Apr 17, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon

Mental Health

11Prisons House 10 Times As Many Mentally Ill Americans As State Hospitals

Prisons are home to 10 times as many mentally ill Americans as state psychiatric facilities, according to a report published Tuesday.

According to the report, from the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriff’s Association, the health of the majority of mentally ill inmates deteriorates while incarcerated.

“We have placed more than 300,000 severely mentally ill individuals in prisons and jails that are neither equipped nor staffed to handle such problems,” the report reads. "We subsequently have made it very difficult to treat the mentally ill inmates, put restriction on other options for controlling their behavior, and then blamed the prison and jail administrators when they fail. It is a situation that is grossly unfair to both the inmates and the corrections officials and should be the subject of public outrage and official action.”

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center and lead author of the report, says the number of incarcerated mentally ill is on par with the system in place in the 1830s.

“We’ve basically gone back to where we were 170 years ago,” Torrey told Kaiser Health News. “We are doing an abysmal job of treating people with serious mental illnesses in this country. It is both inhumane and shocking the way we have dumped them into the state prisons and the local jails.”

“In 44 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, a prison or jail in that state holds more individuals with serious mental illness than the largest remaining state psychiatric hospital,” the report states. “For example, in Ohio, 10 state prisons and two county jails each hold more mentally ill inmates than does the largest remaining state hospital.”

Mentally ill prisoners have higher recidivism rates, which compounds the cost to the American taxpayer. 

“By shifting the venue of these mentally ill individuals from hospitals to prisons and jails, we have succeeded in replicating the abysmal conditions of the past but in a nonclinical setting whose fundamental purpose is not medical in nature," the report reads.

But mentally ill inmates involuntarily committed to state hospitals don't appear to be faring any better than those in prison. 

A Massachusetts mother filed a lawsuit against the state prisons department this month, claiming her 31-year-old son, who is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, has been restrained and left in solitary confinement for hours at a time at Bridgewater State Hospital.

Joanne Minich says the health of her son Peter, who has been deprived of human contact and exercise for more than 6,300 hours since January 2013, is in decline.

Peter was civilly committed to Bridgewater for allegedly assaulting a staff member at another state mental health facility. He was never convicted of a crime.

"My son has an illness, in the same sense as someone with cancer or dementia," Joanne Minich said in a statement. "The last place he belongs is in a seclusion room behind a solid steel door."

Sources: Al Jazeera, ThinkProgress, MassLive

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11Frances Chan Threatened With Expulsion From Yale For Being Too Thin

A Yale student was reportedly threatened with expulsion after the school demanded she gain weight because she was too skinny.

Frances Chan, who is 5-foot-2 and weighs 90 pounds, says she has been force-feeding herself ice cream and junk food to try to gain weight after the Ivy League school thought she was suffering from an eating disorder, the Daily Mail reported.

The 20-year-old history major from New Jersey says the school, located in New Haven, Conn., was not convinced when her parents said that she, and the rest of her family, had always been naturally thin but healthy. Childhood medical records were sent, and a family doctor even contacted the school.

“It felt really bad to be this powerless,” Chan told the New Haven Register. “I ate ice cream twice a day. I ate cookies. I used elevators instead of walking up stairs. But I don’t really gain any weight.”

The argument over Chan’s weight started in September when she went to get a lump in her breast checked out, which turned out to be benign.

But in a follow-up appointment, Yale doctors told her she was dangerously underweight and imposed mandatory weekly weigh-ins and sessions with a mental health professional and a nutritionist.

Chan tried to abide by Yale’s request and put on weight, but she could only gain two pounds.

The university said that wasn’t enough. According to Chan’s essay in The Huffington Post, one Yale doctor told her, “If we don’t tackle your low weight now, it will kill you.” The school also threatened to put her on a medical leave of absence.

She says the university’s doctors place too much importance on body-mass index as a health indicator. But her new doctor acknowledged BMI, which is a number determined by a person’s weight and height, isn’t the only significant factor.

“I asked my health-conscious friends what they do to remain slim and did the exact opposite,” she writes.

Chan finally had enough of the never-ending weigh-ins and mental health check-ups. She’d rather be expelled than make herself crazy.

“I'm done,” she writes.

“No more weigh-ins, no more blood draws. I don't have an eating disorder, and I will not let Yale Health cause me to develop one. If Yale wants to kick me out, let them try — in the meantime, I'll be studying for midterms, doing my best to make up for lost time.”

In a statement to the Register, Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said he couldn't discuss specific cases because of medical privacy regulations. “Yale has a strong system of mental health care for students,” he said.

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11British Teen Attempts Suicide After Failing To Take Perfect Selfie

A British teen who spent 10 hours per day taking selfies on his phone reportedly attempted to commit suicide after he failed to capture the perfect one.

Danny Bowman, 19, was so obsessed with taking pictures of himself that he didn’t leave his home for six months. He lost nearly 30 pounds and dropped out of school.

He began posting selfies to Facebook when he was 15. Comments from other people online made him obsessed with looking perfect.

“People don’t realize when they post a picture of themselves on Facebook or Twitter it can so quickly spiral out of control,” Bowman told The Mirror. "It becomes a mission to get approval and it can destroy anyone."

Soon he was taking up to 200 selfies a day, 10 immediately after waking up in the morning.

"I was constantly in search of taking the perfect selfie and when I realized I couldn't, I wanted to die," Bowman said. “I lost my friends, my education, my health and almost my life. I finally realized I was never going to take a picture that made the craving go away and that was when I hit rock bottom.”

Dr. David Veal, the psychiatrist whose clinic treated the teenager, said Bowman suffers from body dysmorphic disorder. People with BDD think about their real or perceived physical flaws for hours per day, unable to control negative thoughts and experiencing chronic emotional distress about their appearance. BDD affects men and woman equally and most often develops during adolescence.

“Danny’s case is particularly extreme,” Veal told The Mirror. “But this is a serious problem. It’s not a vanity issue. It’s a mental health one which has an extremely high suicide rate.”

"It’s a real problem like drugs, alcohol or gambling," Bowman said. "I don’t want anyone to go through what I’ve been through.”

The clinic has since weaned him off of his iPhone.

“The only thing I cared about was having my phone with me so I could satisfy the urge to capture a picture of myself at any time of the day,” he said.

Sources: UPI, The Mirror

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11Stenographer Claims Outburst in Congress was From God (Video)

Dianne Reidy, the stenographer who was ejected from the House of Representatives on Oct. 17, 2013, has released a strange video with her husband Dan explaining her bizarre outburst.

"God will not be mocked," Dianne said on the House floor in 2013. "This is not one nation under God, it never was."

"You cannot serve two masters," yelled Dianne as she was pulled away from a microphone. "Praise be to Jesus Christ."

At the time of the incident, her doctor claimed that she suffered from psychosis, noted Fox News.

Appearing with her husband in the video, Dianne claimed this was the fourth time that God “has just put on my heart to speak."

Dianne said the other three times when this has happened were at "a friend's funeral, a reunion with her father, and while speaking with a homeless man in D.C.," noted UPI.

“I did not lose my mind, I did not have a breakdown,” claimed Dianne.

"I remember just getting up to the podium," added Dianne. "After saying 'God will not be mocked,' I don't have a memory of anything else that was said that evening until I was escorted off the floor."

Dan assured viewers that God was speaking through Dianne via various verses about prophecy in the Bible.

Dan said the U.S. claims to be a "nation under God," but there is no national religion.

Sources: UPI and Fox News

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11Mentally Ill Veteran ‘Baked To Death’ In Rikers Island Jail Cell

A mentally ill homeless veteran “baked to death” inside a Rikers Island jail cell after it heated up to at least 100 degrees.

Jerome Murdogh, 56, was looking for a warm place to sleep last month when he was arrested for trespassing in a Harlem public housing project.

A week later he died in Rikers Island after equipment allegedly malfunctioned and overheated his cell.

‘‘He basically baked to death,’’ an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press.


Prison policy says prisoners in the mental-observation unit are to be checked by staff every 15 minutes, as part of suicide prevention. Murdough died at 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 14, but his body wasn't found until four hours later at 2:30 a.m.

The former Marine was on anti-psychotic and anti-seizure medication, which may have made him more vulnerable to heat. A vent in his cell which would have let in cool air was also closed.

An autopsy performed by the medical examiners was inconclusive. More tests are required to determine an exact cause of death. Officials say initial indications from the autopsy point to heat stroke or extreme dehydration. His internal body temperature and the temperature inside the cell were at least 100 degrees.

Mental health advocates say the justice system should have helped Murdough find housing instead of incarcerating him. His bail was set at $2,500 and he was not supervised closely, although he was put in a unit designated specifically for observation.

Department of Correction spokesman Robin Campbell said an internal investigation of the death is underway and will review ‘‘issues of staff performance and the adequacy of procedures.’’

‘‘He was a very lovely, caring guy,’’ said Murdough’s mother, 75-year-old Alma Murdough.

She told the AP she had no idea her son had died before they contacted her, a month afterwards. She said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and that she hadn’t seen him in about three years.

‘‘He had beer problems,” she said. “Drinking beer. That was his downfall. Other than that, he was a very nice guy. He'd give you the shirt off his back.’’

His family said his mental health and drinking problems started when he returned from the service.

‘‘When he wanted to venture off, we let him, we allowed him to come and go,’’ said his sister, Cheryl Warner. ‘‘He always came back.’’

Sources: Boston.com, CBS News

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11School Bans Anti-Suicide T-Shirt Created by Mom

Mom Kelly Miller started creating suicide prevention T-shirts after her son, Noah, committed suicide two years ago.

The T-shirt's front states, “Noah’s Angels,” and the back reads, “Suicide is NOT Selfish, Cowardly, The easy way out. Be part of raising awareness and get rid of the stigma!” notes RawStory.com.

According to My Fox Detroit, an unidentified teen at Belleville High School in Michigan claims that the school said she couldn't wear the T-shirt or had to cover the message with tape.

Miller says Belleville school administrators won't give her an answer as to why the shirt has been banned but has simply cited the school’s policy about “unacceptable attire.”

Sources: My Fox Detroit and RawStory.com

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11Man Who Beheaded, Cannibalized Fellow Bus Passenger May Be Granted More Freedom

A man who beheaded and cannibalized a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus in 2008 may soon be granted unescorted day trips outside of the mental hospital where he is currently committed.

A psychiatrist is asking a Criminal Code Review Board to let Vince Li, 46, have more freedom.

"From a clinical perspective, he has progressed excellently," Dr. Steven Kremer said at a hearing Monday.

Li, once diagnosed with schizophrenia, is reportedly no longer suffering from delusions and is considered non-violent. 

"Our overall goal is to eventually have Mr. Li reintegrate into the community,” Kremer said.

Li was found not criminally responsible for stabbing, beheading, and eating Tim McLean in July 2008.

McLean didn’t know Li. He was simply sitting next to him on a bus ride from Edmonton to Winnipeg. Unprovoked, Li attacked him.

Li claimed he heard voices telling him to kill.

Since he was placed in Selkirk Mental Health Centre he has been allowed to take escorted day trips to Winnipeg and other areas. Kremer wants to grant Li unescorted day passes into Silkirk, relocation into a ward of the hospital that is unlocked, and more relaxed supervision on his escorted trips outside the hospital.

Crown attorney Susan Helenchilde didn’t oppose the request.

"Mr. Li has done everything that has been asked of him,” she said.

The victim’s mother, Carol de Delley, says Li doesn’t deserve any freedom, and she has fought to toughen laws on criminal responsibility.

"I don't think it should matter whether you're mentally ill or not mentally ill. If you kill someone, you should lose your freedom, period," de Delley said outside the hearing. "I'm standing out here by my damn self for six years now, and they're going to ultimately let this person free. And if he reoffends, [they'll say], 'Oh well, statistically it shouldn't happen'. But guess what? It does, and it does and it does."

She founded a website where she tracks cases of people found not criminally responsible who reoffend.

Sources: Toronto Star, CTV News

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11Father Could Be Held In Contempt For Speaking Out Against 15-Year-Old’s Year-Long Commitment To Psych Ward

A Massachusetts father defied a gag order to speak out about his 15-year-old daughter who entered the hospital with what seemed like the flu and ended up involuntarily committed to a psych ward without her parents' approval for the last year.

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families filed to have Lou Pelletier held in contempt of court for telling the media about his daughter, who was taken away from him in February 2013.

Justina Pelletier's family believes she has mitochondrial disease, just like her older sister. She was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease – a genetic disorder that affects how cells produce energy – by doctors at Tufts Medical Center.

But when she went to Boston Children’s Hospital on Feb. 10, 2013, a neurologist said Justina is mentally ill. Without reviewing her history, he said her symptoms of mitochondrial disease are psychosomatic.

Her parents were open to new treatment until they learned the hospital wanted to take away all of Justina’s pain medication.

Astounded, her parents attempted to take her back to Tufts for treatment. That’s when Boston Children’s Hospital called the police.

“I have a right as a U.S. citizen to take my daughter to what doctor I want to, and it’s been taken away,” her mother, Linda Pelletier, told Fox.

Now her parents are involved in a legal battle to regain custody of their daughter one year after the DCF took her away on Feb. 14, 2013.

Lou could be slapped with hefty fines if he is found in contempt, but he says he doesn’t care. The family has turned to the court of public opinion to set Justina free.

“I need to save my daughter. It’s not this courthouse. It’s not the state of Massachusetts,” Lou Pelletier told TheBlaze. “If we don’t do something, she is going to die.”

Her family says she is wasting away without treatment for mitochondrial disease. After being treated for somatoform disorder and overmedication for the past year, it is unclear whether her doctors believe Justina is showing improvement. 

"Every procedure she had done was not pushed by us, but by the medical community. Insurance never would have covered it if it were not medically necessary,” Lou said.

The Boston Children’s Hospital defends their doctors and staff.

“We are proud of their work and positive impact on the patient," the statement read. “[O]ur clinicians are particularly distressed that the inaccuracies surrounding this case have caused undo concern for the many children and their families with mitochondrial disorders in our care. Misleading reports suggesting that the hospital holds patients in its inpatient psychiatric unit do not recognize the role of DCF as the legal guardian or the challenges inherent in finding appropriate lower acuity facilities for certain patients.”

Sources: TheBlaze, New York Daily News

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11Mass Grave Discovered Containing 1,000 Bodies Of Miss. Asylum Patients

The University of Mississippi’s School of Medicine has abandoned the construction of a parking garage in Jackson after tests showed as many as 1,000 bodies are buried at the site.

The corpses are believed to be former patients of the Mississippi State Lunatic Asylum, which closed about 80 years ago.

"None have names," said Dr. James Keeton, dean of the medical school.

The cost to rebury the body would be about $3,000 per grave.

“We can’t afford that,” Keeton said.

"The property that the University of Mississippi Medical Center is located on used to be the location of the state insane asylum, which operated from 1855 to 1935," university spokesman Jack Mazurack told Yahoo News.

The school used ground-penetrating radar before breaking ground at the site.

"Historically, we knew that there were a lot of graves, many of which were not marked. In the '90s, we took the handful of marked graves and reinterred them in a designated cemetery area," he added.

The university discovered 66 graves in the fall of 2012.

"Throughout the years, as construction projects have gone on, on campus, we've occasionally run across a coffin,” Mazurack said. “In fall of 2012, we were extending a road for a new intersection. That extension ran across an area that had rows of graves."

"There are probably thousands more bodies that we've never seen," said Dr. Luke Lampton, chairman of the state Board of Health, who has researched and written about the asylum.

The State Lunatic Asylum opened on Jan. 8, 1855, and housed 150 patients. After the Civil War it was expanded to house 300 and the area was nicknamed “Asylum Hill.” There were 3,000 patients when the hospital was moved in 1935.

Sources: Yahoo!, USA Today

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11NRA Board Member Blames Youth Suicide on Boys Being ‘Neutered’ (Video)

NRA board member R. Lee “Gunny” Ermey is a retired U.S. marine drill instructor who also played an obnoxious drill instructor in the film “Full Metal Jacket” who bullies and insults young men in basic training during the Vietnam War.

Ermey seemed to bring that character to life once again when he was recently interviewed on NRA News while promoting his new reality TV show “Saving Private K-9," reports MediaMatters.org (video below).

“What’s happened is we’ve neutered all the young boys in this country, now,” said Ermey, noted RawStory.com.

“We’ve got little kids committing suicide because somebody bullied them in the school yard,” added Ermey. “You know what? I was bullied when I was a kid, but I tried diplomatically to get out of the situation. If that didn’t work, then I would resort to force, I would pop the guy in the snot locker, drop him down on the deck, and he would think twice before he came and bullied me again.”

In 2013, MediaMatters.org noted that Ermey attacked people on public assistance.

"Welfare back in my time, back when I was a kid, I remember my parents voting for welfare and it was sold to us, like cripples, we got to look after our crippled people in this country," said Ermey. "Crippled, those that can't work, and I guess nowadays lazy is our new cripple."

Sources: MediaMatters.org and RawStory.com

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