Within the last couple of months mental illness, namely depression, has claimed the lives of two prominent figures in society. My heart, prayers, and condolences go out to the families of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. You will be missed.
Had either been diagnosed with cancer or HIV/AIDS, doctors would have been able to use blood tests, MRIs, X-rays, or some other medical device to monitor, treat, and measure the effects of treatment. Sadly, they suffered from an invisible disorder: depression.
Where does the conversation start? Who is willing to start it? How do you treat an undetectable illness? How do you convince a person that they have an invisible mental disorder, depression or otherwise?
Jay Fieldan, editor of Esquire magazine, has actively joined the conversation. For several years Esquire has printed many articles dealing with mental illness in the United States. Thank you, Mr. Fieldan and all the Esquire staff.
John J. Lennon, prisoner-journalist, has actively joined the conversation. In the Summer 2018 issue of Esquire Mr. Lennon’s article, “This Place is Crazy,” describes the failures to treat mentally ill inmates inside New York’s Attica prison. Thank you, Mr. Lennon.
Paul Teutul Sr, Paul Teutul Jr, Mikey Teutul, custom motorcycle builders and reality TV stars, have actively joined the conversation. On the June 11, 2018, episode of their show “American Choppers” on Discovery Channel, the Teutuls opened up about their own mental health problems, as they had in previous episodes. For this episode, “Orange County Choppers,” Paul Sr’s company was commissioned by The Peace of Mind Foundation, a men’s mental health awareness group, to build two custom motorcycles to help raise mental health awareness. Thank you, Paul Sr, Mikey, the folks at Discovery Channel, and the Peace of Mind Foundation.
Even President Trump has entered the conversation. In February 2018, in response to another tragic school shooting, the President stated that “We’re going to be talking seriously about opening mental health institutions again.” Around the same time President Trump tweeted that we need to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.” Thank you, Mr. President.
The information-packed article by Mr. Lennon in the Summer 2018 issue of Esquire explains how prisons are being used as dumping grounds for the mentally ill.
The statistics presented in the article mirrors those in the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) 2017 “Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Use of Restrictive Housing for Inmates with Mental Illness.”
Almost 20% of New York’s 52,000 prison population, roughly 10,000 inmates, have mental illness.
The odds for a mentally ill person to land in prison instead of a psychiatric hospital or facility are 10/11.
In the book Bipolar for Dummies, the authors report that 20% of individuals treated for bipolar depression die by suicide. So if 1 out of 5 people treated die this way, what is the statistic for individuals who are not treated at all?
Failure to treat mental illness is unforgivable.
How many acts of senseless violence have to occur before we as a society take action? Whether it is a mass shooting, an isolated act, or self-inflicted is not the issue. Every death that occurs while we sit on our hands makes everyone of us culpable.
I do not understand how or why little kids are able to plan, stage, and execute an ambush at a school.
Here at the ADX I spend roughly 6 hours a week at outside recreation. Depending on the rec schedule I spend 2 hours in a cage with 4 – 9 other inmates. We talk about everything—politics, religion, philosophy, TV shows, the news, legal issues, our medical problems, and prison conditions.
Over the last several years mental health has become an increasingly hot topic. Idle conversation and gossip will not change things.
In 2016 America was promised that President Trump would “Make America Great Again.” That promise cannot be fulfilled without dealing with the numerous problems that come with mass incarceration to include the roughly 400,000 inmates who have mental illness.
For someone with psychosis, the challenges of transitioning back into society are nearly insurmountable. There is a strong correlation between mental illness and a raised risk of recidivism. One recent study found that parolees with a psychiatric diagnosis are 36 percent more likely to violate parole. (John J. Lennon, Esquire, Summer 2018)
Let’s have a serious conversation. Mental health disorders affect all segments of society regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, sex identification, religion, economic status, or political affiliation.
Take a minute today and every day to pray for all the victims of the mental health crisis. And do something to change our world for the better.