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
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). soonerthantomorrow.com. 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.