I just posted this comment on the CBS This Morning Facebook page in response to their program today about mental health:

Thank you for beginning this conversation on CBS. I look forward to more of your programs about mental health/mental illness. I've been a mental health advocate for over 25 years. In my on-the-ground experience, our mental illness issues are getting worse, not better.

My son, Patrick, died in a hospital psych ward where I thought he'd be safe. I've written about this in my book, Sooner Than Tomorrow - A Mother's Diary About Mental Illness, Family, and Everyday Life (April 2019) available on Amazon. I didn't know, as I was writing, that I'd captured the last year of my son's life. He was making regular comments on Facebook which I discovered after he died. I added his comments to my own.

"I could write more about the last few weeks of Pat's life, my frustration and anger with our mental illness system (there is none), the drastic need for change -- sooner than tomorrow. I'd make a case for effective, compassionate care for our seriously mentally ill. I'd point out tragedies that could have been prevented and the urgent need for beds and housing. I'd challenge outrageous HIPAA laws that prevent moms and dads like me from giving and receiving lifesaving information. I'd talk about our missing and homeless children and mothers and fathers. I'd tell stories about our sons and daughters in jails and prisons and solitary confinement without treatment and on and on... My writing would turn into a tirade, and that rant is for another time. Not here. Not on sacred ground (from my book)."

With over 80 serious mental Illness (SMI) advocates from across the country, I quarterbacked our Grassroots 2020 5-Part SMI Plan. We've given it to all the presidential candidates. We want to hear them talking about SMI in their campaign appearances and we want to see their plans for addressing this issue on their websites. Not alcohol abuse. Not opioid addiction. Serious Mental Illness.

I post stories from moms and dads and individuals from across the country on my blog A Safe Place to Talk About Mental Illness in Our Families.

You've begun a serious conversation about mental health/illness. I hope you dig deep into all its many facets. Serious mental illness is a humanitarian crisis and our country's shame.

P.S. I agree with Jane Pauley. I don't like the word "stigma." I prefer "discrimination." And one of the points in our 5-part plan, the first one, is to "Reclassify Mental Illness From A Behavioral Condition To What It is, A Neurological Medical Condition." If you'd like a copy of the 5-Part Plan to send to your local, state, and federal representatives, send me an email and I'll send the documents to you.


My friend, Travis Christian, also known as state prisoner BB8099, is in trouble. Big trouble. I visited with him Sunday at Folsom State Prison in Sacramento, California. He’s in isolation not-so-fondly referred to as the hole. Or solitary confinement. He’s been there about two weeks.

Travis is 33. He has serious mental illness — bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder or some other disorder. Who knows? We try to label these illnesses and put people’s brains in neat little boxes. Everyone’s brain is different. Brains don’t fit in neat little boxes.

Travis has served eight years of a ten-year prison sentence. In a psychotic fury he stabbed someone he thought was Satan and ended up incarcerated. Never mind his serious mental illness. Law enforcement says he committed a crime.

While with a prison psych tech, Travis experienced another psychotic episode. He thought the tech was Satan. He punched him. Travis was sent to the hole for months — at first, no radio, no TV, no paper, no pencils, no books, nothing. Travis was allowed four walls and his sick mind.

Earlier this year, I began visiting Travis once a month. The last time I saw him was our best visit. It felt like we were becoming friends who could give and take and talk honestly with each other. Travis looked good — short cut hair, a small beard, bright eyes. He was taking a college health class. He was writing songs and singing them in his prison church. He was counting the dwindling days of his sentence. Only two or so more years. He would move home and work with his mom in her thrift store. He would get a dog. And a girlfriend. He’d be a free man.

A couple months ago, I received a different kind of letter from Travis. He wrote, “I’m doing great. I’m worried about you driving from Lincoln to Folsom to see me. What if you get in a car accident? We’re good, Dede. You don’t have to come visit me anymore.”

I wasn’t sure how to interpret Travis’s letter. Had I offended him? I didn’t know but I wrote back that I would follow his lead. I assured him, “I don’t visit you because I think you need me or because I’m trying to ‘fix’ you. I visit you because I hope to give you a break from your prison routine once a month. And I like talking with you. I like you, Travis.” The next letter from Travis was upbeat again. Lots of positive thoughts and good wishes for me. No mention of more visits.

Last Friday, I received a text message from Travis’s mom, Kathy. “Dede, Travis is in isolation again. Things have been bad. He decided he didn’t need his meds anymore. I begged the prison staff not to take him off his meds. We’ve been down this road before and it always ends badly. The staff said they would monitor him. While they were ‘monitoring’ him, he tried to kill himself by breaking his neck. He was put in a crisis bed for a few days and then released to a new cell with a new cellmate. Something happened. They might be charging him with attempted murder. They say I have to visit Travis to find out what happened. I can't go this weekend. Can you go see him?”

Yesterday, the prison shuttle bus dropped me off at a different building, Block A. I had a 10:30 AM appointment to visit with Travis for an hour and a half. In the visiting area, nine booths lined up with a chair and a phone in front of each prisoner’s box. We would talk to each other over the phone with glass separating us. No hugs. No pats on the back this time. Travis entered the visiting box with his wrists in chains connected to a chain around his waist. He waited for the guard to remove them. He didn’t know I was coming. I tried to smile. I asked, “What happened?”

Travis was on new meds when he was put into the new cell with the new cellie. It takes a while for meds, even if they’re the right meds, to kick in and help organize a disorganized brain. At first, things were okay. But then the cellie said something that set Travis’s mind whirling. He said something about “demons.” Travis said, “I argued with myself for a day. My mind said, ‘Your cellie is Satan.’ I said, ‘No, he’s not Satan.’ My mind said, ‘Yes, he is Satan.’” History repeatng itself.

Travis decided he had to rid his cellie of Satan. He tried to choke him. Three guards fought with Travis to get him to release his hold on his cellie’s neck. They beat him with a club. They broke his shoulder. Travis’s psychosis was strong. It made Travis strong.

Now Travis is in solitary again. An old pattern surfaces — Satan, fear, outbursts, trouble, punishment. Travis doesn’t know how long he’ll be in the hole this time. He doesn’t know what charges he’ll face. The guards brought him a radio a couple days ago. He listens to music. He reads a book. Another prisoner gave him some coffee to brew in his cell. He gets to be outside in the yard — in a 10 X 15 foot cage — for a few hours each week. He’s grateful.

“I’m fine, Dede. I’m fine. I have to learn from this. I have to be an adult and take responsibility for my actions. I used soap to paste photos on my cell wall. I put up photos of myself when I was a little boy. I look at that little boy in the photos. He never thought he’d be in prison. I have to take care of that little boy. I have to take care of me. My mom’s love makes me want to take care of me.”

Travis hasn’t been able to talk to his mom since he got in trouble. He says, “Tell her I love her. Ask her to please send some stamps and envelopes so I can write to her. And some books. I need some uplifting stories to read.”

Kathy and Travis’s sister will visit Travis next weekend. They’ll drive up from Southern California. Kathy says, “I love my son, Dede. I visit him. I put money in the commissary for him so he can buy what he needs. I send him packages. Otherwise, I don’t know how to help him. He’s difficult to treat because he always tries to put on a good face. To seem fine. Prisons like to make money. They make money off my phone calls to Travis. They make money from the visitor vending machines. They make money based on the size of the inmate population. Sometimes, I think they try to keep prisoners locked up to add to their bottom line.”

Shortly before noon I told Travis, “I’ll come visit you again. Like before.”

“Thank you,” he said. “I love you, Dede.”

I waited for the shuttle bus to take me back to the main entrance. I asked a roaming guard, “What percentage of this prison’s inmates do you think have a mental illness?” He said, “A lot. Probably 50 percent.” I told him what had happened to Travis. “Why would they put him back in a cell with another prisoner while they’re still adjusting his meds?” The guard said, “A panel makes the decision about where to house a prisoner. I don’t know if they know what they're doing when it comes to mental illness.”

This guard, probably in his forties, seemed empathetic. He seemed weary. He and I agreed that mental illness is such a huge problem and it impacts so many areas — homelessness, crime, drug and alcohol addiction, suicide — that no one seems to know how to solve it. Appropriate, accessible mental illness care and the decriminalization of mental illness would be a good place to start.

“Don’t stress too much,” the guard said. “Three years ago I had a stroke brought on by stress. Take care of yourself.”

“I try,” I said, “but it’s hard to walk away from all the horrendous suffering going on. I’ve been a mental illness advocate for over twenty-five years. Nothing’s getting better. Everything’s getting worse. This is our country’s shame.”

The shuttle bus arrived. I got on. Travis went back to the hole.



ANNOUNCEMENT by Dede Ranahan

I learned a lot writing and publishing my book, Sooner Than Tomorrow — A Mother's Diary About Mental Illness, Family, and Everyday Life.

My beautiful mother, Evelyn (GG), just passed at 101. Maybe that's why I'm feeling my mortality. Limited time to try to make a difference. Every day, I'm saddened, infuriated, and inspired by the stories I read and receive from the SMI population. I'm honored to count myself among you.

So, my wonderful mom left me a few dollars. I could die and leave them to a "worthy organization" or I could entrust them to a "worthy person" — myself. 🙂

Self-publishing a book is a time-consuming and costly endeavor. (Forget a publisher — I'm an unknown author over 70. Don't get me started on age bias.) But I want to self-publish another book. I already have a lot of the material — your stories from my blog. My blog is now being read in over 85 countries. SMI is a global humanitarian crisis.

I'm going to combine your stories into a collection. I already have the title of the book — Tomorrow Was Yesterday. Of course, if I select your story, I will ask you for your permission to use it. If I don't already have your story on my blog, I welcome your submission.

This is a scary thing I'm doing. Announcing an endeavor before it's begun. But I operate this way. My self-motivating quotient won't let me stop until I've realized what I'm proposing.

There are too few of us advocating. There are too many of us not standing up to the status quo. We're exhausted. We're humiliated. We're often hopeless about ever getting help for SMI. We're afraid to tell our stories.

Well, let's begin. We'll do it together. If you need help writing your story and it fits into the format, I'll help you write it. Let's go! Let's do this! What do you think?

Available on Amazon

Available on Amazon

I'M OKAY. ARE YOU OKAY? by Dede Ranahan

I’ve been away from my blog and your stories for a few weeks now. I’ve been taking a break from some of the heaviness of both as I execute my mom’s last wishes and tie up loose ends for her.

My mom, Evelyn, passed on August 21, 2019, at the age of 101. At first, she wasn’t ready. She kept asking when she could leave the ICU and go back to her room in her assisted living facility. “This is the pits,” she said. “I want to go home.”

Two of my daughters, my brother and sister-in-law, and I took turns staying with her. We’d seen her pull herself out of tight places before. We didn’t know if she would do it again. As the week in the hospital dragged on, it became apparent that this struggle might be the last struggle. On the day before she died, I was alone with her for a while. It was difficult for her to talk but she turned to me and said, “I’m okay. Are you okay?” This caught me off guard. I managed to reply, “I’m okay, too. We’re both okay.” That was our last exchange.

Later my mom asked my brother, “What did I do wrong?” Mom was religious about taking her pills every day at the exact right time. We think she thought she might live forever if she just followed “the rules.” My brother said, “Mom, you didn’t do anything wrong.” Then she asked, “When is the funeral?”

Once Mom understood that her life was coming to an end, she made up her mind — as she always did — to go with the flow. She fell asleep for the last time the next day.

I miss my mom but I have to say that my grief for her is different from my grief for my son. Five years since Pat’s passing, sadness pulses in my veins. It lurks in my bones. I think of him every day. Many times every day. Actually, I grieve for him on two levels. I grieve that he’s gone. I grieve for the life that he didn’t get to have due to his mental illness. I grieved for him when he was here. I grieve for him now that his life is over. Other moms and dads tell me the same thing. Somehow, we lose one person twice. I don’t think this pain will abate. It sears my soul.

Death is a natural part of life. My mom’s death seemed natural. She lived a long, not easy, full life. She was my parent and parents are supposed to die first. My son’s death seemed unnatural. He was too young. He tried so hard. He didn’t want to die. One of the last things he said was “Help get me out of here. I have a car waiting around the back. This hospital is killing people.” Pat was delusional but I wonder if he wasn’t onto something. Even in psychosis, he always had an eerie ability to identify the elephant in the room. The next morning, a doctor at the hospital who’d refused to talk to me about my son, called. He said, “I’m sorry. Your son died fifteen minutes ago.”

My mom’s passing is making me emotional again. Losing a child twice to serious mental illness is so damn hard. I’m in tears as I write but soon I’ll get back to my blog and your stories. Our stories must be told. We must tell our stories over and over. Until someone listens.

Meanwhile, I consider my mom’s last words to me. When it’s my turn to leave this life, I hope I’ll have the generosity to show concern for others. I hope I’ll have the grace to say, “I’m okay. Are you okay?”

Pat and my mom

Pat and my mom


Dear Sooner Than Tomorrow Readers and Writers:

I’m taking a break from my blog for the next 3 or 4 weeks. I must execute my mother’s small estate, attend to a celebration of her life, and reflect on her life and passing. I’ll also be speaking about Sooner Than Tomorrow at the NAMI Kentucky State Conference. I’m leaving you with some of the reviews readers have written on my Amazon book page. Thank you so much for these comments and recommendations. Reviews are among the best tools in a writer’s toolbox to garner more readers. I appreciate them more than you know.

Away from my blog but always thinking of you. You’re the most dedicated and courageous people on the planet. Have a good month.

P.S. If you’d like a copy of Grassroots 2020: A 5-Part Plan to Address Serious Mental Illness (SMI) to send to 2020 presidential candidates, and to local and state influencers, send me your email and I’ll forward the documents to you. You can also read the plan here in the archives on the right hand side: August 6, 2019, “Please Forward to Those in Your Sphere of Influence.”


Image 4-8-19 at 6.30 PM.jpeg


kayababy 5.0 out of 5 stars
Thank you for putting your experiences, into words
For so many of us, who have a child with these issues, our experiences have been similar, and we struggle to put them into words. I must say, this diary has been at times the "oh my God, I know exactly what she means" and a flood of tears, while other times a familiar feeling of smiles and happiness from that same place of recognition; it just helps to read it. I am so happy to have this book. It has a sort of sacredness about its story, especially with all of Pat's inputs, so that we get to hear from him, getting to know who he is as well through this excellent book his mother wrote. Thank you again Dede.

Christy B 5.0 out of 5 stars
Well written — heart felt — easy read — honest chronicle of a life ended too soon.
I don't know if "enjoyed" is the right word — very touched by this book. The writing is superb — the chapters short — easy to put down and pick up again. I was engrossed by the family dynamics — daughter, grandmother, mother, sister. The entries about the grandkids are delicious. Pat comes across as a highly intelligent, musically talented, funny guy. Loved his FB posts. A must read. Highly recommend.

Erin Eisner 5.0 out of 5 stars
So many reasons to read this great book!
I found this book interesting and important in so many ways! The author writes with an amazing sense of humor and compassionate insight about every thing from her 101 year old mom and grand-kids, to the ants invading her home. She brilliantly weaves in her late son’s poetry and Facebook posts, which gives true timely context, and reveals how she interpreted both monumental and mundane events she encountered in the year before her beloved son would unexpectedly and mysteriously pass away. While gut-wrenchingly tragic in the end, it has so many uplifting moments I found myself deeply engaged and inspired to learn more about many things. It made me want to read. It made me want to write. It made me want to live. It made me want to hold my two young babies a little tighter and pray they will be spared from mental illness, and if not that I will have the same patience, love and resolve the author had in doing all she could in a climate that makes nothing in this realm easy. To the author—thank you for sharing with the world your beautiful stories about your family and life in general, and thank you for your fight and efforts to improve mental health conditions and policies in this country, and for giving support to other families going through their own mental health challenges. I hope you have and will continue to write more not only for your own peace, but because your words and stories must continue to be shared and heard. You don’t have to have a close family member with mental illness to benefit and appreciate this book— if you are a human on this planet who can read English I highly recommend you read Sooner Than Tomorrow because it has much in it for everyone to ponder.

Paula Quertermous 5.0 out of 5 stars
Dede Ranahan shares a glimpse families endure while trying to get mental health help in time
This book has moved me deeply. Dede Ranahan captures the slippery chasm family members with serious mental illness try to navigate to have some quality of life — and in spite of lack of enough good services. Dede, your writing mesmerized me!! I can relate so much as the mother of an adult daughter with SMI. Every day can contain an element giving you a surge of motherly hope — or a crushing incident that spikes to fear for your child. The exhaustion from living in long term doubt requires support. This book is a gem of information!

L. Turley 5.0 out of 5 stars
I highly recommend this book.
I read books these days in short spurts, often just a few pages at a time, especially when the material hits me in a way that I need to stop and process before continuing. This book is like that for me. It is both a daily journal of everyday events and yet, within those events there is a deep, insightful look at a life that is shared with us for a purpose. I had been waiting until I finished this book to write a review, but it may take me awhile to finish, as I sit and savor these snapshots glimpses into the lives of the individuals within. Dede shares her life and her innermost thoughts in a down-to-earth way as she allows us to walk with her through the journey of her son's mental illness, and reminds us that we are not alone, but we walk together. For those who share this journey and share her prayer for change to come "Sooner Than Tomorrow” and for those who are fortunate enough not to share the journey, but who wish to understand, I highly recommend this book.


My 101 year-old mother, Evelyn or GG, is in the hospital and that’s where I’ve been every day for a week. My family and I don’t want her to be alone when she passes. She doesn’t want to go :-( She’s always been a fighter (stubborn might be another word :-) We don’t want her to leave, either, but her quality of life is deteriorating quickly. Please hold good thoughts for her.

My mother, Evelyn, and me 1945. I love you, Mom. It’s okay to go. Pat’s waiting for you. He wants to give you a hug.

My mother, Evelyn, and me 1945. I love you, Mom. It’s okay to go. Pat’s waiting for you. He wants to give you a hug.


San Diego Union Tribune 8/7/19

Coalition seeks support for new laws and policies from presidential candidates

By Gary Warth


A grassroots coalition of nationwide and local mental health advocates is asking all presidential candidates to support reforms in laws and policies that they say will make it easier for people to get treatment and for families to help their troubled loved one.

“The first thing you need to do is educate the candidates, because most people don’t understand serious mental illness,” said Poway resident Linda Mimms, a National Alliance on Mental Illness-trained advocate who helped craft a five-point platform that is being presented to candidates.

Mimms has called for reforms to mental illness laws for the past several years, arguing that parents of adults with mental problems should have more rights and courts should have more flexibility to mandate treatment.

Among the proposals in the platform are a call to create a cabinet position exclusively focused on serious mental illness and changes to laws that would ensure mental health professionals are permitted to share and receive diagnostic information with and from parents or caregivers.

Laws about mental illnesses became part of a national discussion this past week after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. Mimms said she was encouraged when President Trump called for reforming mental health laws to better identify and even involuntarily confine people who may commit violent acts while also ensuring more patients receive early treatment.

She cringed, however, when he referred to “mentally ill monsters,” and noted that a small percent of mass shooters had been diagnosed with mental problems.

There are connections, however. A Wall Street Journal editorial this week cited studies between 2000 and 2015 that suggest a third of mass killers had untreated severe mental illness, while an FBI study found 40 percent had received a psychiatric diagnosis, and 70 percent had other mental health issues.

The platform was drafted after a monthlong online discussion among about 70 people who were not associated with any one group and were from 30 states. Mimms, who has a degree in public policy, wrote the final version that was adopted by organizer Dede Ranahan, author of “Sooner Than Tomorrow — A Mother’s Diary About Mental Illness, Family, and Everyday Life.”

Other local advocates who worked on the platform were Katherine Smith-Brooks and Bob Brooks of Carlsbad and Mary Sheldon of Poway.

The platform’s first topic calls for reclassifying serious mental illness from a behavioral condition to a neurological medical condition, which will unlock more research funding and help in insurance reimbursement, according to the advocates. It also calls for a cabinet position on serious mental illness and the inclusion of schizophrenia in a Centers for Disease Control program that collects data on risk factors of neurological conditions.

The second topic calls for reforming the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which the platform writers said creates barriers that shut out parents and caregivers from the treatment of family members.

The third calls for the repeal of a rule that prohibits Medicaid payments to facilities with more than 16 hospital psychiatric beds for people ages 21-65, which the advocates argue has created a national shortage of treatment options.

The fourth platform topic calls for long-term care of people with severe mental illness, including early detection and follow-up treatments after release. The platform calls for federal incentives to states that address a full array of services and supportive housing care.

The final topic is about decriminalizing serious mental illness and includes reforms that can lead to more involuntary treatment, which Mimms said was her personal top priority.

“Serious mental illness is the only disease where the doors to treatment are shut unless a crime is committed,” the platforms reads. Specifically, it calls for redefining criteria for involuntary commitment with terms that are objective and based on scientific, medical needs.

A letter that will be sent to all candidates asks each to address the topics in their campaign appearances and debates, Mimms said.

Click here to read the article in the San Diego Union Tribune 8/7/19 about our 5 part plan for SMI.

NOTE FROM DEDE: If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a country to help a child with SMI. This coalition is from across our country. Let's keep the momentum going. As Linda has done, contact your local media outlets and send them our plan. Unfortunately, our effort is manifesting in a time of wrenching, national grief. Fortunately, our plan is ready to go. If you'd like a copy of the plan, the cover letter, and an addendum of additional ideas, post your email address in the comments section below, or send it to me at Then forward the documents to people in your sphere of influence. Thanks to everyone participating.

Yamileth Lopez holds a photo of her deceased friend Javier Amir Rodriguez at a makeshift memorial for victims in El Paso, Texas. (Mario Tama Getty Images)

Yamileth Lopez holds a photo of her deceased friend Javier Amir Rodriguez at a makeshift memorial for victims in El Paso, Texas. (Mario Tama Getty Images)


I believe that serious mental illness (SMI) should not be a footnote to other issues, i.e., gun violence, and that it needs to be recognized and addressed as its own issue. I'm reposting the 5 part plan developed by grassroots advocates from across the country. It's not comprehensive but it's a beginning.

Before SMI becomes the victim — responsible for gun violence — and before politicians use it more and more as a scapegoat, please join us. Send copies of this plan to local, state and federal representatives. They need to be educated. They need to step up and help 10 million SMI individuals and families who fight every day for life and death services.

Post your email in the comments section below, or send it to me at I'll send you the cover letter, plan, and additional ideas so you can forward them to those within your sphere of influence.




Reclassification will unlock more research funding and help eliminate discrimination in treatment, insurance
reimbursement, and the perception of SMI as “behavioral” condition. SMI is a human rights issue. NIMH ranks
SMI among the top 15 causes of disability worldwide with an average lifespan reduction of 28 years.
* Create a cabinet position exclusively focused on SMI.
* Push for Congressional appropriations to include schizophrenia in a CDC program that collects data on the
prevalence and risk factors of neurological conditions in the US population.

Overly strict HIPAA laws make it extremely difficult for families and caregivers to partner in the treatment of their loved ones, resulting in important life-saving medical information gaps. By eliminating this barrier, family support will be strengthened, reducing the chance of relapse, homelessness, imprisonment, and death.
* Work with legislators to change HIPAA law to ensure mental health professionals are legally permitted to share and receive critical diagnostic criteria and treatment information with/from parents or caregivers of SMI.

IMD repeal will increase the availability of psychiatric inpatient beds. The IMD exclusion is not only discriminatory of those suffering from neurological brain disorders, it is also a leading cause of our national psychiatric hospital bed shortage. It prohibits Medicaid payments to states for those receiving psychiatric care in a facility with more than 16 beds who are 21-65, the age group with the most SMI.
* Work with legislators to repeal the IMD exclusion.

A continuum of care ensures that SMI patients receive early intervention at all stages of their illnesses, longterm care when needed, and follow-up treatment (medications and therapies) when they’re released. It reduces visits to jails, ER’s and hospitals, homelessness, and morgues. A continuum of care provides life-time management.
* Create federal incentives to states which are addressing a full array of inpatient, outpatient, and supportive
housing care.

People suffering from other neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia can get treatment promptly without being kicked out of their homes to wander the streets until they are arrested and put in jail or prison rather than a hospital. Serious mental illness is the only disease where the doors to treatment are shut unless a crime is committed. This is pure and simple discrimination with the disastrous results we see in our country today — homelessness, incarceration, the disintegration of families, and death.
* Work with legislators to change “must be a danger to self or others” criteria.
* Work with legislators to change involuntary commitment criteria, alleviating the subjective nature of “gravely
disabled” and redefining it in objective terms based on scientific medical need for treatment. Psychosis, like a stroke, is a traumatic brain injury and needs immediate treatment for the best outcome.


This is the grass-roots effort of serious mental illness advocates from across the country. If you’d like to join us and send these materials — letter, Five-Part Plan, and an attachment of SMI needs to your political representatives and others in your spheres of influence, send me an email and I’ll email these materials back to you. Thanks so much for your help. Dede

TO: All  2020 Presidential Candidates
SUBJECT: Serious Mental Illness (SMI)

So far, 2020 political candidates make rare mention of serious mental illness (SMI — schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder, OCD, bipolar disorder, and major depression), and the lack of mental illness care in the US.

* The SMI population represents 4-5% (10 million) of the mentally ill in the US. That’s 10 million families and extended families (voters).
* Ten times as many people with SMI are incarcerated as are hospitalized.
* Some SMI individuals 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.
*It will cost billions to create a viable mental illness system. It’s costing billions, now, in prison over-population, homelessness and cities under siege, lost workdays, family disintegration, suicides, untimely deaths, inundated ER’s and hospitals, violence caused by untreated SMI, overwhelmed police, and in uninformed and misinformed criminal justice systems.

The Five-Part Plan enclosed is the collaborative work of grass-roots advocates from across the country —individuals, professionals, writers, journalists, caregivers, and mothers (always the mothers). Our intent is to put this plan in front of every 2020 presidential candidate. Right now, no candidate is talking about SMI. It’s as if it didn’t exist.

The steps in our plan are baby steps. We can’t immediately address everything that needs to be addressed in our messed up mental illness system, but we have to start somewhere. We’re trying to help 2020 candidates — we know you have a lot on your plates and we appreciate your energy and efforts to make our country better. We’ve created this Five-Part Plan to give you a starting point and a way to introduce SMI into political discourse and public conversation.

We’re asking you to take four initial actions:
1. Please read our plan and make it your own.
2. Put your SMI plan on your campaign website.
3. Talk about SMI on the campaign trail and in campaign debates.
4. Talk with members of the SMI community. We’re willing and able to help you as you move forward.

The SMI community is searching for its 2020 presidential candidate. We’re a large, passionate, motivated, frustrated, hurting, and determined block of voters. We look forward to hearing from you.

Marie Abbott — Waterford, Michigan,
My grandson has autism, bipolar disorder, and development delays. Has his civil 
rights intact.

Jane Anderson — Illinois
My 38 year-old son has paranoid schizophrenia. He was diagnosed at 18. My husband and I are 

Tim Ash — Arcata, California
Caretaker of a volatile, unstable SMI family member because there are no options besides jail and the bushes or doorways.

David Bain — Sacramento, California
I’m living with chronic depression and epilepsy and working to divert SMI from prison into treatment.

Marti Rhoden Bessler — Alexandria, Kentucky
My son’s been suffering from schizoaffective disorder for 19 years within our failed mental health system.

Alisa Bernard — Jupiter, Florida
I have children with SMI.

Judy Bracken — San Ramon California
My  30-year-old son has schizoaffective disorder.

Katherine Smith-Brooks and Bob Brooks — Carlsbad, California
Our SMI son is now stable and working following effective treatment and the same psychiatrist for 20 years. We were his only advocates for many years.

Regina Gipson Burns — Hoover, Alabama

Leslie and Scott J. Carpenter — Iowa City, Iowa
Our son’s been suffering from under-treated schizoaffective disorder for 12 years. He lives in a group home with too few services. He’s been hospitalized 20 times.

Sue Chantry — Vacaville, California
I’ve lived here for many years and watched Mark Rippee, SMI and blind, on the streets of Vacaville with no mental health services.

Barb Cobb — Iowa
My SMI daughter’s been under-treated and under-supported by the current system. She’s endured over 20 hospitalizations and is barely surviving.

Christine Cushing — Vacaville, California
There are no resources or places to live for those who suffer from SMI. For a country that’s so progressed, we’re so far behind taking care of those with SMI.

Lori Daubenspeck — St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
My SMI son is a US Army vet. There’s no SMI facility here and one psychiatrist for the island. We’re in desperate need of facilities, doctors, and federal action.

Kathy Day — Folsom, California
My godson’s been discharged from hospitals many times while considered to be gravely disabled. Laws need to be based on need for treatment rather than time.

Katherine Flannery Dering — Bedford, New York
My brother, Paul, suffered with schizophrenia for 32 years of dwindling care. He died at age 48.

Lois Earley — Phoenix, Arizona
I’m the mother and legal guardian of an adult SMI daughter. I've been battling the behavioral health care system in Arizona since 2004. 

Darla Eaves — Everett, Washington
My husband committed suicide.  My son died in our psychiatric hospital. My daughter, thank God, is here with me and stays on her medication.

Donna Erickson — Abington, Massachusetts
My 34-year-old son has bipolar disorder. He’s been hospitalized 25+ times and cheated out of the life he wanted through no fault of his own.

Sonia Fletcher —- Mount Shasta, California
My daughter’s SMI was untreated when she shot and killed her father in a psychotic break. Our family is heartbroken and literally broken apart.

Anne and Tim Francisco — Orange County, California
Our SMI son was sentenced to prison for a nonviolent offense while he was in a state hospital. He ended his life by suicide while in solitary confinement.

Lynne Gibb — Ojai, California
My daughter’s suffered with schizo-affective disorder for 20 years. She’s been missing, homeless, and hospitalized, but never out of her family’s hearts and thoughts.

Elaine D. Gilliam — Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
My eldest son has paranoid schizophrenia. My eldest daughter committed suicide. Two children are wonderful retired military families.

Jeanne Gore — Shapleigh, Maine
Family member, Coordinator, National Shattering Silence Coalition

Pat Guinn — Lincoln, California
I have an adopted son with SMI.

Catherine (CJ) Hanson
Linda (Rippee) and Joseph Privatte
Lou Rippee — Vacaville, California
SMI blind son, brother, and brother-in-law. No mental health services for 3 decades. Solano County refuses to conserve.
Betty Plowman — I was a neighbor who observed this tragedy for 32 years and tried to help when no one else would.
Chris Plowman — I’ve watched this man waste away on the streets for 30 years untreated. Some people need our help and tax dollars; not be abandoned to rot.
Pam Wilcoxson — Mark’s family’s been fighting for help for him for many years and still have not gotten anywhere. 

Mark and Laura Harreld — Strawberry Point, Iowa
Our SMI son was caught in the criminal justice system for non-violent crimes. He ended his life, to avoid another prison sentence, while in a hospital under armed guard.

Dianne Harris — Grove City, Ohio
My son died of a co-occuring vascular condition before a treatment was found for his negative symptoms of schizoaffective disorder. More research is needed desperately.

Janet Hays — New Orleans, Louisiana
I created Healing Minds NOLA to bring residents, families and stakeholders together to explore alternatives to incarceration, homelessness and death for those suffering with SMI.

Amy Kerr and Paul Cox —- Pasadena, Maryland
We’re caretakers for a 23-year-old son who has schizophrenia and a friend with major depression and end stage renal failure. 

Jeannie Kneisly-Manley —  Elizabeth City, North Carolina
My son has schizophrenia. He has a criminal charge and no court date to get him in the hospital. If I hadn’t bailed him out, he’d still be in  jail waiting.

Stacy Kollias — Henderson, Nevada
I’m the mother/caregiver of a 30-year-old son suffering from schizoaffective disorder.

Dianne Lam — Oakland, California
My son has a dual diagnosis and schizoaffective disorder.

Carole McAfee — Salem, Oregon
My son is living with schizophrenia.

Sherri McGimsey — Morganton, North Carolina
My son is a Marine Veteran with schizoaffective disorder.

Gerri Mele — Cleveland, Ohio

Linda L. Mimms, MA, — Poway, California
The inability to get our ill family member prompt treatment has led to a worsened condition and uncertain prognosis which was totally avoidable.

Alison Monroe — Oakland, California
My 24-year-old daughter is a meth user who has schizophrenia. I’ve tried everything to keep her alive and off the street, with some success.

Nancy Moody — Cambridge, Ohio
My son has schizoaffective disorder.  He’s suffering from withdrawal, seizures, tremors, cognitive impairment, and hallucinations. No one wants to help him.

Mary Murphy  — Springfield, Oregon
My son has schizoaffective and bipolar illness.

Lyn Nanos, LICSW — Natick, Massachusetts
Author: Breakdown: A Clinician’s Experience in a Broken System of Emergency Psychiatry.

Karen Newton — Vacaville, California
My son has bipolar-schizoaffective disorder. While homeless, voices told him to hurt someone. He’s incarcerated while waiting for a bed in Napa State Hospital.

Kelly Nidey — Vincennes, Indiana
My son has struggled with bipolar/schizoaffective disorder for almost 15  years.

Teresa Pasquini — Contra Costa County, California
I’m mom to Danny who is surviving 20 years of suffering, suicidality, solitary, and schizoaffective disorder. There’s no federal action plan for families like mine.

Darlene Patrick —Farmington, Maine
My 32-year-old son has paranoid schizophrenia. He’s been in jail, the hospital, release, repeat.

Gema Pena — Hialeah, Florida
My son, Kristopher, was in solitary for 10 years. He attempted suicide, ate his own feces, was catatonic, and lost over 100 pounds.

Ron Powers — Castleton, Vermont 
Pulitzer prize winner, author of No One Cares About Crazy People
I’m the father of two sons afflicted with schizophrenia. One took his life in 2005.

Paula and Bruce Quertermous — Clinton Township, Michigan
Our 39-year-old daughter has bipolar disorder and cognitive disability from birth.

Dede Ranahan — Lincoln, California
Author: Sooner Than Tomorrow—A Mother’s Diary About Mental Illness, Family, and Everyday Life (2019). My son died in a hospital psych ward in 2014.

Margaret Reece and Greg Gazda — Butte County, California
Our SMI son has been hospitalized 5 times, arrested, and is currently in a mental health court program and living in Yolo County with his grandparents.

Arlene Renslow — Modesto, California
I have two sons with brain damage. One son has schizophrenia. Unless someone does something, things will get worse for everyone.

Mary (Courtney) Sheldon — Poway, California
Mother of 24-year-old SMI son. We’ve winged it for 5 years. My SMI brother died, with his “civil rights intact” behind a dumpster in Anaheim, California.

Martha Mccollister Sroka — Dunkirk, New York
My son has schizophrenia. It’s horrible watching your child change, struggle, and suffer. I request that SMI get the same attention and resources as any other medical illness.

Joanne Strunk — Lexington, Kentucky
My daughter’s been raped, homeless, hospitalized (40+times), and almost died lost in the woods for weeks. She’s dying of neglect due to SMI.

Shelly and Scott Switzer — Sandpoint, Idaho
We’re parents of a 33-year-old son with inadequately treated schizoaffective disorder in Missoula, Montana. SOS We’re barely hanging on.

Diana Mandrell Troup — Texas
My daughter spent 16 years in delusion and psychosis because of bad mental health care. She suffered 50+ involuntary holds, multiple tazings, and traumas.

Laurie Turley — Maine
My sister died due to HIPAA restrictions. One of the last things she said to me was, “They should have let you help me. I wasn’t in my right mind.”

Monica and Kimmo Virtaneva — Hamilton, Montana
Our son, Mika, took his life after the disease schizophrenia took his brain and the criminal justice system took his dignity.

Cheryle Vitelli — Newark, Delaware
I lived with my SMI son for 6 years while he was dangerous with only he and I in the house. Finally, a compassionate police officer pushed to get him help.

Darlene Been Watkins — Moulton, Alabama
My son, Shane, was denied treatment, while in psychosis, because there weren’t enough beds. Two days later, he was shot by police while I watched.

Anna Wellnitz — Oro Valley, Arizona
I’m diagnosed with SMI.

My son, Pat, before our world came undone. Read our story. Sooner Than Tomorrow — A Mother’s Diary About Mental Illness, Family and Everyday Life. On Amazon.

My son, Pat, before our world came undone. Read our story. Sooner Than Tomorrow — A Mother’s Diary About Mental Illness, Family and Everyday Life. On Amazon.