TRAVIS & ME - OUR JUNE PRISON VISIT by Dede Ranahan

On Sunday, I visited Travis. I didn’t see him in May because our visiting day fell on Mother’s Day which I spent with family. He walked into the visiting area and, at first, I didn’t recognize him. His hair’s been shaved short — for summer — and he’s growing a beard. He looked great. I told him, “I really like your haircut. And your beard.”

We hugged and Travis said, “I finished reading your book.” (His mother, Kathy, sent him a copy.) Then he said the most perfect thing, “I love Pat. I love all his Facebook posts. He’s so funny. And smart. I think he’ll be an influencer for our generation. I copied the list of his favorite books. I’m going to read all of them.”

Travis’s eyes filled with tears as he spoke. My eyes filled with tears as I listened. Travis was clearly moved. “I totally get him,” he said. “I like him so much.” More tears.

I’m getting such heart-felt reactions to Sooner Than Tomorrow. In reviews, in emails, in cards and letters. Many have commented about Pat and his sense of humor. But, hearing about him from Travis, in person, with tears in his eyes, was mind-blowing for me.

I reached for his hand. “Thank you,” I said.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading your book. And then I couldn’t put it down. You’re such a good writer.”

Travis is reading other books, too. He’s taking a college health class during the summer. “It’s really interesting. I’ve read the first three chapters. It’s about physical health, mental health, emotional health — about keeping everything in balance. I’m ready for these college classes. I wasn’t ready for them before I was sent to prison. My self-esteem is much better now. I know I can study and learn.”

Travis was also pumped about a basketball tournament he took part in on Saturday. His team (“We were the ‘crazy’ team. All of us have psych issues.”) beat five other “normal” teams. “We were champions for the day. We never played together before and we just clicked. Sports are important to me. I ran 10 miles (around the prison yard) for the soldiers who died on D-Day. To honor them. I’m in the best shape of my life.”

I asked Travis if there had been any more discussion about transferring him to a prison closer to his family in Southern California. He said, “They’re not going to move me right now. My psychiatrist and my psychologist are going to take me off lithium. It’s affecting my thyroid. Then I won’t be taking any medications. They want to watch me and see how I react. We’re all hoping I can function okay without meds.”

Travis likes his medical team. He thinks they’re competent. He thinks they care about him. “They like me,” he said. “I tell them about my feelings and my emotions. Not every client is open with them and they appreciate that I am.”

“I’m growing,” Travis continued. “I’m making the most out of my time in prison. I’m working out. I’m reading. I’m writing songs for our church service. I’m a better person than I was.”

“Travis, it sounds like you’re focusing on the positive aspects of being here. Do you think other inmates do that?”

“I don’t know. I don’t want to judge anyone else. Probably not everyone does. There are fights and other bad stuff happens. Being here is forcing me to know how to interact with others. It’s not always easy living with my cellie, but I’m learning about relationships. I was kind of a recluse before I came here. I managed a motel in the mountains and I spent a lot of time by myself.”

It feels like our conversations are evolving. Travis asked me questions, too. “How are you doing, Dede?” (good) “How’s your mom?” (good) “How’s The Jazz?” (good) “What books are you reading?” (Mama’s Last Hug by Frans De Waal, I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott, Another Rubber Chicken Dinner by Bev Chinello)

Visiting hours ended. It was time to leave. “Have a good month, Travis. I’ll see you in July.”

I always turn to wave at Travis as I walk away. He’s always waiting. And he waves back.

Travis & me - before his haircut.

Travis & me - before his haircut.

http://www.bit.ly/soonerthantomorrow

A LETTER TO SHARE OR TO COPY AND PASTE by Dede Ranahan

TO ALL 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES:

I often hear discussions about mental health awareness, but don't hear discussions about serious mental illness (SMI). 
With SMI, (schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, OCD), some people do not recover and cannot work or live independently. Some are so sick they don't realize they're sick (anosognosia), don't respond to treatment (if they get it), and end up incarcerated, homeless, missing, suicidal or dead.

The SMI population represents roughly 5% (10million) of the mentally ill in the US. And ten times as many people with SMI are incarcerated as are hospitalized. These individuals don't get the attention they deserve and consistently fall to the bottom of the proverbial heap.

If it "takes a village to raise a child," it takes a country to help a "child" with SMI -- parity in mental health care, IMD exclusion repeal (beds), HIPAA reform, housing, hospitalization instead of incarceration, brain disease research, supported education, and on and on. So far, our country is not stepping up. A serious mental illness system does not exist.

The presidential candidate I'll support will have the courage and insight to raise SMI issues and to create a plan to deal with them on a national scale. 

What is your plan for SMI? (Not mental health. Not drug addiction.) I would like to read about it on your website. Thank you for your prioritization of SMI issues.

If you agree, please share widely. Or copy and paste.

#seriousmentalillness #SMI #schizophrenia #schizoaffectivedisorder#bipolardisorder #depression #OCD #parityinmentalhealthcare #IMDrepeal#HIPAAreform #braindiseaseresearch #treatmentnotincarceration#soonerthantomorrow

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ONE MOM'S LIST OF SMI NEEDS by Stacy Kollias

The “mental health system” isn’t really a system of care. There is no real “system” that exists.

We need funding to be spent on inpatient beds where the SMI (serious mental illness) patient stays until the “right” meds are found and he/she has fully stabilized. Not the treat and street situation we have now.

We need 24/7 intense supportive housing after discharge to keep the SMI on track with meds, shelter, food, and safety.

We need to build our housing infrastructure to accommodate differing levels of care for this population so, as they progress in recovery, they have a home they can afford and remain in.

We need to build outpatient clinics who work closely with the hospitals and residential treatment facilities to continue the same level of care when SMI are outpatients.

We need to change our involuntary civil commitment laws to mandate medication for inpatient and outpatients.

We need to repeal the IMD Exclusion.

We need HIPAA reform.

We need to fund research for schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses.

We need to stop the discrimination of SMI and call it what it is — a brain disease.

We need neurologists and psychiatrists to work together and we need more of them.

We need clinical nurses and competent case workers.

We need so many vital things that aren’t currently in place, or they are failing miserably, and we watch our loved ones living their lives as the walking dead.

I would love to help everyone with a mental illness, but the truth is the chronically symptomatic SMI have been getting the shaft for generations. Since they can’t usually grasp their own best interests and needs — let alone articulate them in a way that will be heard and respected — they’re easily pushed to the back of the line. 

Stacy

Stacy