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)


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 and me - before his haircut

Travis and me - before his haircut


Sharing Your Stories: Books That Chronicle Mental Illnesses And Those Impacted By Them
By Pete Earley

To go directly to Pete Earley’s blog to read his full post and to see all photos. Click here.

Posted: 26 Mar 2019 05:19 AM PDT


“Pat in 1988 before our world came undone.” Author Dede Ranahan’s first book

(3-26-19) I’ll be speaking April 2nd at the National Alliance on Mental Illness Dane County 2019 Awards Banquet and Gala in Madison, Wisconsin. Please support NAMI by attending if you live in the Madison area. 

The 2019 book season is upon us. Here’s a few that have caught my eye. If you have one that you’d like to recommend, please do so on my Facebook page.

Surviving Schizophrenia, 7th Edition, by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey.

Long considered the most comprehensive and authoritative book written about schizophrenia, an updated Surviving Schizophrenia is being released today. It was groundbreaking when it was first published in the early 1980s.  Here’s how my former colleague at the Washington Post, Peter Carlson, described the book’s impact in a 2001 article that documents how this important work helped NAMI become a national organization. If you have schizophrenia, know someone who does, or want to educate yourself about this serious mental illness, this is a must read.

When Laurie Flynn walked into the office of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill for her first day as executive director in 1984, she found a pile of mailbags, each of them stuffed with letters. It was all because of E. Fuller Torrey. 

Torrey had just published “Surviving Schizophrenia,” a guide for patients and their families. When he appeared on Phil Donahue’s TV show to promote it, he urged people seeking help to contact the alliance, which was then a fledgling organization with fewer than 50,000 members, most of them the parents of mental patients. The result was this avalanche of mail.  

“Nobody had ever said the word schizophrenia on popular television, and people came out of the woodwork seeking help,” Flynn recalls. “For many years, mothers were told they were the cause of the problem, and here comes Fuller Torrey saying, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t the family’s fault. These are brain diseases.’ Here was a psychiatrist saying, ‘I know what you’re going through because my sister has the problem.’ It’s hard to overemphasize what a hero he was back in the early days.” 

Torrey donated the royalties of “Surviving Schizophrenia” to the alliance and he hit the hustings to organize, helping to build the group into a powerful lobbying organization with more than 220,000 members.

“Weekend after weekend,” Flynn says, “he went out to states where members were organizing chapters and he rallied the troops. Nobody did it better.”

Not everyone lands a huge publisher, which is why I want to mention several books about mental illness that don’t have a large promotional budget and often are not by professional writers. They’re simply poignant tales written from the heart.

Sooner Than Tomorrow: A Mother’s Diary About Mental Illness, Family and Everyday Life by Dede Ranahan

It’s difficult to turn a diary into a book. A writer’s tools, such as pacing, foreshadowing and character development, don’t generally fit in a non-fiction diary form. It’s an especially daunting task for a first time author.  Sooner Than Tomorrow: A Mother’s Diary About Mental Illness, Family and Everyday Life, by Dede Ranahan pulls off that delicate dance. Interwoven with her diary entries are Facebook posts written by her son, Patrick. When this NAMI advocate first started writing her diary on June 15, 2013, she did not know that she would be  chronicling Patrick’s last year. He died on July 23, 2014 in a psych ward where she thought he would be safe.

Because Ranahan wanted to tell her story in context, she includes other events in her diary beside her son’s mental illness. That was a bold move. Some may find that distracting at first, but Ranahan wanted to blend her son’s struggles with the everyday that all of us live. It ultimately gives readers a much fuller picture. You can read more on her blog/website: Sooner Than Tomorrow. 

Here’s an excerpt:

How do you react when your 25-year-old son, during what is later seen as his first acute bipolar episode, kidnaps his teenage sister, drives her to a hospital, and convinces the emergency room staff to admit her because “she’s sick and my parents aren’t taking care of her”?

How do you compute when you arrive at the hospital to rescue your daughter—who has a cold—and you find her hysterical and sitting in a hospital bed? You ask your son, who is staring straight ahead with empty eyes, “Why did you bring your sister here?” 

With logic that reflects his internal confusion, he answers,

“Because I knew I needed help…

How do you advocate when the world sees a bum, and you see the little boy you carried in your womb, nursed at your breast, laughed and played with, and knew in your heart was the world’s greatest child? And you know somewhere, trapped inside his brain, the world’s greatest child is lost and trying to be found.

–Sooner than Tomorrow by Dede Ranahan.

BIPOLAR ME by Janet Coburn

Another blogger turned first time author is Janet Coburn who uses her blog, Bipolar Me, to shine a spotlight on what it is like to have bipolar two disorder. Full disclosure, I’ve not yet read her book because I’m on a deadline writing a new novel, but I have read her blog and put her book on my summer reading list. I am always curious about how individuals with mental illnesses successfully manage their lives. Check out her blog to discover if her writing appeals to you.

After my last (and, I hope, last) major bipolar breakdown, my therapist pointed out that I had a unique opportunity: I could reclaim those parts of my life that had fallen away, or I could leave them behind.

I could choose. That idea was very powerful.

The Light in His Soul: Lessons From My Brother’s Sczhophrenia by Rebecca Schaper with Gerald Everett Jones

The Light In His Soul came out last summer and is still getting tremendous reviews. The story behind the book was first told in an award winning documentary film entitledA Sister’s Call.   It is an incredibly powerful film.

In reviewing the book, Kirkus Reviews noted: “The power of this memoir lies in the way it demystifies mental health issues by examining them from a deeply personal perspective. Individuals and families facing similar experiences will certainly find solace from it… A moving, passionate, personal narrative of trauma and healing.”   

Here is Amazon’s description:

Call Richmond, Jr. went missing. Twenty years later he showed up on a family member’s doorstep. He was homeless, broken, and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. For the next fourteen years, his sister Rebecca took on the struggle to restore him as they faced the dark traumas and painful memories of their past. The Light in His Soul: Lessons from My Brother’s Schizophrenia is her intimate memoir of helping Call as she learns that his extraordinary gifts are helping heal her and her family. Both Call and Rebecca bring light to the dark shadows of their past.

Sadly, Call Richmond Jr., has passed but his story is forever memorialized.

BREAKDOWN: A Clinician’s Expericne in a Broken System of Emergency Psychiatry by Lynn Nanos

Author Lynn Nanos is a mobile emergency psychiatric clinician in Massachusetts who has written for this blog. See: A Street Social Worker Tells What It’s Really Like.She’s also an active member of the  National Shattering Silence Coalition that advocates for the seriously mentally ill population. Her book uses her personal experiences to tell a much broader story – how our underfunded and broken system is failing those with serious mental illness. Here’s how she explained why she feels so passionately about helping those too often forgotten.

I know there are success stories out there. But as an inpatient social worker, I was alarmed at the extremely high rate of readmission to our units. This is what motivated me to begin writing about what I see daily.

We, or at least, I can’t close my eyes at night knowing that we could, no, we must do better.

I think of a patient on my caseload who was paranoid delusional and was refusing to accept treatment because he did not believe that he was mentally ill. He refused to sign a release of confidentiality for me to communicate with his mother, even though they resided together. She knew he was there, so I just supportively listened to her concerns. I passed these on to the rest of the team, including his psychiatrist.

Shortly after his discharge, he used a knife to stab his mother to death.

When something such as this happens, you have choices. You can pretend these events don’t happen or turn away from them. Or you can roll up your sleeves and begin advocating to improve the lives of the seriously mentally ill population who are the sickest.

I’m in my tenth year as a mobile psychiatric emergency clinician. I’ve rolled up my sleeves.


In addition, here are four extremely important books that you should read. I give them my highest personal rating. Each has impacted my thinking. Please check them out.

Stories From The Shadows: Reflections Of A Street Doctor by Dr. James J. O’Connell

Insane Consequences: How The Mental Health Industry Fails The Mentally Ill by D. J. Jaffe 

Committed: The Battle Over Involuntary Psychiatric Care by Drs. Dinah Miller and Annette Hanson

No One Cares About Crazy People by Ron Powers 

The post Sharing Your Stories: Books That Chronicle Mental Illnesses And Those Impacted By Them appeared first on Pete Earley.



I’m trying to choose the color for the cover of my book. Which color draws you in — blue, white, or gray? Thanks so much for your help. I have no objectivity about this and appreciate your feedback.

Why the carnation? The carnation is the official flower for Mother’s Day. Pat used to give me and his sisters white carnations on Mother’s Day. White carnations represent pure love. Pink carnations represent a mother’s forever love: “I will never forget you.” My book is dedicated to Pat and his sisters, and to the mothers (millions of them) who fight, every single day, for their children who live with serious mental illness.

P.S. If you receive this post twice in your email, it’s because you’re subscribed to my stories blog and to my diary blog. I try to not duplicate posts often. Thanks for subscribing to both blogs.