Some Awarenesses We’d Do Better To Live Without

A local mental health, oops, wrong word. A local “mental illness” system advocacy group, the Mental Health Coalition of North Central Florida, is going to have their own little NAMIfied shindig. They are holding this event for what they call “Mental Illness Awareness Day”. My immediate response on hearing the announcement is found in the following question. Wouldn’t it be better to hold a “Mental Illness Unawareness Day”? When it comes to awareness, “mental illness” awareness is just not the kind of awareness I find particularly helpful. I kind of have this feeling, you know, screwed up enlightenment isn’t really enlightenment.

This group. the MHCNCF, has even given the event a name. It’s called Gainesville Day of Understanding For Mental Illness Recovery. Again, I’ve got an issue with the name. Why the heck would anybody want to recover a “mental illness”? And if this or that person had a “mental illness”, and managed to lose it, would that really be such a bad thing? I suppose some people are really sentimental about their problems, but those problems are probably not such good things to hang onto. They’re not answers anyway. What sort of understanding should anybody have then of this “mental illness” a person has recovered? Now tell me that isn’t a bad choice of words.

Another possibility would be to throw a Mental Health or Mental Wellness Awareness Day shindig, and to talk about understanding the recovery of complete mental well being, but I imagine the thought is beyond the capacity of this little group of mostly scoundrels to comprehend. Where is this little shindig going to be? In a community senior recreation center? Already I’m seeing a few young heads, look both ways, and then walk off in the opposite direction. I don’t know. Yes, yes, old age and feeble minds might go together, but let’s not cut to the hearse chase if we can help from doing so. I don’t want to sound too critical, but a senior recreation center sounds less neutral to me than another location that might be less apt to scare off the few ingenues among them.

This leads me to the agenda for this event. #1. Proclamation of Mental Illness Awareness Week. Yikes! Didn’t I just deal with this subject, and they want a week of it. Again, I would suggest a “Mental Illness” Unawareness Week. It makes more sense to me; I’d think it should make more sense to them, too. #2. Path of Understanding. Path of Understanding “mental illness” recovery I presume. Geez, just think…There are other paths, and some of them are even challenging. #3. Celebrity Walk of Fame. Uh, because celebrities make “mental illness” cool I imagine. #4. Resource Station. Yep, I believe that’s a sign taped over the word “police”. #5. Candle lighting service. I know, this is going to be about people believed to be destroyed by “mental illness”, and not about people believed destroyed by the mental health system. The horses are calm so long as they have their blinders on. #6. Moment of silence. Any longer and the gig would be up. Everybody would know this little event is a farce.

I get it. Really. Take your drugs, and enjoy the farce without ever attaining consciousness that it is a farce. Do so, as well as you can, anyway, despite the “side effects” from the drugs you are on. Consciousness, after all, is what people given diagnostic labels are presumed to be lacking in. If you are dosed sufficiently, then you shouldn’t be able to attain consciousness anyway. Perhaps your understanding will be limited to understanding “mental illness” recovery. The fact that some people really do recover from the upsets of a crisis period, and go on to live full and eventful lives, is not the kind of message these folks want to give. This event isn’t really about living an independent self-reliant and emotionally satisfying life anyway. It’s about holding out that little tin cup, and crying, “Nickels for your pity.” They’re hoping, beyond hope, that maybe the government is listening.

If I was in government, I could do better than support people in their “mental illnesses”. For one thing, I could get further more economically if I were supporting people in their “mental well-nesses”. Treatment can be darned expensive, and a burden on the entire nation. An expanding “mental illness” system, what these people are after, means an even bigger expense and an even bigger burden. Accountability, responsibility, for people who work in mental health services should entail helping people get out of the system entirely rather than encouraging them  to accept the dependency role of what amounts to a ward of the state. The system here has a whole lot of rethinking to do before it gets back on track. All I can do is  chuckle my amusement as I’m certain that that rethinking, in the long run, is inevitable. Let me tell you, it certainly represents an improvement over the current stupidity.

Television Broadcaster ‘Off His Meds’?

NBC newscaster Brian Williams has been making irrational claims about Cleveland multiple kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro. Brian Williams suggested Ariel Castro had a “mental illness”. Could it be that Brian Williams has a “mental illness”? This has got to be “delusional” thinking on his part. Do you think maybe it runs in his family?

The story, as run in the Orlando Sentinel, bears the heading, Brian Williams’ mental illness remark draws fire.

So when she [Candy Crawford, director of the Central Florida Mental Health Association] tuned in her favorite national news anchor Thursday — NBC’s Brian Williams — she was horrified. Opening his newscast with the sentencing hearing of Ariel Castro, who held three Cleveland women captive for a decade, Williams called the kidnapper and rapist “arguably the face of mental illness, a man described as a monster.”

“Mental illness” and monster equals a man possessed. Does this describe you, Brian Williams? We just have no way of calculating how many people have been gunned down by the news, and it is news these days, hardly impartial, that is paid for by big multinational corporations with many hooks in what news is considered newsworthy. This is something for a person to think about the next time he or she takes an advertising break from the evening news broadcast to visit the frig.

As Ms Crawford puts it.

“When people hear these types of comments over and over, especially from someone so influential, it can sway their beliefs,” she says.

NBC did apologize, but executives and staff are probably still wincing over the public reaction.

For its part, NBC issued a quick reply. “Brian immediately realized his poor choice of words, and he updated the broadcast to omit that phrase for later feeds,” said spokeswoman Erika Masonhall. “We sincerely apologize for the unintended offense caused by these remarks.”

Maybe it’s time people pay more attention to how many news shows are sponsored by drug companies. The USA and New Zealand are the only countries on earth that allow direct to consumer advertising for pharmaceutical products. If it’s not “restless leg syndrome”, it’s “erectile dysfunction”, or any number of other ailments, many of them highly questionable in nature. Then there are the happiness pills that are known to be ineffective, and to give more side effects than they give happiness. As it is doctors who do the prescribing, the advertising should be going to doctors. Outlaw direct to consumer advertising, and you will also clean up many slips of the tongues made by newscasters who are presently, consciously or not, complicit in the legal drug trade.

The Language Wars

The language wars are old and have a long history. Take psychiatry, for instance, where “sickness” starts with an insult applied to a human being. The human being thus insulted becomes a patient, and at the same time, is rendered “less” of a human being. Once this insult has been applied, in some cases, the application can lead, in a straightway and thorough-going fashion, directly to the ruination of the patient.  There is, in a concrete sense, no protection from ruination given psychiatric intervention. Psychiatric theory, being negative in general, supports ruination.

A few years back arose what were termed mental patient liberation groups. These mental patient liberation groups were part of a growing movement. It was a mental patients liberation movement that came to be called the psychiatric survivor movement. Eventually, something went haywire. These people who had been justifiably suspicious of the government decided to make a peace pact with the government. They let that government take the reins of their movement. The result goes by many names, but most pointedly, or disappointingly, perhaps, the c/s/x or consumer/survivor/ex-patient movement.

Psychiatry is notorious for its failure to integrate people–damned, divided and conquered by psychiatry–back into society at large. Psychiatry has an expression for its failures. That expression encompasses a set of people psychiatry dubs people, using the currently most political correct expression, with “chronic serious mental illness”. Looked at from another perspective, psychiatry’s failures are actually the secret of its success. People who fail to recover from the mishaps encountered in life keep psychiatrists in business. Once upon a time, psychiatry was a profession made up solely of the superintendents of lunatic asylums in this country. No more. Now there are 48,000 psychiatrists in the USA alone, and they claim that number is way too few to serve the numbers of people who would utilize their services, or disservices, depending on your perspective.

If psychiatrists, and other mental health workers, could be termed the ‘functionaries’ in this field, the patients, or “consumers” as some of them now prefer to be called, could be termed the ‘dysfunctionaries’. Their role in life is primarily to give the mental health worker a purpose through their own lack of a purpose. So-called “chronic mental illness” is defined by psychiatry, with all of its medical pretensions, as ‘dysfunction’. Alright. Now ‘dysfunction’ is a matter of degree, just as jobs can be part time or full time, and so you have a situation developing where ‘dysfunctionaries’ are moonlighting as ‘functionaries’. Because nobody else will hire them, the mental health system has taken the lead in hiring mental patients.

Sometime while you are slogging through a quagmire of gray areas, do you ever feel nostalgic about more basic black and white issues? I mean to say by this that there is a point at which complexity reaches a ridiculous level because the forgotten virtue of simplicity was always more black and white. We are experiencing an epidemic of so-called “mental illness” today and, ironically, mental patients have started working with professionals to escalate this epidemic to even more incredible proportions. I would suggest that if this situation is ever going to change, another role needs to be found for them beyond that of tending to ‘dysfunctionaries’. Just think, taxpayer money is going for the ‘functionaries’ who tend to the ‘dysfunctionaries’, and more and more, both categories are tending towards the synonymously interchangeable. What a savings we would have if we could find a more fruitful position for some of these people, both professional and patient.

Gun Ownership Prohibition Bill Introduced In Florida

Tallahassee, we’ve got a problem, and it’s called HB 1355. According to a Herald-Tribune blog post, Florida rep files bill to bar mentally ill from buying guns, State Representative Barbara Watson D-Tallahasse has just introduced a bill to deprive a segment of the citizenry of their constitutionally guaranteed right to own a firearm. There is now this piece of, legislation is not the word I had in mind, to be debated.

Under HB 1355, a person could be prohibited from purchasing a firearm if the examining physician finds the person imminently dangerous to himself or others and files a special certificate that if the person doesn’t agree to voluntary commitment for treatment, an involuntary commitment petition will be filed.

Alright. If that sounds like gun prohibition for a person who has been involuntarily committed. Think again.

At the time the person is diagnosed as dangerous, the person would receive written notice of the certification and agrees to accept voluntary commitment with a full understanding that he or she will be prohibited from purchasing a firearm or applying for a concealed weapons or firearms license or retaining one.

We’re talking about a plea bargain deal of the sort they offer in Virginia, the state with more National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) entrees than any other state in the union. You don’t get a reward for signing into the hospital voluntarily, instead you lose your gun ownership rights.

Were this bill law then, anybody who went into the  hospital after being Baker Acted, that is, hospitalized after a 3 day hold for evaluation purposes, would then be listed in the NICS database.

If the person refused to sign, he or she would be involuntarily hospitalized, in which case he or she can kiss his or her 2nd amendment rights goodbye anyway.

Not a good bill. This bill would prejudice law enforcement against people on the basis of psychiatric history. It would also send their names to the top of the list of suspects anytime a violent crime occurred in their locality.

Repercussions from the Sandy Hook tragedy slight in Florida

It looks like Florida may not suffer as extensively from the fallout over the Newtown Connecticut massacre as some other states. The Palm Beach Post headline,  State May Shrink Mental Health Spending, doesn’t tell the whole story.

Despite a growth in the state’s anticipated revenue for the first time in six years, Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed 2013-2014 budget does not include any increase for mental health services. Neither Scott nor GOP legislative leaders mentioned the issue as a priority on the opening day of the legislative session Tuesday. And lawmakers appear split on the only two proposals in play — mandatory mental health screening of elementary school students and extending the observation period for patients who are involuntarily committed by law enforcement or health officials.

The problem concerns these two pieces of legislation that I hope our legislators will have the common sense and decency to table or vote down. Busting school children for “mental illness” is what mandatory mental health screening is all about and, frankly, if there’s one thing we don’t need, that is it. Labeling children “mentally ill”, and putting them on powerful pharmaceuticals, is not good for their educations, nor is it good for their futures. Extending the Baker Act would be a completely absurd, unnecessary, and as far as humanity goes, a wasteful thing to do.

Thankfully, given our republican controlled legislature, as bad as things are, these representatives are not in hurry to make them worse. Praised be the tightwad when the spending he isn’t spending on is repressive and draconian legislation.

The issue with spending is that it could, if it were used for something else besides busting people for “mental illness”, reduce mental health spending in the state anyway.

More than half of Florida’s mental health spending goes to hospitalization. Other states, on average, spend less than 30 percent on hospitalization, said Florida Council for Community Mental Health President Bob Sharpe.

Hospitalization is very costly. Keeping people out of the state hospital system through building a statewide community mental health care system is one way to potentially save a lot of money.

As for the Baker Act…

DCF estimates that 35,000 out of 110,770 people held under the Baker Act last year had been Baker Acted before. Sharpe points to at least one man who was Baker Acted 100 times in a single year, meaning he was hospitalized nearly the entire year.

It would seem that one person would have a pretty good case for suing the state, if he had any legal rights to stand on at all, which apparently, as a mental patient, he doesn’t.  On the other hand, when the state can Baker Act one person 100 times in the course of a single year, there is certainly no reason to extend the Baker Act. It seems institutions here have that power already.

Mental Health Policing On Miami Teacher Curricula

Did I say teacher curricula? Actually school workers across the board are being trained to walk the mental health cop beat. As the Miami Herald reports, in a story bearing the heading, Miami teachers get mental illness training…(Really? They train people in that, do they?)

Teachers, cafeteria workers and janitors in Miami-Dade County middle schools and high schools will receive training on how to identify early-warning signs of mental illness.

All you Miami area students out there remember ‘the straight and narrow’ because if you ever forget you’re likely to wind up somewhere near a mental health counseling center, if not in Dante’s Inferno.

The Herald reports the training will be administered by mental health professionals to about 100 school district psychologists and counselors. They, in turn, will train other employees. Possible signs of mental illness can include sleeping through class, bizarre writings and extreme risk-taking.

Students are advised to be wary and take necessary precautions. Take uppers (so called performance enhancing drugs) if you have to do so to get through boring classes. Hire a non-creative writing tutor if you think it will help you get to graduation. Scratch the idea of launching your own Jackass type film production as a video class project.

Beyond this you need to do a little research, and it wouldn’t hurt to get an outline of the teacher police work curricula to better escape detection and diagnosis. A little knowledge would allow you to move more easily under the radar so to speak. Students, that is to say, given teachers with “mental illness” training, need to hone their own mental health skills. If you’ve any question about what mental health skills entail, read a book on any “mental illness” label there is, and exclude from your daily behavioral repertoire those behaviors listed as “symptoms”.

Flamboyance, eccentricity, and non-conformity are to be suppressed until after graduation if possible. Free and critical thinking as well. The idea is to study the idea of dull until you have it down by heart. Breathe dull, think dull, act dull. Got it! Study dull. Dull will win you awards. Dull is the way to go. Dull is blood brother to “normal”. Dull will get you a job with a multinational corporation. Successful people work for high paying multinational corporations.

Florida Agency Reviews Deaths At Private Run State Facility

I found the story in the San Francisco Chronicle, (Department of Children and Families) DCF reviews deaths at GEO-run state hospital.

Three gruesome deaths at the privately run South Florida State Hospital triggered an investigation that revealed concerns that employees were overmedicating patients and failed to call the state abuse hotline after a patient died in a scalding bathtub, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

GEO pulls the strings of Rick Scott, our present governor, being a big time contributor to his election campaigns. If Governor Scott is good to his friends, well, GEO must be considered one of those friends.

GEO runs three other facilities in Florida: the Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia, which treats sex offenders; and mental health facilities in Indiantown and Florida City for patients who aren’t competent to stand trial or have been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

What is this about? 3 deaths within the scope of 2 months, unreported, and in one instance, with accusations of a cover up.

1. Aug. 2011, Lois Espina, head slammed through a wall, or so it is thought.
2. Jun. 2011, Luis Santana, found dead in scalding bath skin sloughing from his body.
3. Jun. 2011, James Bragman, known to be suicidal, breaks from his attendant, and leaps off a roof.

None of the three deaths were reported to the state abuse hotline, which triggers a formal investigation. The new contract will include a fine if the facility doesn’t report all deaths to the hotline, [DCF Secretary David] Wilkins said.

These deaths hardly break the surface when it comes to what’s wrong with Florida’s mental health facilities. Let’s hope these incidents send a strong message to people enduring that mental health system, the mental health system here is oppressive, hierarchical and ultimately harmful. People trapped within that system need empowerment and choice. It’s time to pressure the state government to change it’s policies and practices with regard to people in distress.

Pregnant Woman Neglected At Florida State Hospital

In December, a week or so before Christmas, staff at Florida State Hospital refused to believe a woman when she told them she was going into labor. The headline in The Miami Herald runs, Florida hospital ignores pregnant mental patient’s pleas, and tragedy ensues.

Held against her will at Florida’s largest state mental hospital, and fearing that she was about to give birth, a 34-year-old woman became so frantic in her efforts to get medical care that she called 911, twice. “There’s nobody here that can help me right now, and I’m pregnant,” she said.

She was reported to have pregnancy induced hypertension making any delivery risky in the first place. Her baby was born with brain damage, and he is on life support.

But she was, indeed, in labor. And her son was born hours later with profound brain damage. He remains on a ventilator, perhaps permanently.

A number of hospital employees have been discharged over this incident.

After the baby’s birth, DCF either launched or cooperated with several investigations of the incident, Follick said. DCF’s internal investigation resulted in the discipline of four department employees: Licensed Practical Nurse Kathryn Cottle was placed on administrative leave on May 24 and given notice of intent to dismiss her; caregiver Eddie McMillian was fired on March 13; Rosalee Peckoo, a doctor, was placed on administrative leave on Jan. 16 and returned to her position May 24; caregiver Maryland Clopton resigned on Feb. 1.

The hospital administrator, Diane James, before the incident occurred had announced her intention to resign, and she has done so.

The woman name was not released to the press due to her civil commitment.

Hospital nursing staff thought this woman was not so far along in her pregnancy as she apparently was, and they dismissed her pleas for help as premature and delusive.

Florida’s worst psychiatrists lose Medicaid patients

Florida has done a little to stem the tide of over diagnosing and over drugging that is plaguing that state. I imagine that it goes without saying that the state wouldn’t have done so without pressure from its concerned citizens. ProPublica, the psychiatric malpractice watchdog publication, has a story on this development, Florida Sanctions Top Medicaid Prescribers — But Only After A Shove.

3 Florida psychiatrists are so far known to have been chastised by having their Medicaid contracts suspended for their over prescription habits.

Number 3.

In 2009 alone Dr. Huberto Merayo is credited with prescribing drugs to the tune of $2,000,000. Since 2009 the doctor has earned more than $111,000 giving promotional talks for AstraZenica, Eli Lily, and Pfizer.

In May, Florida summarily ended his contract with Medicaid. But the action, though decisive, followed years of high prescribing by Merayo, according Florida’s own statistics. And he was booted only after public questioning by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who had asked states to investigate such cases.

Number 2.

In the Questionable Legality Department, Dr. Joseph N. Hernandez deserves and earns more than a mere dishonorable mention.

In another example, Florida allowed Dr. Joseph M. Hernandez of Lake City to continue prescribing narcotic pain pills to Medicaid patients for more than a year after he was arrested and charged in 2010 for trafficking in them.

Number 1.

The winner of our bad psychiatrist of the decade award goes out to Dr. Fernando Mendez-Villamil, Florida’s top pusher of neuroleptic drugs. Dr. Mendez-Villamil prescribed $4,700,000 worth of drugs in 2009.

Mendez-Villamil, who was officially terminated “without cause,” sued the state last year to have his Medicaid contract reinstated; the case is pending. His lawyer, Robert Pelier, said Mendez-Villamil was “collateral damage” in Grassley’s campaign.

Dr. Joseph Hermanez’s license to practice medicine was eventually taken away, but as we learn above not until a year after he was busted for drug trafficking, and in the Not Only Department, this suspension didn’t occur until 34 of his Medicaid patients had fatally over dosed. Hermanez was the states top prescriber of the pain killer oxycodone in 2009.

The tally thus far is 3 down, and many more to go, in Florida’s ongoing battle with psychiatric corruption and excess.

Florida Politicians Failing To Protect Children In Foster Care

The story is found in Post On Politics, the heading reads, House won’t make it harder for state to put foster kids on psych drugs. Although Florida Senator Ronda Storms has a bill before the Florida Senate that would make it harder to drug children in Florida’s foster care system, the bill is given little chance of passing.

The Senate Health Regulation Committee unanimously approved Storms’ measure (SB 1808) and sent it on its way to its final committee this afternoon. But the House has yet to hear a similar proposal and, with the 2012 session midpoint approaching, appears unlikely to budge.

As should be apparent, Senator Storm has very good reason to sponsor a bill to protect children in foster care in her state.

Storms’ launched her psychotropic drug crusade after the 2009 death of 7-year-old Gabriel Myers, a Broward County foster child who hanged himself while under the influence of several psychiatric drugs. Storms’ bill includes many of the recommendations given by a Department of Children and Families workgroup in the aftermath of Myers’ death.

When the DCF, the state’s mental health agency, is also behind this bill, the culprit in this aiding and abetting of murder must be politicians and the drug companies that are pulling their strings.

Improved protocol monitoring by the DCF has managed to bring down the amount of psychiatric drug use among foster children by 10 %. The question is how long will this improvement last. Without a legal mandate to insure the protection of children, this kind of monitoring could be suspended at any time.

One of the commenters, Sheila Hollowell, left a comment under this report that speaks directly to the problem of the over drugging of children in foster care.

I am the grandparent given custody of a biological grandchild lost to our family after being kidnapped by her biological father years ago. This foster child had 23 various diagnoses and was on 17 psychotropic drugs. She was also locked away in a psychiatric/therapeutic facility. We fought endlessly with a plethora of workers and finally refused all drugs even though they demanded we do so. Today she is in junior college with no diagnosis of anything wrong with her. Her reading level went from 1st grade to 6 grade within 6 months after quitting the mind stewing drugs. The biggest problems in this kid’s life is what the ridiculous foster system continues to do to her.

Gabriel Myers’ death was not the first death that brought the situation of children in foster care to the attention of Florida’s law makers. Now it looks like we will have to wait for another child to die before they act. This kind of negligence on the part of our law makers is absolutely outrageous. Florida residents are encouraged to call their area representatives today, and to ask them to vote in favor of making it harder to drug children in foster care.