Wednesday, May 28, 2014

To the Lake Erie Crushers; Maurice Clarett is no hero!

     Just this past weekend, we Americans honored the true heroes of this great nation, the veterans that served and some who died fighting for freedoms that we tend to take for granted. Others classified as hero’s come in many shapes and sizes, such as first responders and some ordinary citizens who do extraordinary acts. They exemplify true heroism.  
     Sadly, society has, at times, convoluted the title hero. We tend to worship self-serving individuals, such as athletes and honor shallow gallantry. With that as a backdrop, we are treated to the presence of one of Ohio’s true false idols, former Ohio State running back, Maurice Clarett.
     It was recently announced that on Thursday, May 29th, the local independent baseball team, the Lake Erie Crushers advertised the appearance of Clarett at that night’s game. No truth to the rumor that this was to be called “narcissism night at the ballpark”, but this promotion still demands exploration.
     When contacted, the spokesman for the Crushers said there were several reasons for this invitation. First, it is the halfway point from last season to this year’s matchup with Michigan. Secondly, it was pointed out that, in the United States, everyone deserves a second chance. He went on to elaborate that the ESPN 30 on 30 segment also influenced their decision to invite him. He also expressed pride in how Clarett battled and overcame his mental illness.
     On the first point, no one can argue. Michigan and Ohio State is a large rivalry and gets national media attention. I feel the same way as a Clemson Tigers fan, as on that same November night, they play their rival South Carolina.  I admit to being a dedicated College Football fan!
     Next was the claim that everyone deserves a second chance, to which I agree. As a mental health advocate and as one who suffered many indignities because of my own condition, I witness remarkably few receiving the opportunity to reestablish themselves. However, with second chances, Clarett has had more lives than a cat and has been the benefactor of numerous opportunities.  Additionally, it would not be a stretch to believe that the boosters of “Buckeye Nation” have taken exceptional care of him.
     Next, if they seek to exploit the 30 on 30 show featuring the scandal ridden Jim Tressel and Clarret, they are free to do just that. In that episode, I noticed little was made about the allegations of academic fraud, or the list of scandals that have plagued Tressel’s career. However, like most wealthy people, he failed upward by being named President of Youngstown State University. 
     Finally, we reach the crux of the remaking of Clarett. He claims he suffers from mental illness, and that has been the cause of all his maladaptive behavior. It is here that I take issue with his being both praised and worshipped by others, such as the Lake Erie Crushers for his personal battle.  Speaking as both an advocate, and as one who has struggled with mental illness, I have serious doubts of his being sincere in this crusade.
     It is here that the hypocrisy of Clarett and his gullible follower’s adulation of his recovery from mental illness warrants careful scrutiny,
     Back in 2003, when the arrogance of this young man was first making its mark, he allegedly walked out of a class while taking a test. Those actions, reported by a teaching assistant, Norma McGil, should have resulted in a failed grade, which would have made him ineligible for the important game with Michigan, eventually won by Ohio State propelling them to a National Title. Instead, he was later permitted to take an oral exam to pass the class. Here again, preferential treatment and a second chance for Clarett.
     It was then that this teaching assistant was to pay a high price for properly doing her job. Rather than be concerned with the behavior of Clarett, the school and its arrogant leaders turned their attention on this teaching assistant. Specifically, they went after her Achilles heel, her own battle with the same mental illness that Clarett claims to be suffering, major depression. The members of Buckeye Nation attacked her with a ferociousness of a pack of rabid dogs and dragged her through the mud. Her boss even got into the act. Professor Kenneth Goings was quoted as saying he had trouble believing her because of her illness. However, he never witnessed any odd behavior on her part. When pressed, he admitted he based his judgment on hearing rumors, not any logical reasoning. It must be added that this man, Goings, is a PHD.
     Ironically, ESPN, which produced the 30 on 30 show featuring Clarett, once did a story on this teaching assistant. In this article, they placed her in a “whistleblower’s purgatory.” Miss McGil went on to describe that because of losing her job at Ohio State over this episode; “I’ve been rendered homeless, slept in cars, slept on the ground.” All because she told the truth about Clarett and was honest in her position. In time, the stress of this episode exacerbated her illness, and she herself has been in and out of trouble for years, which ended her dream of becoming a teacher. However, no one associated with Ohio State has attempted to assist her with a “second chance”.  
     It is in this setting that the duplicity of Ohio State and the credulous masses, such as those from the Lake Erie Crushers, fail to see the different way they viewed Norma McGil’s struggle with mental illness vs Clarett’s.
     As Maurice travels the state on his quest to rehabilitate his image, many heap praise on him. One woman told me that she was proud of how he is battling his demons. At Ohio State he was given a standing ovation and treated as royalty. Not long ago, he spoke to the National Alliance on Mental illness (NAMI) of Ohio. He was given a standing ovation and praised for his courage. When questioned, one person described him as a “neat guy!”
     Now contrast that with the treatment of the teaching assistant. She was harassed, and the subject of a verbal lynch mob. On campus and on the local radio station, she was known as “Norma the Mental freak!” Another classy comment from the Buckeye faithful was “get the crazy black bitch off campus!” These degenerates were spurred on by the silence of those protecting Clarett, who, as mentioned earlier, suffered from the same condition.
     With the reference to Memorial Day, on a side note, I am quite certain that Clarett can receive the best treatment for any condition that money can buy. The same cannot be said of our military veterans whose desire for treatment for conditions such as post-traumatic stress syndrome, PTSD, can languish for months. 
     The final question I asked the spokesperson from the Crushers was simply” What about Norma McGil?” His response was the same as I receive from almost everyone I ask. He said, who is Norma McGil? No one remembers the victim of this scandal, only the perpetrators, Tressel and Clarett, and many continue to find ways to promote them both, and demonize the teaching assistant.
    The Crushers did offer me the opportunity to speak with Clarett, and I would have taken them up on the offer if I did not have to work. However, it is important to point out that I have tried for many years to talk about these issues with both he and Tressel and have been met with the famous, click of the receiver or being told that “they would get back to me.” They never did return my call. However, if I did converse with him, I would ask about Norma McGil and his preferential treatment. I would explore that if his claims of being remorseful are accurate, has he ever reached out to her and if he asked Buckeye nation to assist her as a victim. I would hope he will one day answer honestly, but that remains to be seen. 
     Finally, as one who has fought the demons of mental illness, of suicidal ideation, I applaud all those who bravely confront their personal demons. Few recognized that this is a lifetime sentence of treatment.  However, I am disgusted by this invitation and take it as a personal insult for those who do indeed suffer. If the Lake Erie Crushers wish to understand the harm these illnesses can do to those who deserve help, I can introduce them to hundreds of more deserving of praise and adulation than Clarett. However none of them can score touchdowns, nor are filled with self-promotion like he has displayed. They just want to be normal happy lives, like everyone aspires to do!  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Sin Tax; Pushing the mentally ill to the front of the bus!

     Several years ago, during a conversation with a State Representative, I expressed my frustration of approaching government leaders as a mental health advocate. I shared how, when it comes to funding treatment programs, they all echo the same theme; in these challenging economic times, all departments are feeling the budgetary pinch. It was then that he gave a candid response; the mentally ill have always been pushed to the back of the bus for funding! Sadly, little doubt remains that his claim was correct.
     That conversation takes on a new meaning as we examine local current events. As baseball immortal Yogi Berra once said “It’s Deja-vu all over again”. Using his words as a roadmap, we observe in utter disbelief as a group of extremely wealthy individuals approach many political leaders, with their hands out, demanding an extension of the reputed Sin Tax. The proceeds are to be earmarked to fund upgrades and maintenance of Cleveland’s sports venues. Unlike those in true need, these multimillionaires get moved expeditiously to the “front of the bus” for assistance, and the politicians will leave no stone unturned in their goal to satisfy their requests.
     As advocates, we approach these leaders with the goal of helping those in need, and strive to convince them of the importance of providing readily available treatment.  Contrast that with the owners of these sports franchises. Their advocacy consists of influential lawyers, lobbyists, and economists who will be armed with some self-serving and convoluted statistics of the benefits of this tax. The catch words, “create good jobs” will be bantered about freely as a major benefit of its passage. What is being ignored is that if the promise of good jobs for every tax break for the wealthy were so, each of us would be supplied with about 6 jobs to keep up with the demand. It is imperative to point out that twenty years ago, these same promises were exploited in the original Sin Tax strategy, and for the most part, those jobs were nothing more than a fabrication.
     The first campaign add in support of this extension, which will produce an estimated 285 million dollars, is now running on local TV. In this, it is proclaimed that this proposal will not raise the price of beer, which implies it is a tax that none will even know they are paying. If that is the case, let us reallocate the proceeds of this extension and move the mentally ill to the front of the bus. In other words, instead of more corporate welfare, spend the money for those most in need of assistance.
     Any discussion in dealing with how to improve the treatment of the severely mentally ill begins with where can a person in crisis be taken for help? In Cuyahoga County, 1500 indigent individuals seek treatment in a county that surprisingly, no longer provides public psychiatric beds for needed care. Not long ago, there was the promise and commitment of building a new 50 bed facility just off Euclid Ave. This clinic would have served all of northeastern Ohio, and would have presented a radical reversal of the government’s constant reduction in public treatment facilities.
     In a devastating move, Governor Kasich and the legislature deemed this facilities price tag, 87 million dollars as outrageous, and once again, placed those in need in the back of the bus. As a result, Cuyahoga County, which is home to the highest number of severely mentally ill individuals in the state, continues to lack the much needed beds. Because there is seriously limited places available to provide essential care, the “treat them and street them” actions often become the only option.  This activity often results in the afflicted ending up in the de-facto mental hospital, the County Jail, where they finally receive some treatment. It is crucial to highlight that incarceration is a significantly higher cost option than providing care in a treatment facility.  
     It is necessary to point out that Governor Kasich is not alone is failing the mentally ill. His predecessor, the self-proclaimed crusader of economic justice, Ted Strickland, did little to advance the efforts of providing assistance to this invisible class of society. In fact, he oversaw some of the most inhumane cuts in the mental health safety net the state of Ohio had ever encountered. So the blame for these failures goes far and wide.
     It is perplexing that the cost of this hospital was deemed prohibitive while the 285
Million dollars of corporate welfare generated by this sin tax is considered a necessity. If the owners claim poverty, one recent incident should cast profound skepticism of that premise. A Detroit Tigers baseball player just signed a contract valued in upwards of 292 million dollars, which is more than the projected proceeds of this sin tax extension. These exorbitant contracts in professional sports have become the norm, and with it, the demand for those who live below the poverty level to continue to subsidize these outrageous profits.
    When investment in a community is discussed, there is one that would take about a quarter of the Sin Tax revenue and be a true answer to the prayers of many. These funds should be utilized to build this mental health treatment facility. With this revenue, this would allow for the opening of the 50 beds for those in dire straits, and begin to restore some lost dignity to a group of people who for many years, have lacked that quality of life. With this, we would see a reduction in homelessness, less addiction, and also we find that the police will receive fewer calls requesting their assistance with an individual in a mental health crisis.
     Another hidden value of this reallocation directly affects many who will pay this tax. They will see a significant return on their investment when their family and loved ones will be provided the service that is needed. Many will witness those afflicted transform from illness to wellness and become productive members of society. With increasing self-worth, many will, one day leave public assistance and become independent. All these positive outcomes the result of moving the mentally ill to the front of the bus.
      Some of this alternately allocated Sin Tax revenue could also find its way into rebuilding schools, bringing staffing of community safety forces up to a proper level, and even filling potholes. Once again, assisting those that need help creates an endless bucket list.  
     It is essential to clarify one aspect of this proposed extension. It is not a sin that people smoke or drink, that is a personal choice. However, it is a sin that many in need of treatment of mental illness struggle to get the essential help. It is a sin that the political leaders have failed to provide adequate funding to support those most vulnerable members of society. Finally, it is a sin that we put the needs of the wealthiest in the form of corporate welfare above those that are in desperate need.
     Over the next several weeks, the Pro Tax forces, armed with deep pockets, will flood the public with promises of utopia if this passes, and some veiled threats of a team moving if it fails. In all likelihood, even with opposition armed with the broken promises of twenty years ago, the politicians will see to it that this passes. However, no matter how it is spun, no matter what promises are made, this is still the poor subsidizing the supremely rich.
     As is becoming the societal norm, the wealthy are situated in “the front of the bus” while the mentally ill are resigned to sit in the rear.  It must not be forgotten, that those deemed mentally ill consist of ordinary people who developed an illness. They have become a group that is simply marginalized, and ignored, and in this case, simply because they cannot score touchdowns or hit home runs. That in itself is a sad commentary on the sense of value we all display.
     If I am correct, and this does eventually pass, the public will witness the owners and the politicians victoriously “spiking the ball in the end zone”. After all, it will be easy for the wealthy to celebrate this victory, especially since they never even look towards the back of the bus

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Suicides at Brunswick High warrant scrutiny

    Recently, two young students at Brunswick High school passed away , and preliminary evidence suggest an all too familiar method, suicide. Like many before them, we are in the early stages of understanding why they may have fallen victim to this silent epidemic, and the public should be cautioned against drawing conclusions before facts are known. With that being said, it is imperative that we highlight several issues that should serve as a roadmap for helping to prevent future  preventable deaths.
     An allegation involving one of the deaths is that it has a direct link to bullying. The schools have thus far denied knowledge of this and have blamed the outcry on comments made on social media. However, the father of one victim has spoken out that his son did indeed face bullying on a large scale, including actions on the social websites. There is ample evidence that this behavior has occurred throughout this country and so far, little has been done to curtail these demented actions. What is not known at this time, is if the schools were aware of this and if they could have taken preventative actions. Currently, the Brunswick Police have an active investigation on this matter, and  we must allow this process to proceed, and appropriate measures for prevention are the result. Additionally, all perpetrators must be held accountable for their actions!
     What is truly inspiring is the reaction of the student body, who along with parents, have rallied together in support of anti-bullying programs and demanding action. Their efforts will hopefully lead to significant changes in the way the schools, "and the community at large", respond to any allegation and take appropriate measures. No student should have to live in fear of other classmates! Also, not only schools, but parents need to recognize the many warning signs of depression which is the leading cause of suicide. No one should have to endure the emotional pain that is the result of untreated depression.
     After a number of publicized suicides, the ignorant and judgmental people come out in droves. Since mental illness is vastly misunderstood, it would be easy to misconstrue the causation of the deadly act. With that in mind, it is still difficult to understand some of the biting comments that are uttered, written and implied concerning the true victim, the one who commits the act. First off, suicide is NOT a selfish act! It is the result of battling internal demons that no one who has suffered with can understand. Throw on top of a depressed person some outside influences such as bullying, and the pain only intensifies. So often the individual is pushed to the precipice and with a clouded mind, they see no alternatives. People have no right to judge the acts of the one who has ended their lives because they themselves, will hopefully never suffer from such overwhelming grief.
     If people wonder what kind of person suffers from suicidal ideation, and attempt to kill themselves, I am one. I went from a respected City Councilman, member of the Jaycees, and various other charitable organizations, to nearly dying of a suicide attempt. It was not until I was forcibly taken by the police into a hospital that I finally decided to accept my illness and the lifetime sentence of treatment that is part of my recovery. It is essential to point out that the individuals who do attempt suicide do not wish to die, they just want the pain to stop!
     The first step that must be taken is a review of the Brunswick City Schools policy on suicide prevention. A quick look into the Bylaws show some generic policies that the school explained are in the process of being updated. It is spelled out as a 5 step process; Stabilization, Assessment of the Risk, Use of Appropriate Risk Procedures, Communication with Appropriate Parties, and Follow-up. All of these are standard and generalized, and are likely similar to other school districts.
     I must point to one area that stood out. In the bylaws, it stated that teachers should be aware of students exhibiting "Unusual Depression". Though I am not sure it's true meaning,  the people involved should be aware of students who are depressed, whose moods have mysteriously shifted, good students that all of a sudden have plummeting grades or are displaying maladaptive behavior.
     Next on the list is the schools must begin to educate themselves and students about mental illness and its relation to suicide, and also take appropriate measures to deal with bullying, both in and out of school. The students need to feel comfortable to approach a teacher, a guidance counselor, or a resource officer, that either they or one of their friends are in crisis. Some questions should be; Are students aware of the dangers of cutting, or of reckless behavior? Do they realize that if a friend is in clear crisis that if no one else is available that they can call 911 for help? Most importantly, involve the student body, they will respond positively because in the few schools that have been active in this awareness, they have acted admirably.
     The enlightenment that needs to be brought out in this county has been difficult and in some cases nearly impossible. As an example, one need only observe other similar local situations, such as the suicides in the Medina City Schools. The community will discover that there is such a large gap between the public relations aspect of "leaders" showing up after a tragedy and speaking about the need for change, and real change taking place. Since those deaths, in spite of publicity, little or no real progress in educating others on this issue have come to pass.
     For many years, when I was to speak to a local school, I invited various community leaders to interact with the students to see firsthand the issues they face. One example is the Office of the Sherriff, who is one that was part of a group that garnered a great deal of publicity by exploiting this exact issue. All past messages and invitations to that office were ignored. Calls to other members of that group resulted in belligerent comments or once again, ignored calls. This was discussed at length in my previous posting "The Politicalization of Suicide Prevention".  
     Apparently, that behavior has not gone unnoticed. I was pleased to see that the United Way of Medina County has joined me in being openly critical of the lack of suicide prevention in this County. Seth Kujat, the Executive Director of the United Way of Medina said it best in an article in the Medina County Gazette.  When asked about can be done to help stem the tide of these unfortunate tragedies, he replied; "That doesn't mean that we need new programs, but it means giving schools and other agencies the resources to amp up what they're already offering." Though I have been at odds with this agency, he is correct that what has been done, is not working!
     The first resource available to make changes are the students themselves. I have given many talks to high school students, and they have responded positively and with questions such as; Where can we go for help? However, unless the schools and the parents are willing to discuss the seriousness of these potential tragedies, they will not know where to go.
     I read online that the Brunswick students began to use post-it notes on lockers as a symbol of solidarity against bullying and suicide. That is an impressive gesture, but I have another solution for parents and students. Let all of us flood the offices of our local political leaders and tell them enough is enough. It is time to invest in intervention and educational programs dealing with these issues and to make certain no one is left behind.
     These needless deaths have reached a crescendo that it is imperative for a meaningful dialogue and action to take place. It is time for citizens who are deeply committed to this issue to finally step up and push the roadblocks out of the way. I can see that many people are angry, and they have right to feel that way. It is time to channel that anger to make the changes needed to help prevent a repeat of these deaths. Stop taking no for an answer, and kick in the doors that inhibit the real changes that are needed. As I have for the past decade, I am here ready to assist. All it takes is a phone call, something I am not used to receiving in this county.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Reflections of my decade of Mental Health Advocacy

     Mahatma Ghandi once said, "First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win!" These words themselves become a microcosm as to what obstacles individuals face as they set out to make positive changes to benefit others. That is what advocacy is all about, and sadly, I discovered others will resist any efforts as we strive for tangible progress to improve the treatment of the mentally ill.
     Since the fall of 2003, when I gave my first speech to a group of psychopathology students at Loran County Community College, and the 500 plus lectures since, I have witnessed the good, bad and ugly of battling a mental illness. Most importantly, it is said that the stigma of the disease is worse than the symptoms themselves. After a decade of work. I can say with certainty that is indeed the truth. However, rather than stigma,  it is time to call it what it truly is; Bigotry!
     As I decided to take part in advocacy, the first steps I took, were in fact, ignored and mocked. Soon, came the strong opposition from the elected officials themselves.
     One significant roadblock for those in need of treatment is the government leaders that should be committed to rebuilding the mental health system, failed miserably. During the past decade, I have contacted, both as an advocate and private citizen; Senators Rob Portman, Sherrod Brown, Congressman Jim Renacci, Speaker of the House Bill Batchelder, State Representative Nan Baker and State Senators Larry Obhof, and Keith Faber. Rather than discover a group with the desire to  understand the needs of those afflicted, I came face to face with characters better suited for a remake of the Children of the Corn movies. None showed any genuine concern for the plight of those in need, and all displayed the behavior of those bought and paid for by wealthy campaign contributors.
     Not to be outdone by these reprobates, there is one Former State Senator who topped them all in ignorance and who, strangely, publicly preaches against that stigma of mental illness. I recall talking to him at a mental health fundraiser questioning his supporting State Representative Nan Baker who has displayed nothing but contempt for those, not in her social economic class. This former State Senator turned mental health advocate coldly said, "there are more important issue than bigotry against the mentally ill." Once again, politics triumphs over empathy and compassion, even from this self-proclaimed advocate.
     Putting aside the individuals in public office, I spent a considerable amount of time speaking in my community, to bring awareness of the dangers of untreated mental illness. Through this effort, I have met some extraordinary people, in schools, civic groups and police organizations.
     With that as a backdrop, I have also discovered that no matter what one accomplishes, there lurks in society, ignorance that is a constant reminder of just how easy it is for others to disparage the one afflicted. Once again,  I can speak from firsthand knowledge. Much of those offensive actions took place in my home county, Medina.
     Many years ago, I proudly served as a member of our community United Way Board. In fact, for a time I was Vice Chairmen of Allocations. It was during this time that I also served on City Council, local Jaycees and other groups. I was extremely active in my community, and always felt a strong sense to give back. Not long afterwards mental illness took over, and I was no longer active. In a surprise to many, I was alone fighting for my life.
     As I recovered, my strong sense of Philanthropy returned and I wanted to once again, give back to those less fortunate. I discovered in the local paper that the United Way of Medina County was now searching for additional board members. With that in mind, I procured an application, filled it out, and waited for a call that never came.
     After several weeks, I contacted the director of the United Way of Medina. I was first told that they misplaced my application. Instantly, the story changed to it was never received. In short order, a third excuse was given, but it was obvious that her true motives for these answers were not going to be articulated. Additionally, because of questioning and discovering her lack of honesty, she suddenly blurted out,; "You have a persecution complex!" At that point, I realized that there is no cure for their stupidity and hung up the phone. It must be pointed out that this individual lacked the qualifications needed to make that ridiculous insult.
     After all the years of advocacy, I speak with conviction that I understand why this conversation occurred.  The true reason for my non-appointment and not being considered for the volunteer position, in spite of the appropriate qualifications, was a fundamental bigotry that groups such as these possess. Like political leaders, they believe  "those people", like the mentally ill are not capable of being part of their moral universe. Sadly, I have witnessed little or no changes in that shallow thinking, even after a decade. Recent attempts to create awareness to the United Way of Medina are now met with my overtures being written off as inconsequential. Once again, these is not cure for stupidity!  
     One person that I cannot get a handle on is Governor John Kasich, and he remains an enigma. His decision not to proceed with the building of a long needed mental hospital in Cleveland can best be described as inhuman. This facility could have been in a focal point in helping many desperate people have their dignity restored and being given the chance at the productive life we all deserve. In the coming weeks, I will be calling for the reinstatement of this hospital, and hopefully some sanity will return in Columbus.
     It is essential to point out that the Governor did prove me wrong on one issue and for that  I am truly grateful. He came out swinging against some of the children of the corn characters I mentioned earlier, and with an end run, he expanded Medicaid for over 200K Ohioans in need. To this, John Kasich deserves all the accolades he receives, and they are plentiful. I can say without hesitation, that his success on this issue will save lives.
     In a nutshell, that is an overview of the roadblocks that myself and many advocates face. It is a crucial time in this country as the public mental health system is in shambles. My hope is that one of the political leaders decides to represent the community in human fashion, and not be concerned about how the lobbyists react. We are struggling to find that leader as it is not likely to come from the ones I have mentioned. Though I am becoming a cynic, and we are far from winning, like many others advocates, we keep pushing forward. As Gandhi once said; "One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds!" Sadly, those odds keep getting greater and greater, and come from the ones that we elected to represent us!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Joe Biden, Gun Control and his Mental Health Scam!

     During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Vice President Joe Biden did his best drunken sailor routine as he debated Representative Paul Ryan. It was here that rather than answering questions in a proper and dignified manner, he called every answer given by his opponent Malarkey, which is essentially slang for nonsense. Though time has revealed that most of what Biden said would be categorized more closely as Malarkey, he continues to spread his ignorance to new levels,  Which gets us to the current administrations recent proposal to amend the deficiencies in mental health treatment.
     It must be remembered that he has spent most of his time after tragedies in Aurora Colorado, Tucson Arizona and Newton Connecticut demonizing gun owners and attacking groups like the Tea Party and of course Sarah Palin who had nothing to do with these killings. So with fanfare, it is thrilling to see him take a pause to address the core issue, mental illness. On the Anniversary of the Newton Connecticut massacre, and nearly 3 years after the tragedy in Tucson Arizona,  Mr. Biden pledged that this administration was now going to make available, 100 Million dollars to improve the mental health system. He boasted that this was a new frontier for those that suffer with these disorders. Well the truth is this proposal, like many of this administrations answer to these tragic shootings, is nothing more than Malarkey!
     To begin with, numbers do not lie. With about 50 million people in this country having a diagnosable mental illness, his proposal amounts to about 2 dollars a person, about the cost of a cup of coffee. For Biden's sake, let's go back and find the true understanding of where the failures in the mental health system began, and how Biden should be in the center of the storm of this decay.
     In 1963, President John F. Kennedy began the process of deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill. His motives were to move those in mental health facilities back into their communities to assist in their recovery. This bold move coincided with the increased knowledge of the physiology and treatability of those afflicted. This plan would allow more and more people to live happy productive lives with easy access to treatment.  Part of the funding that was saved from closing these hospitals was to be earmarked to community treatment centers so the patients could have access to the needed treatment. Sadly, the Democratic House and Senate instead used that money for many useless pork barrel projects, and the centers were never built, leaving the patients to fend for themselves.
     It was back then that the seeds were planted for these tragedies. Police shootings involving the mentally ill were common place because they were never provided training to become, by default, the new mental health care workers. In response, new and innovative programs were developed by the local police and mental health advocates to deal with this new problem. This effort and insight led to fewer violent confrontations with the mentally ill. This successful effort was accomplished in spite of the Joe Biden's of the world.
     In 2002 Former President George W. Bush established the New Freedom Commission on Mental health, which proposed several changes to the current mental health system. It centered on early intervention and treatment, and most importantly, on eliminating the stigma of mental illness. The commission's findings were largely ignored by Biden, though many consumer groups widely embraced the proposed changes.
     Throughout this debate, the Biden Obama team have done something that is incomprehensible, and untrue, they categorized those with mental illness with violence. This archaic thinking was addressed in that commission's findings; "For our Nation to reduce the burden of mental illness, to improve access to care, and to achieve urgently needed knowledge about the brain, mind and behavior, stigma must no longer be tolerated." It is unlikely that Biden read this report, because it was not politically advantageous to him. Instead, he demonizes law abiding gun owners while discriminating against those with afflictions of the brain.      
     Encouragingly, there are some true heroes emerging. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a demon of the Liberal left and friend of the castigated Tea Party, increased mental health treatment funding in Wisconsin by 29 million. In essence, he placed a much higher priority on treating those with an unwanted illness, then Barack Obama and Joe Biden. However, gun control puts Obama and Biden on the front page.
     Now let us contrast this financial offering of this administration with the money being spent by the gun control PACS. New York Mayor Bloomberg injected 9 million of his own money into his super PAC, and raised at least 12 million more, to elect those that wish to impose stringent gun laws. As of July of this year, Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford's, who was seriously wounded in the shooting in Tucson, announced her gun control PAC had raised over 6 million in the first 6 months of operation. As the list grows, it would not be a stretch to say that the gun control organizations will spend more on their Gun Control efforts which will have little impact on preventing mass shootings, then this 100 million touted by Biden. Not surprisingly, none of these "advocates" talk about the lack of action on their parts as the mental health safety net slowly collapsed. This inaction includes Gabrielle Gifford's tenure in the United States Congress.
     In 1972, Joe Biden was first elected to the US Senate and became a career politician. In his over 40 years in office, many in a leadership role, he has done nothing of any significance in turning the tide of funding for those left out in the cold on deinstitutionalization. There is no evidence that he attempted in any way, to revive funding for the community mental health centers promised by President Kennedy. In essence, if he wants to see a serious culprit in the mental health deterioration, he should stop blaming Sarah Palin, the Tea Party and groups such as them, he should look in the mirror, and I am certain he may finally understand who is the true villain. What is that old saying;"we have met the enemy, and it us"

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ohio State, College Football, and Incivility

      As a college football fan, I have become a listener of former Ohio State Quarterback turned broadcaster Kirk Herbstreit. He presents himself as a level-headed, objective journalist who is respected for unbiased reporting. On a recent twitter exchange, he replied to another fan with "...You're right about the debate culture, but debate is healthy and doesn't require ugliness".
     I have never been shy about being a  Clemson fan, which occurred by default because of family connections. I enjoy frequent trips to Death Valley and over the years, have witnessed some exciting games. This is in stark contrast to my complete lack of respect for Ohio State after the shameful way they treated a teaching assistant, Norma McGil. This transpired during the scandal plagued years of past coach Jim Tressel but more on that later. With all of that as a backdrop, now we learn that the wisdom of Kirk Herbstreit in illuminating the ugliness of debating in today's culture.
     It all started on twitter, when I responded to a tweet of someone from Ohio State saying they could not understand what happened last Saturday in the Michigan State game. Sensing lively spirited banter, I answered, by saying, the better team won! No doubt, an argument or debate, could be made to the validity of my declaration, as they did score more points. A sign of old fashioned sportsmanship would be teams and fans, being gracious in both victory and defeat. Surprisingly, what ensued was more of a pack of rabid dogs smelling distress and the attack began.
     However, I must admit, I did have a small amount of civil dialogue with some of the members of "Buckeye nation", which is how they refer to themselves. Some pointed out that the insults came from a "lunatic fringe" of fans that seem to overwhelm many sports programs. However, those belligerent ones, who most likely never attended college, much less a  major university, eliminated any semblance of civility that existed. In these ugly exchanges, I felt like a bait dog at a pit bull fight. Sadly, this incivility is a microcosm of what exists within society today.
     During these attacks, it was pointed out that I was a hater, an idiot, geezer and a few more colorful alternative words. It did not last long for the attacks to escape my football beliefs and move on to the mental health advocacy that I volunteer a great deal of time. This work is prominently displayed on my twitter homepage. With the words, mental health as a target, I understood more of what Norma McGil faced on that campus back in 2002-03  
     One classy fan said "Go p--s yourself old man". Another one was more blunt by telling me to "Go back to the nursing home!"  A player even got in on the act by making another derogatory comment about my age. My reply was yes I am getting older, but I am far from being ready for nursing home. With a bit of luck, all of the people flinging those vile comments, including that player, will  one day live to be my age or older. They may even be as active as I am even after numerous operations.
      What I witnessed, besides ugly dialogue, was the psychology of mob mentality in social networking, which individuals associated with Ohio State seem to relish. Few were debating the merits of my benign statement, the better team won, they set their sights on me personally. It was as if I had attacked their mothers or shot their dogs as their demented hatred permeated this "dialogue".
     During some speeches I have given, I have been asked when this school become so arrogant and begin to show utter contempt for others? Ohio States cheap arrogance has its origins in its Former President Gordon Gee living vicariously as a bully through his football team. His actions as a role model, and a pathetic one at that rubbed off on the people associated with the school. Specifically, his demeaning behavior towards other schools and some religious bigotry that Buckeye Nation finds acceptable.
     I must admit that as the comments came in, I threw some gasoline on the fire, when I asked if other teams should hide their cheerleaders, in reference to Carlos Hydes inappropriate behavior this past summer. However, I clearly did not need to do that,  as their depraved appetite to spew venom was on full display. All because I made an innocent comment after a game.
     Over the years, many have asked me why do I hate Ohio State. I respond by reminding people I do not hate the school, but I do not respect what they did. I remind many that if we judge a society on how they treat their most vulnerable, then Ohio State should be ashamed and condemned for their treatment of the earlier mentioned Norma McGil.
     To refresh everyone's memory, Miss McGil was a teaching assistant at Ohio State, who excelled academically, and was working on an advanced degree. She made allegations that some football players were given preferential treatment in class, and it created a firestorm of allegations, not against the player, but directed at her.  Shortly thereafter, she came face to face with a modern day lynch mob and became a true victim of the same repugnant hatred many others have experienced or witnessed from this school.
    A obvious example would be Columbus radio station WBNS, a flagship station of OSU,  who once employed a sportscaster by the name of Ian Fitzsimmons. This person found entertainment by calling her "Norma the Mental Freak" and even cheered on a caller who referred to her as a "Crazy black bitch". Another member of "Buckeye Nation", called the Vanilla Gorilla, who claimed to be a graduate student at the school, at that time wrote, "Until Norma has her ugly insane ass circulating in public...". He went on to make even more offensive comments such as turning her into a transsexual. All of these narratives became comical fodder for members of Buckeye Nation. Shockingly, the school administration and Coach Tressel witnessed this persecution in chilling silence.
     In reflection, Norma was just a hardworking woman, trying to get an education and become a role model for younger African American women.  She had three strikes against her; She was female, African American and had a mental illness. The same illness that afflicted many prominent leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and many others. She lost her dreams and hopes because when she spoke up, Ohio State attacked her illness, not the merits of her claims.
     It bears pointing out that though her illness was besieged by this lynch mob, no one on campus was ever able to point to any "bizarre behavior" of hers as evidence that she was unstable.    
     Where was Buckeye nation during all this? As many can ascertain, they were defending the actions of Maurice Clarret and  mocking Norma Mcgil. They were also defending head coach Jim Tressel, who has proven to be a liar on the magnitude not seen since the dark days of Richard Nixon. During that Clarret scandal, nobody stood up for Norma, and few, if any, were concerned that Maurice had serious issues. Disgustingly, many found his actions okay simply because he could score touchdowns. Strangely, that opinion of Clarret lingers to this day, even after spending three years in prison for armed robbery.
     We should all find disheartening that onslaughts from Buckeye Nation come with such viciousness, and stupidity, but when one of their fellow students came under a barrage, they stand back and laugh. That is nothing for any group to hold up with a sense of pride. If they simply do love their school, if they genuinely had the best interests of their classmates at heart, why did this school crucify Norma? To them, the football game became more valuable than the individual and best interests of her, and once again, that is not a source of self-glorification.
     If there was ever an example of people losing their moral compass, Kirk Herbstreit's tweet spelled it out thoroughly. He was referring to the current disrespectful behavior of many sports fans. Sadly, that is just a microcosm on the values of society as people take stupid things like a football game and make them life or death. Ohio State thought it was okay to destroy the life of a defenseless woman, simply because she interfered with their ability to win some football games.
     I have some advice for these members of buckeye nation. Start doing something productive with your lives. Go out and do volunteer work to witness firsthand how the less fortunate live and fight for an existence. Who knows, some may one day realize that there are more problems in the world then defending the loss of a football game. However, based on what I witnessed, I doubt that many of them can pull themselves from behind their masks of shallowness and ignorance to do anything truly valuable! That is nothing for Ohio State to wear as a badge of honor!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Suicide at Keystone High School, a constant reminder!

     In a story that is becoming a frequent reminder, it was reported that another young student ended her life by means of suicide. The victim was a 16 year student from Keystone High School in Lagrange. She becomes another reminder that this silent epidemic plaguing society continues to attack with reckless abandonment.
     When I read the obituary and saw the picture of this young lady, it is heart wrenching. She looked like your typical 16 year old with the promise of a bright future and happy life. It is clear that she had a family that cared deeply for her, who now find themselves searching for answers that they may never learn.
     As of now, little is known about the what was going on with this student, but like the recent ones in Medina, Sheffield and Vermillion suggest, the public reacts with the anticipated how could she or why did she commit this act. Disappointingly, that outcry is only temporary until the death fades from memory, and inevitability another one occurs. In spite of many local deaths, there is never the sustained outcry demanding changes in schools and community to intervene before the tragedy occurs. However, in almost every case, the schools insist that grief counselors will be available for the ones left behind. My question is simple; Why not create more intervention programs to help prevent the deaths rather than provide assistance for the survivors?
     Charlie Neff, the Executive Director of the Lorain County Board of Mental Health spoke about this tragic death. He said; "We recognize the tragedy of teen suicide is not just a problem for the schools to address alone. Rather it is a community-wide problem and all of us, educators, medical and mental health professionals, parents and youth, have an important role to play in eliminating it."
     Mr. Neff is correct in pointing out that this is a problem in which everyone needs to be an integral part of the solution. Not only must educators be open to training to identify at risk kids, but the students themselves need to be included in its solving. They must be made to feel free to approach someone when morbid thoughts of death becomes relentless in their minds. Also, they must feel free to approach a teacher to let them know that a friend is in crisis and then the school must intercede and make a strong effort to protect that young person. Finally, the schools need to be proactive in every case, and never discount the efforts of students when they ask for help.
     Currently, Mr. Neff has announced that two network clinicians are in the process of becoming certified in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASSIST). They will enhance the region's efforts to educate the public in community intervention programs. These trained specialists will be invaluable in Lorain County and will make an immediate impact. Kudos to the Lorain County Board of Mental Health for the effort they are putting onward with educating the public.
     Though I am witnessing a slow thaw in the ignorance surrounding the public's acceptance of the deadly consequence of untreated mental illness, we have a long way to go.  I have written about many similar tragedies such as this one, and the responses that I have received have been mixed, and in some cases, outright hostile. It is as if many people in positions of power that can enact real change to provide the necessary support to students, dislike the idea that what they are doing is not working! It is time for everyone involved ensuring that immediate corrective measures take place. The work being done in Lorain should stand as an example of how to begin to make the necessary transformation.
     Hopefully, with further information on mental illness, the stigma associated with these disorders will continue to be diminished. With that education, a larger part of the public will realize that mental illness is a treatable physical condition and with treatment, the suicidal ideation will disappear, and one suffering the disease can recover.
     I have been asked on numerous occasions as to why do people commit these acts. The best response I can give is that individuals finally decide that, with their clouded thoughts that ending the suffering is a much better choice then waking up and experience it once again. I know firsthand as I lived with that domineering pain for many years, and with the constant fear that it will one day reappear. In her book, "Night Falls Fast", the noted Psychiatrist and Author, Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison said, "Suicide will have seemed to its perpetrator the last and best of bad possibilities,..." In essence, though many will fight the demons of their conditions, when the firm pain becomes unyielding, then self-murder appears to be the only solution.
    To be clearer, anyone who has fought the pain associated with excessive depression, life is not viewed with the same enthusiasm as those who live within the realm rational thinking. To draw a comparison, many people have the irrational fear that when they go to sleep at night, they will not wake up. Conversely,  when someone with an untreated mental illness goes to bed, the overriding fear is that they "will" wake up and be confronted with that emotional pain once again. Few people realize the magnitude of that agony, but once someone experiences it,  they never forget it.
     There are so many words associated with mental illness and suicide. Depression, bullying, ostracize, stigma, ignorance and the index are never ending. They seem to be a crucial element of every suicide that we read about. Fortunately in Lorain County, it is clear that some leaders are taking corrective measures to address the causes. I have discovered that efforts such as theirs are rare throughout most communities, so it is imperative that the Lorain County Board of Mental Health continue to open eyes on this invisible killer.
     On numerous occasions, people have asked what can be done to help those afflicted. The greatest advice I can give everyone in helping to reverse the trend of ever increasing numbers of suicide are three simple words. These were from a book whose author is a remarkable young woman named Lizzie Simon, whose personal battles with mental illness and suicide were chronicled in her biography, "Detour, My Bipolar Road Trip In 4D". The words are simple, but deliver a powerful message. To assist your loved ones and to help prevent suicide, never forget to "JUST BE THERE!"