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Open Letter to the President of the United States regarding Mental Health Reform

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW

Washington, D.C.  20500

 

 

Dear Mr. President,

 

 

My name is Michael Schofield and I am January Schofield’s father. Of course, you don’t know who January Schofield is. You won’t…. until she kills someone.

 

Writing that sentence above makes me want to vomit. It goes against every fiber of my being. My daughter is only ten years old. She loves animals. She is a fan of the band Blink-182. If you meet her after reading my opening sentences, you would think me a monster. How could I call my own child a killer?

 

There is a chance that January will one day join the list of names that includes Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Seung-Hui Cho, and Brenda Ann Spencer.

 

Why on God’s earth would I connect my precious little girl to these monsters? Because she is no more a killer than they are. It is not my daughter that might kill.

 

It is what is inside her brain.

 

January (or “Jani” as she likes to be called) has schizophrenia, a psychotic illness. Psychosis can take many forms. It can manifest as auditory and visual hallucinations.

 

Sometimes, these voices can take the form of voices the victim actually knows. I have known mothers who live in fear of their children because one of the “bad voices” in their child’s head is them.  Try to imagine having a voice filled with hate in your head. And that voice belongs to your mother. And you are desperate to silence that voice.

 

Is that why Adam Lanza shot his mother? Was it her voice that he heard in his head? Was he trying to silence her in the only way he could think of?

 

But perhaps that wasn’t the only voice.

 

Some of these voices are “command hallucinations,” meaning that they command the victim to do bad things, usually to themselves but sometimes to others. Did Adam Lanza hear a voice in his head commanding him to kill those children? Did he hear the voices of children he had never met in his head, laughing at him, telling him horrible things about himself?

 

When he was pulling the trigger, did he even see those children as they really were? Or was his mind showing him something else, something far worse than a child? Demons? Monsters?

 

People who suffer from psychotic illnesses do not see the world as we see it. They see another world, other people, overlaid upon our world, our people. When we go out in public, I must walk close behind Jani, ready to steer her away from walking right into people in front of her. She does not see them until I tell her they are there, even though they are right in front of her. She has to be reminded to see what is in our world because most of what she sees is not in our world. She looks down at the ground a lot because if she raises her eyes, they will drift up, above the heads of those around us, toward the ceiling, and fixate on something swirling high above our heads that I wish I could see but cannot. I must talk to her, not to make innocent conversation, although that is what it looks like. I have to make sure that she still sees me, still recognizes me.

 

For there was once a time when she didn’t.

 

As long as she still recognizes and engages with myself and those who love her and care for her, there is hope. But make no mistake. Every moment she is awake I am challenging a world that exists only inside her head, competing with it for her attention, and, more importantly, her soul.

 

There is no cure for schizophrenia. To manage it, Jani takes a staggering cocktail of medications that would put you or me in a coma. 350mg of clozapine (an anti-psychotic) per day. 75mg of chlorpromazine (another anti-psychotic, better known by its trade name “Thorazine”), and 750 mg of lithium carbonate (a mood stabilizer used to reduce impulsiveness). All this just so Jani can repress her violent impulses, the commands from her hallucinations, and function. And to meet her, you would never know she was on these powerful medications. She would happily run around the White House lawn, playing with Malia and Sasha. The only thing that might strike them as strange is that Jani would probably talk about “24 Hours,” or “Eighty” or “Eighteen.” She would introduce them to your daughters as her friends. And if they looked confused, she would run off by herself, perhaps into the Situation Room, or out into the Rose Garden. You would call after her but she would tell you she was playing with “Eighty,” that she and “Eighty” were having fun.

 

“Eighty,” by the way, is a hallucination, a young girl about Malia’s age. “Eighty” used to tell Jani to jump off the third floor of our apartment building with her. At least for the moment, “Eighty” is not doing that anymore.

 

I can tell you she would not hurt your daughters. You would probably find her enjoyable, a little blonde sprite. But that is only because of the anti-psychotics that she takes. Without those medications, her pre-frontal cortex will begin to erode, much as it does with Alzheimer’s. The pre-frontal cortex is who we are. I have watched my daughter’s personality erode and I have watched her struggle to come back. She can handle being in a classroom again (the classroom being “SED” or severely emotionally disturbed, the school system’s catch-all for children who cannot function in a mainstream class). For three years she could not do this and was educated in an empty classroom with a teacher and an aide. For two and half years my wife, Susan, and I maintained two separate apartments, one for Jani and one for our then infant son, Bodhi. Jani was such a threat to Bodhi’s safety that the Department of Child and Family Services told us to either send Jani to a residential facility (of which the only options were out of state) or they would take Bodhi. We refused to send our daughter away. We refused to give up on her. So we split our family apart to keep it together, something we were only able to do through the generosity of family and friends. We alternated nights. One night I was with Jani while Susan was with Bodhi and the next night we switched. We did not want Bodhi to grow up afraid of his sister and we wanted to reduce Jani’s stress level. And it worked. We now live under one roof again. Bodhi loves his sister and Jani, free from the worst of her symptoms for now, is able to love him back.

 

I still get tears in my eyes when Jani walks up to another child, a real flesh and blood child, and says, “What’s your name?” Such a simple act is a titanic accomplishment for Jani. My daughter is my hero, Mr. President.

 

But my promise that she will not hurt your daughters or anyone else only extends as far as August 8th, 2020. Because on that day Jani will turn 18 and I will have no legal ability to influence her, to help her, to save her life and, quite possibly, the lives of those around her. Everything that Jani has achieved and still might achieve could be lost. She is allowed to refuse her medication if she so chooses, because at 18, under our current mental health laws, she becomes a “consumer,” not a patient. Without medication, she could become a dirty bag lady that people will pass on the street with disdain, the woman raving to herself that makes good citizens cross to the other side of the street. She could commit a crime with no awareness that what she is doing is wrong.  Right now, she has a tendency to try and strip her clothes off if she feels any wetness. She could be arrested for that. She could be arrested for striking someone trying to help her, as she now sometimes does to us or her school staff or her behaviorists. Things that she does now that are not crimes yet will become crimes. Perhaps she will wind up in the California Department of Corrections, the largest provider of mental health services in the world.

 

With no medication to check the advance of the schizophrenia, there is no telling where what is left of her mind could lead her to do.

 

I am not asking for society to take responsibility for my child. What I am asking for the ability to continue to take care of Jani after she turns 18. Right now, I cannot legally help my child, no matter how much I may want to. I need your help, Mr. President, to change that.

 

There is a law that was passed here in California and signed by former Governor Gray Davis. It is called “Laura’s Law.” It allows for what is called “assisted outpatient therapy,” which is a fancy name for forced medication. If adults over the age of 18 with a diagnosed severe mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar will not comply with their doctor’s orders to take medication, they can be legally forced to. It was named after Laura Wilcox, a 19 year old college sophomore who was volunteering at the Nevada County (California) Mental Health Clinic during her winter break from school. On January 10th, 2001, Laura Wilcox was shot to death inside the clinic by Scott Harlan Thorpe, a diagnosed schizophrenic.

 

Unfortunately, the bill left the decision of whether to implement Laura’s Law (based on New York State’s similar “Kendra’s Law”) to the individual counties. To date, only Nevada County has implemented it. Los Angeles County, where we reside, has fought off lawsuits brought by civil rights groups enough to implement a pilot program. All attempts by other counties to implement Laura’s Law have been stymied by litigation claiming the law violates the civil rights of the mentally ill.

 

Mr. President, when Jani was only two, long before she presented symptoms of her future illness, I went to see my doctor about what I thought was the flu. It turned out I had pneumonia. I was hospitalized. As part of the protocol for pneumonia, I was administered a test for tuberculosis. The initial skin test came back positive. I was moved into an isolation room. I could not see my wife and daughter without a mask and gloves. My pneumonia improved under antibiotics but only then did I discover that I could not leave. I could not leave until the secondary tuberculosis test came back negative. I was shocked and angry. I wanted to go home. My wife and my daughter needed me. But I was a prisoner by order of the State of California’s Department of Health. Until it could be confirmed that I did not in fact have tuberculosis, I could not leave because if I did I was a threat to public health.

 

Why is it that tuberculosis is considered a threat to public health but severe mental illness is not? Why will Jani be given a choice to destroy what she accomplished and risk herself and those around her at the age of 18? If a person has tuberculosis, we do not let them refuse treatment and return to society. We treat them, not only because of the potential danger to us but also because we consider it our moral imperative to treat the sick. Those with severe mental illness are sick, Mr. President. It is our moral imperative to treat them.

 

If I have my way, my daughter will have a happy and fulfilling adulthood. But that can only happen with legislative help. I am asking you, Senator Feinstein, Senator Boxer, and Representative McKeon to pass the following legislative changes that I believe if were in place now, the 26 victims of Adam Lanza would still be alive:

 

  1. Introduce, pass, and sign into law federal regulations making Laura’s Law/Kendra’s Law mandatory in all 50 US states. This allows parents like myself to continue to have input regarding our children’s mental health treatment, avoiding tragedies like Newtown by making it easier to get our adult children into inpatient psychiatric care
  2. Amend the Affordable Care Act of 2010 to include mental health parity, eliminating annual and lifetime limits on mental health care, specifically inpatient care. Right now, inpatient psychiatrists spend more time on the phone to insurance companies trying to justify the need for further inpatient care than focusing on patients. Due to the elimination of state psychiatric facilities in most states, there is no care system for the chronically mentally ill. Requiring private insurers and Medicaid to treat mental illness as they do physical illness would save untold sums in incarceration. Prisons are currently the only providers for chronic mental health. In California, over 60% of the prison population has a diagnosable mental illness.
  3. Use incentives like student loan forgiveness to encourage more medical students to go into psychiatry. We have a severe shortage, even in major urban areas like Los Angeles.
  4. Pass legislation mandating the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to develop a program for mental health screenings of public school students, conducted by a team of board certified child psychiatrists. Current law requires visual and auditory screening. Mental illness has a far larger impact on learning ability than a need for glasses or a hearing aide. This would allow us to identify and treat mental illness before it progresses to the point of potential violence.
  5. Pass a budget bill allocating funds to states explicitly for the purpose of building more and better acute inpatient psychiatric facilities. Under current law, when you present to the emergency room with psychotic symptoms, if there are no beds available, you will be turned away. There is a severe shortage of psychiatric hospital beds for both adults and minors. The biggest obstacle to mental health care is not lack of insurance but a lack of facilities.
  6. Call for Congressional Hearings to learn about severe mental illness. Let parents like us come to Washington and share our experiences. Meet our children (for those of us who still have children under the age of 18). Involve parents like us, parents who can tell you everything that is wrong with the system, what we went through, and how we are trying to protect our kids. Do not subpoena just the “experts” because they haven’t lived it. You are not an expert on mental health until you have watched it destroy your child. And do not turn to national “advocacy” groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness because they willfully ignore the potential for violence with mental illness for fear of “stigma.” We are not concerned with stigma. We are trying to save lives. The unwillingness to face the possibility of violence leads the mainstream mental health advocacy groups to ignore our children, who suffer from the worst of the worst mental illnesses. There is no national organization that speaks for us.

 

 

You have heard only too clearly from Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, and Seung-Hui Cho but it is too late for them now. When you look at them, all you can see is a killer who took innocent life. You will never get the chance to see who they were before the day they picked up a gun.

 

But it is not too late for Jani. You can still meet her and see who she is now. And if you give me the chance, I can introduce you to thousands of other children who are not yet the visage of a nightmare, staring blankly back from a mugshot.

 

Please, Mr. President, Senator Feinstein, Senator Boxer, and Representative McKeon. Help me save my child.

 

And everyone else’s.

 

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Michael John Schofield

Father of January Schofield

Author January First: A Child’s Descent into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her

 

 

 

CC:

 

Senator Diane Feinstein (U.S. Senate-California)

Senator Barbara Boxer (U.S. Senate-California)

Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon (25th District-California)

 

Note: If you are a parent of a child with severe mental illness, I encourage you to use to this letter as a template, changing it to include your child and your child’s symptoms, then mail to the White House at the address above. The White House and your members of Congress need to see your letters and emails. They need to see the magnitude of the problem that led to the tragedy at Newtown, CT. You can submit emails to President Obama here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments. You can also call the White House at 212-456-1111.

You can find and contact your US Senators here: http://www.senate.gov/ and your member of the US House of Representatives here: http://www.house.gov/

26 comments on “Open Letter to the President of the United States regarding Mental Health Reform

  1. This moved me to tears. I think everything comes across very clear. How could you not want to change something after reading this! I think that not only parents with mentally ill children but everyone who feels strongly about this can use this letter as a base to write there own.

  2. Danny’s mom
    Thank you for your powerful voice and your courage. I have followed your family story and have such deep respect for your advocacy. I will use your letter as a template to write to the President.

  3. Thank you so much for publishing this. Our son also has a psychotic illness, he is now 15, but he has had hallucinations since he was in first grade, that we are aware of. We are planning to get medical and perhaps financial power of attorney when he is 18, or guardianship. Is that a possibility for you and your wife for Jani? I was actually thinking of writing a letter to the President right after this happened, so you are inspiring me to follow through. Thank you again.

    Note from Michael: Oh, absolutely we intend to do this and it might work. The problem is that conservatorship has to be renewed every year, is easily overturned, and if Jani should ever decide to go off her medications there might not be anything we can legally do. So I just want to see as much support as possible.

  4. Mother
    Your letter is eye-opening to say the least. I sincerely hope it reaches all those addressed and more. I am fortunate enough not to have experienced severe mental illness, so I will not pretend to imagine your struggles. I admire your bravery and determination to protect your children and society. Good luck, Mr. Schofield – to you and your family.

    Note from Michael: Thank you, Chesley.

  5. Is there perhaps a way that those of use who do not have mentally ill children (or in my case, do not yet have children) may add our voices in support of yours?

    Note from Michael: Sure. Send a letter to your reps and the President demanding congressional hearings on mental illness that invites those who suffer and their families.

  6. Mom
    Mr. Schofield, This letter is exactly what I would say to the President. I am the mother to a 24yr old son who diagnosed when he was 18 with Schizophrenia. My son was a straight A student all through school, worked part time jobs, signed up to enlist in the Marines, and started college. Then one day he had a psychotic break. He harmed himself in a terrible way which cost him sight in one eye. I tried everything I could to be involved in his psychiatric care, unfortunately that only lasted so long. Because of his age. I want to help my son have some sense of normalcy again. Currently he is being housed in county jail, after another psychotic break. I am at my wits end. I feel so helpless. This young man had the potential for greatness. I want to restore something positive in his and others like him, futures. I am willing to advocate on this matter in anyway necessary. My son story is much longer and if given the chance I can tell it. Thank you for your time, and such a well spoken letter.

    Note from Michael: Margaret, you can email me at michaeljohnschofield@me.com.

  7. Thank You
    Thank you Michael for this letter. I only recently discovered your blog, purchased your book and have ready every word of both. I have 3 kids with ADHD, one with Aspergers, and 2 nephews with much more severe problems with mania and ADHD. I am also the granddaughter of a schizophrenic who killed himself when I was a child. My grandfather had several siblings with it also, along with his mother. My cousin is in prison and has it also. I lost a nephew due to neglect which was a direct result of his mothers mental illness. And yet I look at my life as “normal.” Mental illness is everywhere. I had the honor of working for a local non-profit counseling agency that specialized in children and has programs for everything from autism social skills to forensic interviews for abused children. Not as a counselor or anything that noble but I was happy to be able to support those programs. It gave me insight into the inadequacies of our mental health care system. I know everyone there yearns for a serious discussion on mental health–the same discussion that is focusing now on gun control. Mental illness is truly everywhere around us–even in families we view as average. This country needs a strong leader to bring about change that is so long overdue. I applaud your efforts to not only bring awareness but in fighting for your child–you are doing a wonderful job. I in no way can understand truly what your life and struggles are like, but please know that you and your family are in my prayers and you have my support.


  8. Thank you Michael for this letter. I only recently discovered your blog, purchased your book and have ready every word of both. I have 3 kids with ADHD, one with Aspergers, and 2 nephews with much more severe problems with mania and ADHD. I am also the granddaughter of a schizophrenic who killed himself when I was a child. My grandfather had several siblings with it also, along with his mother. My cousin is in prison and has it also. I lost a nephew due to neglect which was a direct result of his mothers mental illness. And yet I look at my life as “normal.” Mental illness is everywhere. I had the honor of working for a local non-profit counseling agency that specialized in children and has programs for everything from autism social skills to forensic interviews for abused children. Not as a counselor or anything that noble but I was happy to be able to support those programs. It gave me insight into the inadequacies of our mental health care system. I know everyone there yearns for a serious discussion on mental health–the same discussion that is focusing now on gun control. Mental illness is truly everywhere around us–even in families we view as average. This country needs a strong leader to bring about change that is so long overdue. I applaud your efforts to not only bring awareness but in fighting for your child–you are doing a wonderful job. I in no way can understand truly what your life and struggles are like, but please know that you and your family are in my prayers and you have my support.

  9. I want to help with this movement!
    I am almost finished with my Master’s program to become a licensed mental health counselor in Iowa and plan my focus to be on children. I read your book in one day and each word felt like a knife stabbing in my heart. Your family has been through so much and I know you are reaching out for as much support as you can get. i also know that this mental health reform that is happening and will be changing in the near future is going in the WRONG direction! We have been told that most insurance companies will be capping out our services to 6 sessions and that will include Medicaid and Medicare. I want to help open people’s eyes and ears…our children of today desperately need mental health services more then ever. I have written to our congress…is there more that I can do? You’re an inspiration to me and I will learn and work harder then ever to be a top therapist and give the families that need it… the support and knowledge and options to have hope. Hope for a future. Keep that hope and keep giving your children hugs and kisses every night!

    Note from Michael: We keep working on getting the attention of the policy makers and that requires sheer numbers. You can reach me and Susan at michaeljohnschofield@me.com.

  10. Can I share your letter?
    Hi Michael,
    If there is one person who knows how to help our kids, it’s you! Can I have your permission to share your letter on my blog as is (I would also provide a link to your blog), inviting others to mail in a letter of their own using your letter as a template for their own story. I wish you could read this letter to the President yourself, to actually see him in person and have him meet Jani, so he could see our families in real life. Thank you for all you do.

    Note from Michael: Of course.

  11. I wish..
    Michael,
    Your letter is wonderfully written, I hope it gains the attention and the movement it deserves.
    As a 23 year old with a mental illness (that I’ve had since a young age) I can say that I WISH my parents had more control over my mental health treatment when I turned 18, I became a very disturbed, distraught and dangerous girl once I had the choices and even the option of taking my Seroquel or not, I was eventually sectioned and spent 5 weeks in an adult psychiatric ward- however had no follow up care after I was discharged, well except for the number of the ward in case of ’emergencies’ anyway- things need to change, I hope our voices are herd.
    Lauren Perry

    Note from Michael: I know. There is no follow up, whether you are released from a psych hospital or prison.

  12. AOT in NYS
    I agree that AOT is very effective in assisting those with mental illness in NYS, as I am a MH worker in an intensive apartment program in NYS. I must point out though that in order to recieve AOT services a person has to commit a crime FIRST, which frankly is a shame as AOT could be a deterent to people committing a crime in the first place. Also, “forced medication” is rare, even those on AOT can refuse to take medication and are unlikely to face court action for this (at least this has been true with my clients). For clients of mine on AOT the amount of attention they recieve is what tends to be most helpful, and also, that treatment providers tend to be more responsive to a client on AOT when they’re not well, because the AOT coordinator does not allow them to be ignored (our AOT coordinator is a wonderful and very effective advocate). Frankly that’s what every client of MH services should recieve but don’t. I wish that every state had services on par with AOT for every client with a mental illness who requires and wants that amount of services.

    Note from Michael: I was not aware that one had to commit a crime to qualify for AOT. That is a problem as it could be prevented. I also didn’t know meds could still be refused. I am aware there is generally no follow up care.

  13. Beautiful! Reading your blogs makes me reconsider paralegal studies; it’s one way to make friends in high places…

    One question: what would define a “severe” mental illness? Is bipolar in and of itself severe, or that would depend on a person’s history? Forced medication IS a little bit of a slippery slope.

    To use myself as an example, I once lowered my med dosage without doctor’s approval, because I didn’t really think they were helping. Since he THOUGHT I have bipolar due to family history (I don’t, I have autism with anxiety and VERY minor depression issues) it certainly would have sucked if he’d been able to commit me to a hospital for that. He possibly would have if he could have, too, judging from how he got ANGRY with me for it instead of asking why I felt the need to do that.

    I fired him for that (eventually…), among other reasons. However, under laws like this, it’s a little scary to consider what could happen.

    Note from Michael: Good question. Schizophrenia definitely, and any mental illness where psychosis is present as a symptom.

  14. I am preschool teacher and I have been spending time with our youngest students since 1985. So many times I can pick out which children need…more, something that I do not know how to give them and it frustrates me to no end. In my years I have terminated three boys because I could not help them and I feared for the other children’s safety. All three have later been in the hospital for behavioral issues. It makes me so very sad that they could not be helped at three or four when their bodies are little and their minds are growing, fast. Before they break someone’s arm, push another child down the stairs, hurt me. I have been pinched, slapped, kicked, and poked with staples by tormented small souls that I am trying to teach. It breaks my heart that there is no help for these kids, or not enough help, soon enough.
    Thanks for reading. Karen

    Note from Michael: I understand. There is no system to help children with such severe symptoms.

  15. AOT follow up
    All the clients we have on AOT have committed some kind of crime, typically one that displayed agressive behavior (assault, etc.). In our county at least AOT is known not to have “sharp teeth” in regards to enforcing people to take meds, but it is often the knowing that they COULD be sent back to court that gives some people the incentive to stay on medications. That said, I still think AOT is a excellent program, which with us offers a sort of backup support for our clients when they are not well. This level of support would of course vary according to the AOT coordinator in the county, as said earlier, ours is excellent, but will be retiring soon, so after that who knows?

    Note from Michael: Yes, I know AOT doesn’t necessarily enforce medication but it is at least some support system. It’s just too bad that it requires the commission of a crime to get that help. We just don’t get preventative mental health care.

  16. cant get help for my daughter
    My daughter is 30 and she is sick. I witnessed the utter failure of the mental health system recently trying to get her help. An entire day in the ER, an arrogant ass of a psychiatrist, dealing with law enforcement,(city cops couldnt help, she lives out of city limits…..sherriffs department called)…….ex husband who cant or wont help due his own issues)……they refused to let me go back and ordered me to sit in a waiting room chair, pointing at it like i was a child. SIT HERE. Finally jackass shrink writes 6 page report saying she IS a danger to herself. What did they do? Sent her home, ( i was informed the law enforcement made the final determination…what the hell????)…They are not docs….sent homewhere she was arrested for smacking her Dad. Spent Christmas in jail…..She takes drugs too….Uninsured, which means in this town no doctor wants her…They allow her to make her own choices despite the fact she is not capable of thinking and reasoning on her own……..Thank you for what you are doing. Prays to your family

    Note from Michael: Wow. Katie, if you are interested, we have a great private online support group. At least you wouldn’t be alone in this. We would also love to share your story on Bipolar Nation Radio (if you were willing). This is what the world needs to see. They need to see how hard it is get help and how inane the system is (you can be a danger to yourself and STILL not get help). My email is michaeljohnschofield@me.com

  17. Drew’s Mom
    I stumbled across your letter by accident. I am in Orange County CA & we are getting a group together to do a video on mental health with various people telling their story. I am the mom of a 13yr old diagnosed as bipolar & I have an older brother who is schizophrenic. There MUST be more awareness or tragedies like Newtown will keep happening. Please contact me if you are interested in joining us. Your story brought tears to my eyes. When my son was first diagnosed I felt so alone. There aren’t any resources out there. Mental health needs to be a part of the regional centers. Parents should feel like they are alone with nowhere to turn as I do. I have 2 stepsons who are autistic. Mental health needs as much awareness as autism.

    Note from Michael: I may already be in contract with your group. Are you with Alison Evors? My email is michaeljohnschofield@me.com.

  18. I only recently heard of Jani’s (and your) struggles, and I’m amazed at your patience and kindness.

    I’m glad that my parents were diligent with getting me help and having me treated when I was first diagnosed with schizoaffective and bipolar disorders at 15. My voices internalized my anger and rage, and had I not received the care that I did I would not be alive today.

    Now, I have a Master’s in counseling and work with at-risk youth with similar issues (student loan forgiveness would be super rad- human services does not pay well!).

    Obviously Jani and I are different… but there is hope.

  19. WHO IS FEEDING YOUR DAUGHTER WITH ALL THIS NEGATIVITY AND TELLING HER SHE IS NOT NORMAL????
    ….. HMM I WONDER WHO IS FEEDING YOUR DAUGHTER WITH ALL THIS NEGATIVITY, MAKING HER FEEL LIKE SHE IS ABNORMAL AND THAT SHE ONE DAY MIGHT BECOME A KILLER.

    WE ALL HAVE A KILLER INSIDE OF US, WE ALL HAVE GOOD AND BAD THAT IS FULLY NORMAL. IF YOU ARE GROWN UP WITH PARENTS WHO SEEM TO THINK THAT ONE DAY YOU MIGHT BECOME A KILLER THEN IT COULD BE LIKLEY TO HAPPEN.

    PUT ALL THIS NEGATIVE FOCUS, MEDICATION, DRUGS, ILLNESSES, KILLINGS PUT ALL THAT FOCUS ON OTHER THINGS WOULD BE MY SUGGESTION. THERE ARE SO MANY GOOD THINGS IN LIFE WHY NOT FOCUS ON THOSE THINGS.

    SPORT, GAMES, ART, ANIMALS, NATURE, WRITING, SINGING, EXPLORING, IMAGINATION CAN BE USED IN SO MANY GOOD WAYS, IT IS A VERY RESOURSFUL SKILL, SCIENCE, TECNIQUE, NEW IMPLEMENTATIONS, PUT YOUR DAUGHTER IN A LAB WHERE SHE CAN EXPERIMENT WITH HANDS ON SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS, OR IN ART SCHOOL, OR IN A SPORT SCHOOL, SHE MIGHT ONE DAY COME UP WITH A GREAT SOLUTION ON HOW TO GET OUT OF AND ESCAPE FROM ALL THIS MADNESS AND NEGATIVITY THAT SHE IS CURRENTLY BEING FED BY FROM HER PARENTS.

    THIS IS HOW I SEE YOUR DAUGHTER, A FULLY NORMAL GIRL, WITH A VERY STRONG KINAESTHETIC AND TACTILE INTELLIGENCE A HANDS ON LEARNER, WITH A GREAT IMAGINATION, MAKE USE OF IT IN A POSITIVE WAY SO SHE CAN GET REWARDED FOR ALL THE GOOD THAT IS INSIDE OF HER.

    IT LOOKS TO ME THAT YOU ARE TRYING TO BRING OUT BAD AND NEGATIVE THINGS INSIDE OF HER, BUT THAT IS NEVER GOING TO WORK IN POSITIVE WAYS, SHE IS GOING TO RUN AWAY ONE DAY SHE IS ALREDY TRYING TO ESCAPE WHAT SHE IS BEING FED NOW CONSTANTLY .

    START FEEDING HER WITH POSITIVE THINGS, SO SHE CAN START GETTING REWARDED FOR ALL THE GOOD THAT SHE IS AND FOR THE INTELLIGENCE THAT SHE WAS BORN WITH.

    ALL THE BEST,
    GISELA

  20. You nailed the problem, but I’m not so sure about the solution
    Michael,

    I have been reading your book and it made me very curious about your blog.
    I’m 27 years old and 3 years ago I was put under a hold for psychosis.
    I whole heartedly believe that our approach to mental health treatment has to change.
    I experienced the broken system first hand.
    I was in the hospital for 5 days and saw 3 different doctors none of which ever stayed to talk to me for more than 15 minutes.

    My mind was saturated with metaphors which were powerful and have caused me to change my life course for the better.
    I found healing in meditation, in reiki, in yoga practices, I focused my energy on being well and learning from the stories of others.
    I feel I am in recovery.
    Even though I experienced similar problems 9 months later where I had to beg my parents not to hospitalize me and god bless them for putting up with numerous explosions of emotions that washed over me in which I had to keep repeating to them. I don’t intend to hurt anyone or myself this is just my state of being right now.

    It has been over 2 years with out my experience of psychotic symptoms and I really do believe that many people given the right conditions can experience a psychosis.
    I just want you to know that the thought of being forced to take a medication for a diagnosis for me would have been murdering my spirit.
    I believe in recovery for mental health and I believe that recovery paths are different for each person.

    It terrifies me to think of the control others could face because of recent events in Sandy Hook.
    I don’t want mental health facilities to look more like prisons.
    I don’t want people forced against their will.
    I think that is the beauty of life.
    We have the freedom to make of it what we will.

    I would like to let you know I am terrified in this world.
    I am terrified because I know that at any moment someone could choose to harm me or those I love.
    And it turns out that even if they are children.

    But I think we need to focus on reaching out and giving love to others.
    That’s the only thing powerful enough to overcome our difficulties.
    And I can tell by your book that you love your daughter so so much.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that individuals are different.
    Maybe what you are recommending is what your daughter needs.
    But the effects will be greater reaching and they could cause suffering for others.

    Be well and thank you for documenting your incredible journey with Jani.

    I coincidently also wrote a letter to the president after the Sandy Hook Shootings.
    If you’d like to read it send me an e-mail.

    Note from Michael: I am happy for your recovery, Haley. The key, though, is that you never had thoughts of hurting yourself or others. I suppose that has to be the deciding factor in forced treatment. We can’t allow people to hurt themselves. Forget violence on the Sandy Hook scale for a moment. That’s pretty rare. What kind of society would be if we allowed self-harm and suicide? If someone is in pain, we have a duty as a society to relieve that pain. I commend you immensely for what you have done but I don’t see why you had to make it harder on yourself than it is already was by not taking medication. Forgetting the doctors who made no effort to form a connection with you (which I agree is terrible and not a model for effective psychiatry but brought about by severe shortages in psychiatrists), why struggle more than you have to? And I in no way say this to disparage your struggle and your success. I commend you for what you have done. I am just wondering why you wanted to do it without medication.

  21. Why is our society so willing to spend money on punishment but not on prevention? (i.e pennywise and pound foolish). It is a disservice to society and a lack of compassion to be against a law to force mentally to take medication for their safety based on their civil rights. What about the rights of those they harm? Where are these advocacy organizations when the mentally ill civil rights are not protected when they are forced into our prison systems? CA spends over $50k a year per inmate plus the cost of the court system and the incalculable lost to victims and families. What is the cost of preventive services? Now CA is being forced to release thousands of inmates early due to overcrowding. Makes wonder who really is insane.

    Note from Michael: Good point. That is why we are going to focus our efforts in California. I never got a response from either President Obama (or his office staff), Senators Boxer and Feinstein (not even a form letter) and a form letter from our US Congressman that had nothing to do with what I wrote about. When I wrote back asking for a personal response, I got nothing. I am not saying give up on federal advocacy but I have little faith that politicians have any interest in helping anyone who is not a good photo op for them.

  22. Seriously?
    Pass legislation mandating the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to develop a program for mental health screenings of public school students, conducted by a team of board certified child psychiatrists. Current law requires visual and auditory screening. Mental illness has a far larger impact on learning ability than a need for glasses or a hearing aide. This would allow us to identify and treat mental illness before it progresses to the point of potential violence.:'(

    Note from Michael: Yes? I stand by that statement.

  23. Have you received a response? I support your ideas.

    Note from Michael: Not a word. Not even a form letter response, which is odd. In fact, I received no response from either the President, the California Senators Feinstein (who I guess doesn’t want to hear anything that is about the assault weapons ban, which I do support), or Senator Boxer. From our Representative, Buck McKeon, I got a form letter explaining his opposition to gun control, which was odd since I didn’t even mention gun control. I think maybe mentioning “Sandy Hook” triggered an automatic form letter on gun control. I wrote back asking for a human response to my actual point and got no response.

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