, such as a corporation or trust. People were able to avoid background checks in the past through these entities.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services will finalize a rule regarding health record privacy laws to remove barriers to states providing mental health records to the background check system.
  • The administration will enforce tighter rules for reporting guns that are lost or stolen on their way to the buyer to make it easier for law enforcement to track down missing firearms.
  • Federal agencies will encourage and fund more research into technologies that can make guns safer, largely to reduce the risk of accidents.

In addition to these measures, the administration will continue pushing Congress to pass tighter gun control laws, and to direct more funds to enforcing existing gun laws and to mental health treatment.

This last part is particularly good, because it addresses one aspect of gun control that is rarely discussed — suicides:

The reaction from the right and the NRA is predictable.  What Digby said:

As of this writing the proposal has not been formally announced but it’s reported that he will issue executive orders to close the “private seller” loophole, which would require everyone who sells a gun as a business transaction to submit a background check. (As it is now, only licensed dealers have to do this.) It’s also expected that he’ll issue an order requiring that licensed dealers report lost or stolen guns to the authorities. It’s hard for me to believe that these slight reinterpretations of the law are even controversial but apparently making gun ownership subject to any sort of oversight is tantamount to a coup.

There is little doubt the administration anticipated the furious reaction, so one assumes they are happy to draw attention to the issue. After all, polling shows that the vast majority of Americans — and gun owners — are in favor of such commonsense gun safety regulations. Nonetheless, this will likely end up in court with a number of legal issues at stake and the gun lobby dedicated to filling its coffers on the backs of gun owners who don’t actually need to worry about any of these very mild restrictions.

In today’s White House press conference, President Obama teared up as he spoke about the victims of gun violence, especially the children massacred at Newtown.

Many conservatives took this opportunity to show themselves once again as utterly heartless sociopaths.  Some are suggesting that Obama’s tears are fake.

Not just tears, but FASCIST tears.

The full Obama speech in below the fold.

Disease Of The Week

It’s called dementia with Lewy’s Bodies, and Robin Williams.  So says his widow, citing the cause of his suicide.  It wasn’t depression that caused the suicide, so much as the dementia with Lewy’s Bodies which caused the depressions which caused the suicide.

I have to be honest here: Is attribution to a physical illness merely a way to make a mental illness more palatable?  Given the stigma against mental illness (which includes depression), you have to wonder if the family is trying to revive some honor to Mr. Williams.

Florida Can No Longer Lock Mentally Disabled People And Forget About Them

Fifteen years ago, J.R. — an intellectually disabled man who “functions as a seven-year old.” — was charged with sexual battery, but he was never tried because a court found him incompetent to stand trial. Instead, J.R. was involuntarily committed to a residential mental facility by a court order that contains no end date.

End of story.  You see, under Florida law, the only entity that can order people like J.R. to be released is the court that originally ordered those people to be committed. And those courts have no obligation to conduct periodic reviews of whether institutionalized people.belong in a mental institution.

J.R. for example did not get a hearing since 2005.

I think the gravity of that needs to sink in.  Obviously, there was a competency hearing of some kind, so J.R. received “due process” under the Constitution.  Yet, he is in effect incarcerated indefinitely, even though he was never convicted of a crime.  And that’s a huge constitutional problem.

Fortunately, in a decision handed down by the Eleventh Circuit federal appeals court yesterday, this is no longer permissible.

“A state must release a person who is involuntarily committed if the grounds for his commitment cease to exist,” Judge Beverly Martin explained in her opinion on behalf of a two-judge panel. That constitutional requirement, however, “is toothless if a state does not periodically review whether the grounds for commitment are met.”

Specifically, Judge Martin notes, J.R. was committed under a law that permits the institutionalization of people who lack “‘basic survival and self-care skills to such a degree that close supervision and habilitation in a residential setting is necessary and, if not provided, would result in a real and present threat of substantial harm to the person’s well-being’ or would leave the person ‘likely to physically injure others if allowed to remain at liberty.’” J.R. may very well have presented a danger to others at the time of his confinement, but he has now lived more than a decade in a facility where he could learn coping and socialization skills that may eliminate that danger. He’s also been convicted of no crime.

At the very least, Martin’s opinion establishes, he should not remain confined forever because no one has bothered to look into whether his commitment can still be justified.

It’s some small progress in the law recognizing the rights of the mentally ill.

John Oliver On Mental Health

Mental health is in the news again, but only because of another mass shooting.  Mental health is a problem even without the ease of access to guns.  All the politicians agree that the mental health care system in this country is abysmal, but they rarely do anything about it.  Obamacare, to its credit, was a good first (albeit small) step in treating mental illness in the same way that we treat physical illness, at least as far as insurance is concerned.  But that’s it.

What John Oliver says is worth your time, and he knows he’s only scratching the surface.

The Clinton Gun Plan And The Mental Health Factor Of Gun Control

I was going to write a post about mental health and gun control, but I see that Hillary Clinton just came out with a plan, so I’m going to talk about that as well.  First, the Clinton plan:

Fight for comprehensive background checks.

  • Advocate for comprehensive federal background check legislation.
  • Close the “Charleston Loophole.”
  • Tighten the gun show and Internet sales loophole if Congress won’t.

The first bullet point is meaningless.

The second is concrete and is common-sensical.  The “Charleston loophole” is what made the Charleston shooter able to obtain a gun legally.  He had a federal criminal record, but the background check was not completed in three days.  If that happens, you get the keep the gun.  Which is stupid.  Close the loophole and make it a law that you can’t get the gun until the background check is complete.  (It seems to me this is smart from a homeland security standpoint as well).

The third also is sensical.  Require background checks when the gun is bought on the internet or at gun shows.  Clinton’s wording seems to suggest that this can be done without Congressional approval.  If that is so, I think it would have been done by now.

Hold dealers and manufacturers fully accountable if they endanger Americans.

  • Repeal the gun industry’s unique immunity protection.
  • Revoke the licenses of bad-actor dealers.

The NRA lobbied Congress to pass the so-called “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” a law which prevents victims of gun violence from holding negligent manufacturers and dealers accountable for violence perpetrated with their guns.  It is very odd.  If we can hold cigarette manufacturers responsible, why not gun manufacturers?  This isn’t a second amendment issue either.  It is not a ban.  Having the right to make guns does not mean you are immune from the legal consequences.

Presumably, we all already revoking the licenses of bad-actor dealers.  Clinton says we need to be more vigilant.  Fine.

Keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill.

  • Support legislation to prohibit all domestic abusers from buying and possessing guns.
  • Make straw purchasing a federal crime.
  • Improve existing law prohibiting persons suffering from severe mental illness from purchasing or possessing a gun.
  • Keep military-style weapons off our streets.

More obvious solutions, although somewhat vague in the third bullet point, which is what I wanted to address.

I think we’re talking about a reductionist link between mental health and mass shootings that is too simplistic. Most mentally ill persons are more likely to be victims of crime, not perpetrators. The common post-shooting cry that more resources should go toward dealing with mental illness misses the point. So many factors seem to go into mass shootings—age, alcohol and drug use, social isolation, the availability of guns, whether the shooter knows the victims (usually they do) and mental illness—that the problem needs to be addressed in its totality.

In fact, if I were to guess, I think social isolation and age (and certainly gender) are more relevant factors than mental illness. And I’m not sure what mental illness MEANS in this context.

Mental retardation, sure.  Mental illness which manifests itself with violent tendencies and a history of assaultive behavior, sure.  Those are obvious.  But I don’t think that net is big enough to have captured the Oregon shooter, the Charleston shooter, or the Columbine shooters, to name a few.

So do you cast a wider net?  Do you include people with schizophrenia?  Bipolar disorder?  Other major mental and emotional illnesses, even if they don’t include violence?

Maybe, but sometimes people with those kinds of mental illness can control them with drugs and behavioral therapy.  What do you do, for example, with someone who was diagnosed as schizophrenic in his teens, but is now in his 60s and has gone 5 decades without any incident?

What about depression?  Social anxiety?  These are mental illnesses found in the DSM-V, that are often temporal in nature.  Are you going to deny guns to ANYONE who has EVER been depressed?  What about PTSD which happens to crime victims and one-third of all soldiers who served in combat (try taking guns away from THAT group)?

And how do you find out about peoples’ mental and emotional illnesses anyway?  Will private medical and psychiatric records be made available to the government?

In other words, other than the most obvious examples (people committed to long-term mental hospitals), a “mental illness” approach to reducing gun deaths and suicides is not only impractical, but ineffective.  Violent tendencies (as shown by domestic abuse complaints, and violent crimes) are a better predictor, and our focus should be on that.

In the end, however, Nick Kristof isn’t saying anything new, but he’s saying it correctly:

First, we need to comprehend the scale of the problem: It’s not just occasional mass shootings like the one at an Oregon college on Thursday, but a continuous deluge of gun deaths, an average of 92 every day in America. Since 1970, more Americans have died from guns than died in all U.S. wars going back to the American Revolution.

When I reported a similar figure in the past, gun lobbyists insisted that it couldn’t possibly be true. But the numbers are unarguable: fewer than 1.4 million war deaths since 1775, more than half in the Civil War, versus about 1.45 million gun deathssince 1970 (including suicides, murders and accidents).

If that doesn’t make you flinch, consider this: In America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are in the line of duty (27 in 2013), according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FBI.

More than 60 percent of gun deaths are suicides, and most of the rest are homicides. Gun enthusiasts scoff at including suicides, saying that without guns people would kill themselves by other means. In many cases, though, that’s not true.

In Great Britain, people used to kill themselves by putting their heads in the oven and asphyxiating themselves with coal gas. This accounted for almost half of British suicides in the late 1950s, but Britain then began switching from coal gas to natural gas, which is much less lethal. Sticking one’s head in the oven was no longer a reliable way to kill oneself — and there was surprisingly little substitution of other methods. Suicide rates dropped, and they stayed at a lower level.

The British didn’t ban ovens, but they made them safer. We need to do the same with guns.

When I tweeted about the need to address gun violence after college shooting in the Roseburg, Ore., a man named Bob pushed back. “Check out car accident deaths,” he tweeted sarcastically. “Guess we should ban cars.”

Actually, cars exemplify the public health approach we need to apply to guns. We don’t ban cars, but we do require driver’s licenses, seatbelts, airbags, padded dashboards, safety glass and collapsible steering columns. And we’ve reduced the auto fatality rate by 95 percent.

One problem is that the gun lobby has largely blocked research on making guns safer. Between 1973 and 2012, the National Institutes of Health awarded 89 grants for the study of rabies and 212 for cholera — and only three for firearms injuries.

Daniel Webster, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University, notes that in 1999, the government listed the gun stores that had sold the most weapons later linked to crimes. The gun store at the top of the list was so embarrassed that it voluntarily took measures to reduce its use by criminals — and the rate at which new guns from the store were diverted to crime dropped 77 percent.

But in 2003, Congress barred the government from publishing such information.

Why is Congress enabling pipelines of guns to criminals?

Public health experts cite many ways we could live more safely with guns, and many of them have broad popular support.

A poll this year found that majorities even of gun-owners favor universal background checks; tighter regulation of gun dealers; safe storage requirements in homes; and a 10-year prohibition on possessing guns for anyone convicted of domestic violence, assault or similar offenses.

We should also be investing in “smart gun” technology, such as weapons that fire only with a PIN or fingerprint. We should adopt microstamping that allows a bullet casing to be traced back to a particular gun. We can require liability insurance for guns, as we do for cars.

It’s not clear that these steps would have prevented the Oregon shooting. But Professor Webster argues that smarter gun policies could reduce murder rates by up to 50 percent — and that’s thousands of lives a year. Right now, the passivity of politicians is simply enabling shooters.

The gun lobby argues that the problem isn’t firearms; it’s crazy people. Yes, America’s mental health system is a disgrace. But to me, it seems that we’re all crazy if we as a country can’t take modest steps to reduce the carnage that leaves America resembling a battlefield.

Don’t Call ‘Em Crazy

I really have a problem with the second-day opinion that the Charleston shooter was “mentally ill” or “disturbed”. 99% of the time, the person offering that assessment isn’t at all a qualified doctor, and 100% of the time, he hasn’t examined the shooter. There’s a ridiculous circular logic that the shooter’s actions explain his mental state, and his mental state explains the shooting. “Of course he is mentally ill; he killed those people”, you hear. Oddly, however, that psychiatric diagnosis is rarely applied to, say, the 9/11 hijackers or WWII Nazis or the Boston Marathon bombers or Muslim suicide bombers. Only white people with guns.

There are a couple of problems with calling the shooter “mentally ill” (aside from the fact that it is pure conjecture). One problem is, by calling him crazy, people (politicians and pundits, etc.) can then dismiss the larger, more relevant discussion, whether it be gun laws or racism or whatever. I hear it all the time in every gun control debate — “Well, the (Aurora/Sandy Hook/Charleston) shooter was crazy, and you can’t legislate against crazy.” Can we open ourselves up to the possibility that some people are simply, you know, evil? Again, we seem to have no problem when it comes to Muslim shooters or bombers. We don’t crawl into their head and give them a psychiatric evaluation.

Secondly, I bet there is not a person reading this who has not experienced mental illness. Technically, even temporary depression or anxiety are forms of mental illness. When you hear the phrase “mentally ill” (or any synonym), think “physically ill”. Everybody gets physically ill at some point (often many times) in their lives. And some people have (or develop) chronic physical illnesses. It’s just the same with mental illness. Therefore, having a mental illness, whether chronic or temporary, doesn’t make you Charles Manson or a horrible killer. It doesn’t necessarily foreclose the possibility that you might (also) simply be a horrible person or (I hasten  to add) a wonderful person.  It’s just something you have.

So let’s show some respect for the concept of “mental illness” and not use that as a label to avoid the harder conversations of racism and gun control. It is disrespectful to those who suffer from mental illness, as well as those who suffer from racism or the effects of a gun-crazy society.

The worst culprits of this sin lie on the right side of the political spectrum.  If they are not dismissing the Charleston shooter as “disturbed”, then they are “baffled” by why he might do this.

Again, the right wing just doesn’t want to acknowledge a race problem. So they’ll wear blinders so they can avoid the news reports about what the shooter said:

And just this morning:

(CNN) Dylann Roof admits he did it, two law enforcement officials said — shooting and killing nine people he’d sat with for Bible study at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

But why? To start a race war, Roof told investigators, according to one of the officials.

Aside from calling the shooter “mentally ill”, they have a couple other tactics to avoid discussing the race or gun issue.  Tell me if you’ve heard any of these lately:

(1)  Now is not the time….. we should think of the victims and pray.  (And then move on)

(2)  We should not politicize this horrible event.  Out of respect for the victims, we should think of them (and then move on).  Any attempt to change laws, or prevent this from happening again, will divide the nation and create more trouble like what happened.

(3)  It’s about religious freedom.


But returning to mental health, why the “crazy” argument?  Well, it’s a way to dismiss the issue.  To give yourself authority that you know (or can’t know, because it is baffling) the true root cause of something.  Don’t listen to the Charleston shooter, the right wing says.  He’s nuts!!!

But we should listen to Dylann Roof.  He’s telling us why he did it.

UPDATE – Salon says the same thing as me…. and adds:

We’ve successfully created a world so topsy-turvy that seeking medical help for depression or anxiety is apparently stronger evidence of violent tendencies than going out and purchasing a weapon whose only purpose is committing acts of violence. We’ve got a narrative going where doing the former is something we’re OK with stigmatizing but not the latter. God bless America.

Yup.

RELATED:  Jon Stewart not being funny is amazing:

“What blows my mind is the disparity of response between when we think people that are foreign are going to kill us and us killing ourselves.”

Shooting The Mentally Ill

I’ve written about this before — the propensity of the police to open fire on people they know to be mentally ill.  Like their current problem with minorities, members of law enforcement seem to have a problem with showing restraint when it comes to the mentally ill.

Earlier this week, the US Supreme Court had occasion to address this issue, and sadly, the results were not what mental health advocates were hoping for.

Teresa Sheehan suffered from a mental illness and lived in a San Francisco group home. After Sheehan threatened her social worker when he attempted to perform a welfare check, he became concerned that she was a danger to herself or others and summoned the police for help transporting her to a mental health facility for a 72-hour involuntary commitment. When the police officers arrived, they entered Sheehan’s room without a warrant to take her into custody. Sheehan grabbed a knife and threatened to kill the officers. They were forced to withdraw outside her room and call for backup, but instead of waiting for the backup to arrive, they drew their weapons and forced their way back into her room. When Sheehan again threatened the officers with a knife, they shot her several times.

Sheehan sued the officers and the city for violations of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from warrantless searches and seizures as well as violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, and Sheehan appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that there were triable issues of material fact regarding whether the officers’ second entry into Sheehan’s room was reasonable under the circumstances and whether the officers failed to reasonably accommodate Sheehan’s disability as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The US Supreme Court was asked to determine two things:

(1) Did the officers violate a clearly established right under the Fourth Amendment when they forced entry into Sheehan’s room the second time?

(2) Does the Americans with Disabilities Act require law enforcement officers to provide accommodations to an armed, violent and mentally ill suspect when attempting to take that suspect into custody?

The Supreme Court ruled “no” to the first question and didn’t reach the second one.  The ruling was 6-2, with Scalia and Kagen dissenting on procedural grounds (that is, even though they dissented, they still didn’t agree with the Sheehan’s claim).

My opinion: when you read the facts of the case, you see that the police were in a precarious position.  Obviously, they had to do something, and the longer they waited, the more this woman was a risk to herself and others.  I just have an issue with shooting her.

And the problem isn’t a legal one or a political — the solution lies with proper police training.

As I have written before, police need to adopt what is known as the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) model of dealing with the mentally ill.  It is a 40-hour curriculum — one of the most comprehensive police officer mental health training program in the country. According to Laura Usher, CIT program manager at NAMI headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, there are crisis intervention training programs in 45 states as well as the District of Columbia. (States without programs are Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, and Rhode Island.)

While there are multiple CIT programs within some counties, many states are barely on the map in terms of the number of counties within each state that have programs. Most states only have CIT programs in only one or two counties.

Most law enforcement agencies can’t afford to train everyone.  They’d have to pay someone else overtime, and that can be a big expense.  As a result, many police departments prefer to train only a few specialized officers to deal with crisis issues, rather than making mental health training mandatory.

You can read more about it here.  The Supreme Court opinion is below the fold….

CIA to Carrie Matheson: “Good Riddance”

So, this happened:

That’s an official tweet from the official Central Intelligence Agency to a fictional character — Carrie Mathison of the Showtime series, Homeland.  Next season, Carrie will no longer be working for the CIA.  The CIA tweet references a Sunday New York Times op-ed by Maureen Dowd which declared that Carrie’s “real-life counterparts” were thrilled that Claire Danes’ character would be no longer an agent:

The C.I.A. sisterhood is fed up with the flock of fictional C.I.A. women in movies and on TV who guzzle alcohol as they bed hop and drone drop, acting crazed and emotional, sleeping with terrorists and seducing assets.

Dowd quotes a number of women in the CIA, including Gina Bennett, who has been an analyst in the Counterterrorism Center for 25 years. Characters like Carrie “can leave a very distinct understanding of women at the agency — how we function, how we relate to men, how we engage in national security — that is pretty off.”

The agents’ personal anecdotes are fascinating: they describe briefing Condolezza Rice while in labor (“I’d tell her about the global jihad and then I would turn away and breathe”) and balancing post-9/11 anti-terror operations with parenting a teenager.

Certainly the women mentioned in the Dowd article are entitled to their opinion.  But I think they are missing the larger point.  Sure, Carrie Mathison doesn’t accurately portray a female CIA agent and sure, this portrayal is demeaning or unflattering– but she is not meant to mirror the typical female CIA agent.  Carrie Mathison is bipolar, compulsively sexual, occasionally predatory. She had a brief, horrifying fantasy about drowning her own baby in a bathtub. She should get to be all of these complicated, unlikeable, screwed-up things.  It makes for interesting drama.

The issue is that in a sea of cop shows, FBI shows, CIA shows, etc., there simply aren’t enough female characters, period.  If there were, then Carrie Mathison would be just one eccentric female character in a wide range of strong cop-like female characters.  And then, her eccentricities would not stand out so harshly.  The problem for Carrie, and female characters on television more broadly, isn’t misrepresentation. It’s under-representation.  Carrie Mathison is held accountable in this disproportionate way because she’s standing in for everyone.

Men don’t have this problem. This is why you don’t hear male high school science teachers fuming about how Walter White is a meth-cooking sociopath. This is why male homicide detectives didn’t get themselves into a tizzy over the drunk, dishonest practices of Rust and Marty on True Detective. This is why men who worked in advertising in the 1960s aren’t up in arms about Don Draper’s adulterous, alcoholic ways.  There are enough men in lead roles to counterbalance these “bad eggs”.

To be sure, there are some female characters who are competent and possess real power onscreen. Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope and Empire’s Cookie Lyon come to mind.  And even Carrie Mathison, in spite of her emotional malady.  But most women, even the so-called successful ones, spend an awful lot of time being sexualized, or at least reinforcing the stereotype that their success comes from sex.  The female reporters on House of Cards for example.  (And even Carrie Mathison uses sex in furtherance of her mission).

So, yes.  This is yet another post and yet another plea for better-written and more female characters.  This is the second golden age of television, they say, and this is still a problem.

Today Is World Bipolar Day

wbdAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 450 million people globally with mental illness; of that number, 5 percent are labeled bipolar, which is three times all cases of diabetes and 10 times all the cases of cancer. Bipolar is the sixth leading cause of disability, according to WHO.

“Bipolar Disorder is a mental illness that represents a significant challenge to patients, health care workers, family members and our communities,” according to a press release from World Bipolar Day organizers. “While growing acceptance of bipolar disorder as a medical condition, like diabetes and heart disease, has taken hold in some parts of the world, unfortunately the stigma associated with the illness is a barrier to care and continues to impede early diagnosis and effective treatment.”

So how do we break down barriers and dispel myths and mistruths? Enter World Bipolar Day.

March 30 is the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, the famous painter who cut off his own ear and was posthumously diagnosed with probable bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. Dr. Pichet Udomratn, a member of the Asian Network of Bipolar Disorder (ANBD) who worked with with International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF) and International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD) to create World Bipolar Day, thought March 30 would be a fitting day to bring the world information about a highly stigmatized and feared mental illness.

For more information on World Bipolar Day and how you can get involved, visit the cause’s Facebook page or follow the event on Twitter @WorldBipolarDay.

Don’t Blame Depression

This is in Forbes, so I don’t have to write it:

You saw a depressed person today. Probably dozens or hundreds of them.

They drive cars. They perform surgery.

They fly planes — and safely land them.

Of course, that’s been frequently forgotten since last week’s devastating Germanwings tragedy.

Many pundits quickly blamed the horrific plane crash on depression, noting that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz — who took control of the Germanwings airliner and steadily, deliberately flew it and his 149 fellow passengers into the Alps — was reportedly treated for depression and possessed a supply of antidepressants.

The argument came from know-nothing pundits like Piers Morgan. “Depressed pilots on medication for mental illness should not be flying passenger planes,” he declared. If they’re not pulled from the skies, he added, “it could be any one of us next.”

The supposed link was blared across European newspaper headlines, too.

Even the experts weren’t sure.

“Should a depressed pilot be allowed to fly?” wrote Dr. John Grohol, the founder & CEO of Psych Central.

“I’m not sure someone who has a lot of responsibility should be going into work on days where they’re dealing with this kind of emotional upset or sadness.”

On one count, Grohol’s right: there do need to be some basic protections. (That’s a key reason why the FAA has been incredibly restrictive when letting pilots return from treatment for depression, as Forbes writer David Kroll notes.)

And there is a possible link between depression and violence, at least in some cases.

For example, a recent Oxford University study reviewed 50,000 Swedish citizens diagnosed with depression, concluding that people who were diagnosed with depression tended to commit more violent crimes too.

“Our findings suggest that the odds of violent crime are elevated two to three fold after adjustment for familial, socioeconomic, and individual factors,” the researchers wrote in TheLancet Psychiatry in February.

But blaming a person’s depression for his evil acts is ridiculous.

For instance, the Oxford researchers noted that when accounting for other factors — like a previous history of violence, substance abuse, or psychosis — the elevated rate of violence among depressed was notably smaller. And it’s possible that “depression” was over-diagnosed in these people, too.

Mental health experts further stress: Depressed people may be suicidal, but almost never homicidal. The suicide rate in the United States is roughly double that of the homicide rate.

That’s why one of the most important public health efforts of the past few decades has been the effort to de-stigmatize depression — especially because it’s so widespread. Depression strikes up to 20% of Americans across their lifetimes, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America has found.

For the moment, depression is seen as a debilitating, but not disabling condition. “Depression made me do it” isn’t an acceptable excuse for doing a poor job at work, and can’t get you out of a legal bind.

And it doesn’t explain what happened in the case of Germanwings, as Lubitz horribly plunged a plane of screaming passengers into the Alps, acting with chilling evil.

If you believe the tale told by an alleged ex-girlfriend, the plane crash was chillingly planned for months; Lubitz supposedly wanted the world to know his name.

“I don’t know what that is,” psychiatrist Anne Skomorowsky wrote at Slate, “but it’s not depression.”

Ask one of the 10 million-plus Americans who are seriously depressed at any given time. The bravest among them will admit: Depression is devastating. It makes you self-loathing, and lays you low.

But it doesn’t make you a murderer.

See also: “Would We Be ‘Blaming’ Cancer for the Deaths of Those People Who Perished in the Alps?” at HuffPo

I would add that we shouldn’t blame bipolar disorder either.  That is being bandied about as the culprit because he was prescribed strong SSRIs and anti-psychotic medicine.

Don’t get me wrong… I think it is clear that he suffered from some mental illness.  He may have had bipolar disorder or depression, but these would only explain the suicide, not the 149 homicides.  Some have suggested narcissistic personality disorder, which is characterized by (among other things) indifference toward others and grandiosity (Lubitz reportedly said he wanted to “change the system”).  Perhaps that is true.

But the danger here is linking his illness to the tragedy.  I know people who have struggle with depression.  I know people who have been diagnosed bipolar.  And people who have NPD/borderline.  None of them are likely to become homicidal.  This tragic event, like some school shootings, could become a good teaching moment for mental illness — to explain both the frequency and severity and the wide range of problems it causes (homicide being extremely rare)  But instead, the media focus will merely add to the already-existing stigma of mental illness, causing fewer people to seek treatment, or deny their illness altogether.  And that would add to the tragedy.

War On The Mentally Ill

As if having bipolar disorder isn’t difficult enough, you now risk being a target for overzealous cops.  Last Thursday, a 16 year old girl with a knife was shot by three cops in the lobby of the police station:

When Officers arrived they were confronted by a white female who threatened them. The suspect brandished a weapon, made threatening movements toward the officers and was shot. The suspect was transported to Good Shepherd Medical Center where she were pronounced dead by a Justice of the Peace. The Texas Rangers have been called in to investigate this shooting.

Coignard had been living with her aunt, Heather Robertson, who told ThinkProgress that the girl struggled with depression and bipolar disorder and had previously attempted suicide several times. “I think it was a cry for help,” said Robertson about her niece’s actions. “I think (police officers) could have done something. They are grown men. I think there is something they are not telling us.”

kristiana-coignard2Yes, there is undoubtedly something else they could have done. This was a mentally disturbed teen-age girl with a knife. They could have retreated, called for some help to try to talk her down or even used a taser if they really felt afraid for their lives. But why should they bother? This is easier.

Remember, these cops have very tough jobs. We can’t second guess their actions even when it might seem obvious to anyone with half a brain and the tiniest common sense that there might be other options besides opening fire on a disturbed teenage girl inside a police station.  (Not!)

Look, I get that mentally disturbed people can pose a serious threat to the public.  A 2013 joint report by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association found that while no national data is officially collected on fatal police shootings of the mentally ill, “multiple informal studies and accounts support the conclusion that ‘at least half of the people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems’”

A third of “justifiable homicides”, the study found, could be characterized as “suicide-by-cop”, and many victims were not taking their medications nor under close supervision by mental health agencies.

But again, this was a girl with a knife.

For what its worth, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) strives to increase awareness and understanding of the mentally ill through its partnership with the University of Memphis Crisis Intervention Training Program.

But within the law enforcement population, much is still to be done.

Crisis Intervention Training (CIT)—with a 40-hour curriculum—is the most comprehensive police officer mental health training program in the country. According to Laura Usher, CIT program manager at NAMI headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, there are crisis intervention training programs in 45 states as well as the District of Columbia. (States without programs are Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, and Rhode Island.)

While there are multiple CIT programs within some counties, many states are barely on the map in terms of the number of counties within each state that have programs. Most states only have CIT programs in only one or two counties.

Most law enforcement agencies can’t afford to train everyone.  They’d have to pay someone else overtime, and that can be a big expense.  As a result, many police departments prefer to train only a few specialized officers to deal with crisis issues, rather than making mental health training mandatory.

And that’s how 16 year old girls who need help. end up getting shot by government employees.

UPDATE: The hacking group known as Anonymous, in a video posted on Saturday, cited Coignard’s death as the impetus for a new operation called Stop Lethal Force on Children.

“In 2014, we watched as police killed children and it started a army [sic] of angry Americans,” the group said. “This teen girl’s death just put fuel on that fire.”

A Transgender Suicide

A transgender teenage girl, Leelah Alcorn, died of suicide yesterday by jumping in front of a semi on I-71 near the South Lebanon, Ohio exit.  She left a note on her Tumblr:

leelahalcornIf you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue.

Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in … because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally “boyish” things to try to fit in.

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.

When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep. I formed a sort of a “fuck you” attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted. So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness.

At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a shit about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week.

After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like shit because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a shit which one. The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.

Goodbye,
(Leelah) Josh Alcorn

First of all, way to go parents for trying Christian-based therapy which, apparently, made this kid feel worse about who she is.

Secondly, it could have been better.  She just never stuck around to find out.  You can never say things like “I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say ‘it gets better’ but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.”.  Each one of those statements is false, if only because they predict the future and the future is unknowable.  But a depressed person, of course, they lose sight of that.

But she is right about society being broken, especially when it comes to people who are different.

Giving Tuesday

I remember when it was just Black Friday.  Then came Cyber Monday.  Now they’ve added Giving Tuesday.

Okay.  But that’s all, okay?

Anyway, since Giving Tuesday is a thing now, let me make a pitch.

I got heavily interested and involved in the mental health area when my (now ex-)girlfriend was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder and depression affects more than 21 million Americans, and accounts for 90% of the nation’s suicides every year.

Obviously, people with bipolar disorder bear the brunt of the ill-effects of their condition, but they don’t live in a vacuum.  If you have a family member or significant other with this condition, you already know that YOUR well-being suffers too.  The parents, children, spouses and significant others of “bipolars” often find themselves becoming anxious, clinically depressed and even suicidal when having to deal over the long term with their ill family member or mate.  I wasn’t suicidal, but I  found it unbelievably difficult.  Her emotions were all over the place, and very strong.  What was once “cute” turned into a nightmare.  I never knew what her moods would be and what would trigger her moods.  She tried to kill herself. She was manipulative.  She had delusional events.  She shoplifted.  She lied.  She wasn’t accepting of my friends and worked behind the scenes to create friction betwewn others.  At the end, when she stopped all therapy and medication, she took no responsibility for her behavior.  And God forbid if I had any problems of my own — she wasn’t at all interested in my thoughts or feelings (unless it affected her in some way).  On a mental health counselor’s advice, I had to withdraw for my own sake at times, simply because I was the object of emotional — and sometimes physical — abuse (not that she injured me, but she did hit a few times).  It was a constant struggle, and I ceased to exist because, whether she was happy, sad or angry — it was all about her.

Despite all that, I was trying to make sense of my then-gf’s erratic behavior, and to be in a better position to help her.  So I joined several bipolar support groups.  And now, even though the relationship is far off in my rear view mirror, I am still active in a couple of these groups.  I keep abreast of the current developments in the science of bipolar disorder “cures”, techniques for therapy, and motivational assistance for those who are damaged by a loved one’s bipolar disorder.  The problem with being close to someone who has bipolar disorder is that you don’t know what is going on, and very often, the person with bipolar disorder is too volatile or too much in denial to be objective or explain.  However, although nobody’s bipolar situation is ever the same, there are many similarities between those inflicted with it.  It is rewarding to be able to help people whose significant other or family member is struggling with bipolar disorder… in the way I was helped when I was “green” about the issues

A lot of groups are out there asking for your dollars to help understand and fight the stigma of mental illness.  And certainly I would recommend any of them for your charitable dollars.

But I wanted to put in a plug for DBSA – the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.  The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance is the leading peer-directed national organization focusing on depression and bipolar disorder

DBSA’s peer-based, wellness-oriented, and empowering services and resources are available when people need them, where they need them, and how they need to receive them-online 24/7, in local support groups, in audio and video casts, or in printed materials distributed by DBSA, our chapters, and mental health care facilities across America.

Through more than 700 support groups and nearly 300 chapters, DBSA reaches millions of people each year with in-person and online peer support; current, readily understandable information about depression and bipolar disorder; and empowering tools focused on an integrated approach to wellness.

Even though they are the leading group in this area, they are not very big.  And they could use your help this Giving Tuesday.  More information here.

Suicide – Brave Or Cowardly?

A person from my past had issues.  She was diagnosed with Bipolar I, which they don't diagnose unless you have psychotic episodes, which she claimed to have had.  I never witnessed any (I don't think); in fact, what I witnessed mostly was the depressive side of her bipolarity, which included a suicide attempt or two.

In that depressive state, we would often talk about her situation (sometimes, it seemed like that was all we talked about), and she would occasionally talk matter-of-factly about killing herself, listing the people who would be "better off" if she wasn't alive (including her daughter).  Her rationale made no sense, but… that's the nature of the being bipolar: the perceptions of a bipolar person are usually wrong, even when (especially when) they feel so so right to the bipolar person.  When you are bipolar, you can't trust how you feel.  Which must be very difficult.

One of arguments she liked to make was that committing suicide was a very brave thing to do.  I didn't take a contrary position, although I know what she was responding to — that old chestnut you often hear that people who commit suicide are "cowardly".  They are afraid to face their difficulties, the myth goes, so they do the "cowardly" thing by ending it all.  My ex's point was just the opposite: it takes chutzpah, gonads, bravery to end it all.

i am reminded of those conversations now that question had been raised again in the public conscience, in light of the recent and tragic Robin Williams suicide.  Was Robin Williams cowardly for "checking out"?  

My answer is the same as always.  Of course he wasn't cowardly.  But I wouldn't agree to call him brave.  Not everything that happens falls on that scale.  He was sick.  His depression had control over him.  He couldn't help it.  So the answer is "neither" and the debate itself is silly.

The same goes for the question of whether suicide is "selfish".  Yes, of course suicide is selfish, but not in the perjorative sense that we usually mean when we say "selfish". After all, depression is selfish — is there ever a time when a person is more self-indulgent and self-involved than when he or she is depressed?  So of COURSE a person attempting suicide is selfish — he/she is in pain.  Just as much pain as if shot with a bullet.  

But all you can say is that they were "selfish", then you are missing the larger point.  What MADE them selfish?  It's NOT a character flaw, but more likely (and certainly in the case of Robin Williams), a mental illness known as depression or bipolar disorder or something along those lines.  The selfishness is incidental to the illness.  Calling them selfish, even if it happens to be true, only serves to malign and stigmatize those with a mental disorder.  It's turning a sickness into a callous act of blaming the victim.

Why do that?

RIP Robin Williams

The mental illness of depression claims another.  The irony of someone so gifted in humor could be felled by depression.  This is how I'll remember him:

 

As for the nature of his death, let me borrow the thoughts of another blogger on what suicide isn't

But I felt compelled to write this article because like any mental illness-related accident or death, there by the grace of God go I. And it’s not only in poor taste to deride a man who by all accounts, was going though severe depression at the time of his death, it’s also just plain wrong. Suicide isn’t “giving up” or “giving in.” Suicide is a terrible decision made by someone whose pain is so great that they can no longer hold it, and feel they have no other option in life but to end it. It’s a decision you can’t take back, and a decision that will affect your friends and family forever. It is not taken lightly.

Losing a person to suicide may feel like a waste. And I think it’s fair to react to it that way, especially in the first hard days of grief. For someone looking in, it does seem like a waste—especially in the case of Williams, who was a brilliantly funny man and a talented actor. But imagine, if you will, feeling so desperate, so desolate, so incredibly sad and hurt that you honestly cannot see a way out. The feelings leading to suicide are the darkest a human mind can fathom. It’s like being shut into a dark tunnel with no point of light to guide your way. You can hear voices on the outside, but the walls are too thick to get in. And feeling like it’s closing in, like there’s no way out—well, suicide, for that person, is a blessed release. Life, however, is never wasted. Williams did things in his life that touched people to their core. It is a sad, sad loss, but it is not a waste.

Suicide is not a weak decision. It is a decision that takes an incredible amount of strength to make, actually. Someone isn’t weak if they end their life. They are desperate. There is a difference. It’s okay to feel angry at the person for dying. It’s okay to question, to rail against the forces that caused this. But it isn’t weakness. Mental illness isn’t weakness. It’s a disease, a pervasive, sometimes awful disease. The person doesn’t deserve anger and skepticism forever. They deserve compassion. Their family deserves compassion.

Ending a life is incredibly, incredibly tragic. It represents a lost battle with mental illness. In that, it is no different than cancer, or diabetes, or a heart attack. Where it is different is that suicide is a choice. Whether it is the right or wrong choice for that person is solely the business of that person who commits suicide. But for the family left behind, it is devastating.

Don’t rail against Robin Williams, or anyone else, for committing suicide (if indeed, that is the cause of his death). Instead, reach out. Let people know you’re there for them. Find a crisis line in your area to call if you are feeling desperate and like you want to do something you can’t take back. Support the family and friends left behind in the best way you can. Let the people you love know that you love them and that you are thinking about them. Let them know that they are not alone.

Robin Williams taught me innumerable things about how to reach out to people and bring out the best in them. Through his characters, he taught me to seize the day, to make them laugh, to find everyone’s sense of humour, to be a friend. I will miss his work and his bright light in the world. I am so sorry that he felt like there was no other option. I send my love and my compassion to his family.

A Response To A Bipolar Mind

You write:

  Iambipolar

Okay.  Good questions.  Here are some answers.

Why do these people who love me think I do these things on purpose?  There are people who love you who don't understand your illness, or don't even know you have an illness.  Yes, those people think you are doing it on purpose.  

But then there are people who love you who DO understand your illness.  They understand you are not doing it on purpose.  But it isn't easy to understand.

You certainly look like you do these things on purpose.  You plan.  You talk about it.  You are enthused about it.  It's really difficult for us to believe that you are under the control of your illness.  You want these things, right?  You want them and it has nothing to do with your illness, right?  Tell us. 

But you can't have it both ways.  You are making a choice to spend you life this way, or you are NOT in control and "can't help" what you are doing.

Because it looks like you are in control and know damn well what you are doing, but when it all crashes in on you, you are setting it up so you can blame the illness.

Here's an idea: don't take responsibility after the bad things happen.  Take responsibility now, before they happen, and then stop them from happening.  And if you need help, say something.  But don't write "I do everything to control my illness" if you don't even seek help from those who are willing and able to help.

How can they deny my illness after so many years of watching me battle all the extreme highs and lows?i

I'm not sure who you think is denying your illness these past few months.  If anyone has been, it has been you.

Think hard about this… who has been denying your illness?

Why do they prefer to constantly remind me that I messed up again?  Not sure who is "constantly" reminding you of anything, since you've done a good job of isolating yourself from anyone who even knows you are bipolar, much less understands it.

That said, nobody I know wants to tell you that you "messed up".  They just want to mitigate the damages.  Put quite simply, they want to help you before things get bad for you.  Is that a bad thing?

And you asked for this help.  You said, after making a decision to buy a dog, "Tell me if I'm doing something stupid like that again because of my mania."  That's what they are trying to do.  They are not trying to make you feel bad.  They don't take pleasure in seeing you "mess up" (in fact, just the opposite).  They understand you don't have control.  They are doing for you what you would do for them, if the roles were reversed: they are trying to help you until you get to a place where you don't need it.

Don't they realize I already hate myself for my irrational behavior?

No, they don't.  

Does this surprise you?

It shouldn't.  

Ask yourself this: what have you done to indicate to others that you hate yourself for your irrational behavior?  Name one thing.  Just one.  

I'll make it easier: Forget about hating yourself — what have you said or communicated to anybody to give the impression that you know this is irrational behavior?

They may not understand, I do everything I can to control my illness but sometimes it controls me.

Try this on for size… maybe "they" DO understand.  Maybe that is exactly what they think… that your illness is controlling you.  Why would you want to let go of people like that?  People who actually "get it" AND are trying to help?

This truly is a bipolar mind at work.  People with bipolar often see the people who are helping them as people who are putting them down.  That is why we caregivers are taught not to constantly ask "Are you taking your medication?" and to let the bipolar partner know that you see them as MANY things, only ONE of which is "bi-polar".  Still, it's pretty hard to do and be 100% successful.

BOTTOM LINE:  We are told that there is a lot of shame with being bipolar, and being the one who "messes up".  We are told that helping you out increases that sense of shame, which makes it difficult to help you out.  The people who love you understand all this, but they don't hold it against you.  They don't think you should feel shame.  They know you are trying.  They know it is difficult.  They know you will fail sometimes.  But guess what?  They are trying, too — trying to help.  And helping is difficult.  And they fail at it sometimes too.  Help them to help you by letting them in and by not assuming that they are trying to make you feel shame or remorse or anything worse than you already do — believe me, it's the last thing they want.

First Thoughts On Homeland, Season 3

Showtime's Homeland may have achieved some sort of record for greatest fall from grace for a TV series.  The first season may have been the best-crafted season of any television drama (although Breaking Bad's season four gives it a run for its money).  You had Sergeant Nicholas Brody, a returning war vet and terrorist, and the only person who thought he was dangerous – CIA agent Carrie Matheson — who nobody could believe because of her erratic behavior.  Was he a killer?  Would she get him?  Or sleep with him?  Or both?  The whole season kept you on the edge.

Unfortunately, the producers and writers didn't know what to do with the main characters in Season Two.  Nicolas Brody's ambivalence and hand-wringing didn't make for good television.  In Season One, all the characters were clearly driven and knew what they were doing, even if the audience didn't.  In Season Two, there seemed to be more introspection with all the characters, and the love affair between Carrie and Brody which was doomed to begin with.  So the tension was much less.  Unlike Seasons One, you didn't feel like you were hurtling toward something bad and you couldn't stop.  Not that the entire season was bad — the "Q&A" episode may have been the best of the whole series — but it didn't pull the charactors as tightly as the first season.

Fortunately (without spoiling things too much), Season Two ended with a huge game-changing shocker — well, it was in the penultimate episode — which had the effect of rebooting the series in a way.  What would Homeland do with its clean slate?

The season opener this week bodes well for Season Three (spoiler alert).  Brody did not appear at all.  Presumably, he'll be back at some point, but right not, it's good that the series is sticking with what works — a dysfunctional CIA, and new enemies.  Saul throws Carrie under a bus, and it is painful to watch, but we know that the story always gets interesting when Carrie is isolated.  Plus, as perversely pleasing as it is, she's off her meds (trying holistic treatments), and her bipolar Dad seems to play a bigger role.  We know the series always goes to a new level when Claire Danes is allowed to give us instability, and making us wonder if she's being unstable or really smart (for her part, Carrie thinks that being under lithium may have blinded her to missing key clues that would have uncovered the terrible tragedy that ended Season Two).  Yes, the photos with strings are back out. 

We still hang around Brody's family, and although his daughter Dana remains an interesting character, we're not sure why.  It's a bit unfortunate, because there probably was some more meat there in Season One for Brody's wife… but if Brody takes a back seat this season (and he really needs to), then so does his family.

But the Brodys notwithstanding, the writers seem to know they can't replicate Season One with the same cast of charactors.  What role Brody ultimately plays remains to be seen.  But so far, so good.

Suicide Tweet

Read from the bottom up.  This is the suicide of rapper Freddy E.

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What strikes me as odd is that he would twitter "*puts finger around trigger*", and then continue tweeting.

One wonders what role drugs played.  I sense he was playing around with the idea of killing himself, and probably didn't decide to do it until after his last tweet.  Anyway, it's rather odd.  Sad.

WTF: His passing came only two weeks after the suicide of another young rapper, Capital STEEZ, who also sent farewell messages on Twitter before killing himself. 

Read more: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/news/view/00056961.html#ixzz2HQHNlzzO

The 1,905 Page Suicide Note

This past Saturday at about 10:50 a.m., a 35 year old man named Mitchell Heisman — a resident of Somerville, Massachusetts — walked into Harvard Yard and shot himself.

Heisman who posted a 1,905-page document on suicidenote.info, a website he created, arguing history, politics, religion and death. His mother reportedly told the Crimson to publish his name to let people know of his work “because that’s what he wanted.” She said he worked on his book in Harvard libraries and from his Craigie Street home. She also told the Crimson he seemed happy to be finishing his work.

So peruse his note, complete with bibliography.  It actually contains what appears to be coherent thoughts.  Not sure why suicide was necessary, but then again, I didn't read the whole note.

PTSD

A RAND study just showed that something like 20% of all returning servicemembers from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from depression or PTSD.

That’s an astounding number — almost 300,000 men and women.

But it is just a number.

What is it like?  Read this post from a vet actually suffering from this syndrome.  A sample:

So it’s like that — you’re all alone. But, hey, at least you made it home!

So you go to your barracks room, dump your stuff, then you head to the PX so you can get some civilian clothes to go out on the town.

You shower. You eat. Then, you go out.

And…and…and nothing. You head to the mall, for lack of something better to do, and you see the people milling around — and it’s like nothing ever changed. If you didn’t tell them, they wouldn’t know you’re a soldier, they wouldn’t know we’re at war, and they wouldn’t know that you just got back.

Don’t get me wrong — they’re not ungrateful. They’ll thank you, they’ll congratulate you…and then, they’ll go on their lives and you’ll go on with yours.

Except for this: the whole time you were in Ar Ramadi or Balad or Tuz Khurmatu, your platoon leader and your company commander and various VIPs were telling you that you were the only thing standing between America and the massed hordes of Osama bin Laden. We were fighting them in some godforsaken shithole in Ad Dawr because the other option was kicking their ass in Aurora or Hilliard or Prestonsburg.

Or you were helping the Iraqis win their freedom — fuck it, we’re making their livesbetter — see that kid, over there, Jalal? We hooked his family up…kid had a cleft palate, we helped rebuild his dad’s car garage so he could fix old beaters up. We did some good, we did!

But none of this matters to the folks out at Nordstrom’s or JCPenney’s or Bed, Bath & Beyond. They’re just regular folks, they just want to do their thing.

You turn on the news…nothing. The very thing that was at the center of your life for a whole year…you might see it get 90 seconds in the regular news. And when I say a whole year — I mean it: I lived my life day to day. I was grateful to see the dawn — the end of my tour snuck up on my ass like a thief in the night. There’s really no way to describe the centrality of existence to someone who hasn’t been there.

Given all that…how would you react? How would you feel? What kind of emotions would be roiling inside you?

Some guys get pissed. I’m not talking regular angry — I’m talking pissed, like Incredible Hulk you-wouldn’t-want-to-see-me-when-I’m-angry. I was one of those guys. Hell, I’m still one of those guys, though a lot less now than I was four years ago, when I got back.

You see pictures of me from back then — even my smile looks, really, frighteningly, like a snarl. A look into my eyes reveals a glimpse into a world where death walked in the afternoon, or morning, or really, any time he damn well felt like walking. A glance at the words that I wrote reveals the tension of a man trying maximally to keep the shards of his world from falling apart.

And then…and then, they did. All came undone.

My marriage fell apart. It fell apart as I unleashed the hurricane strength of my anger and indignation upon my wife. My wife, who had had the simple common decency to stand by me while I was gone and try, superhumanly, to care for me once I returned, was no match for the fury that I felt at having had to quietly withstand the dead simple savagery of war in a distant land, only to find that people back home simply didn’t give a good goddamn whether I lived or whether I died.

Read the whole thing…..

Casualties Of War

The other statistic:

More than 100,000 of the 750,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have sought treatment for mental problems from the Department of Veterans Affairs, an official said during a hearing on suicides.

Dr. Ira Katz, the VA’s deputy chief of patient care, told members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee that the department’s suicide hotline has received more than 6,000 calls from veterans or their families since it was established in July.

How To Deal With Autistic And Retarded Kids? Tase Them

I wish I was this was a joke:

Every time [Rob] woke from this dream, it took him a few moments to remember that he was in his own bed, that there weren’t electrodes locked to his skin, that he wasn’t about to be shocked. It was no mystery where this recurring nightmare came from—not A Clockwork Orange or 1984, but the years he spent confined in America’s most controversial "behavior modification" facility.

In 1999, when Rob was 13, his parents sent him to the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, located in Canton, Massachusetts, 20 miles outside Boston. The facility, which calls itself a "special needs school," takes in all kinds of troubled kids—severely autistic, mentally retarded, schizophrenic, bipolar, emotionally disturbed—and attempts to change their behavior with a complex system of rewards and punishments, including painful electric shocks to the torso and limbs. Of the 234 current residents, about half are wired to receive shocks, including some as young as nine or ten.

Read the full expose at Mother Jones.

The Fatalities You Don’t Hear About

DouglasbarberIn my right-hand column, I have a little thingee reporting the current number of U.S. soldiers killed and injured in Iraq to date.  Don’t be fooled by the numbers, people.  The casualty toll is actually higher.  The numbers, for example, don’t take into account people like Specialist Douglas Barber, an Iraqi War veteran who suffered from PTSD. 

Douglas Barber walked on to his front porch Monday, put a gun to his head, and pulled the trigger.  Bradblog tells the story and pays tribute.

The Hidden Cost

A side of the Iraqi War that you rarely read about:

Jesus Bocanegra was an Army infantry scout for units that pursued Saddam Hussein in his hometown of Tikrit. After he returned home to McAllen, Texas, it took him six months to find a job.

He was diagnosed with PTSD and is waiting for the VA to process his disability claim. He goes to the local Vet Center but is unable to relate to the Vietnam-era counselors.

“I had real bad flashbacks. I couldn’t control them,” Bocanegra, 23, says. “I saw the murder of children, women. It was just horrible for anyone to experience.”

Bocanegra recalls calling in Apache helicopter strikes on a house by the Tigris River where he had seen crates of enemy ammunition carried in. When the gunfire ended, there was silence.

But then children’s cries and screams drifted from the destroyed home, he says. “I didn’t know there were kids there,” he says. “Those screams are the most horrible thing you can hear.”

At home in the Rio Grande Valley, on the Mexico border, he says young people have no concept of what he’s experienced. His readjustment has been difficult: His friends threw a homecoming party for him, and he got arrested for drunken driving on the way home.

“The Army is the gateway to get away from poverty here,” Bocanegra says. “You go to the Army and expect to be better off, but the best job you can get (back home) is flipping burgers. … What am I supposed to do now? How are you going to live?”

Read more here.