NEWS ARCHIVE 2003 (JAN - JULY)
National Stigma Clearinghouse
Please Scroll Down for
July 6, 2003 - News of the Week
TEN REASONS TO DISTRUST "60 MINUTES"
***Please use this information to supplement "60 MINUTES Plugs
a Flawed Gunlaw Amendment," News of the Week, June 29, just below
The less we know about a topic, the more likely we are to accept what
we hear from a trusted source. Since many of us trust 60 MINUTES
to be responsible, we accept its news and views. That is, until a
blatantly biased segment addresses a subject we know well.
"Biased" is far too mild a word for "Armed and Dangerous," an
egregiously stigmatizing and inaccurate segment that aired on October
13, 2002 and again on June 29, 2003.
"Armed and Dangerous" concerns a federal gunlaw amendment (to the
National Instant Criminal-background Check System, NICS) now making its
way through the U.S. Congress. At no time was the 60 MINUTES
audience informed that vast numbers of people convicted of felonies and
domestic abuse misdemeanors are missing from the NICS database. The
decision to focus only on people with psychiatric diagnoses was
possibly based on the much-publicized images that choice would provide.
Beyond the bias, the segment is riddled with factual errors and
misrepresentation. We cite here ten of them in the order they appeared
in the segment.
1) Steve Croft's Introductory Statement
Steve Croft's opening words, "Why is it so hard to stop deranged gunmen
from terrorizing American communities, like the sniper who has
terrorized Maryland?" assumed that the sniper murders in Maryland were
the work of a mentally ill gunman. This irresponsible assumption was
first made on October 13 before the snipers' identities were known.
Inexplicably, the line was repeated on June 29 when it was known to be
Furthermore, the assertion that deranged gunmen are terrorizing
American communities is false, irresponsible, and damaging to the
mental health community.
2) An Unsubstantiated Homicide Statistic
Croft stated in his introduction that every year across the U.S.,
nearly 1,000 homicides are commited by people with severe mental
illnesses. 60 MINUTES had used this figure in an earlier
report, ignoring the objections of advocates who pointed out that the
figure is unsubstantiated. And although advocates again pointed out the
error after the October 13 broadcast, it was not deleted from
the re-broadcast on June 29. The 1,000 figure is a guesstimate by Dr.
E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist known for exaggerating violence to win
support for forced psychiatric medication. Furthermore, if the figure
could be verified, it would show that people with serious mental
illnesses commit homicide at the same rate or lower than the population
3) Biased Description
Michael McDermott was described as a "rampage murderer" who acquired
his weapons because of the incomplete database. While this statement
may have some validity, McDermott was not the threatening monster 60
MINUTES portrayed. He had held responsible jobs throughout his
adult life and had not shown threatening behavior in the past. He had
been treated for depression and hospitalized several times, but news
reports disagree whether he had ever been involuntarily commited.
Interestingly, the defense lawyer testified that McDermott had tripled
his dosage of Prozac several weeks prior to the murders, which he said
might explain "the level of rage and anger that allowed the killings to
occur." Prozac has been a suggested cause of agitation, psychosis,
rage, and violence in some individuals.
4) Misleading Footage of the Hinckley Assassination
To show the emotional footage of the 1981 assassination attempt on
President Reagon by John Hinckley was gratuitous and misleading.
Although the concept of the federal database was spurred by John
Hinckley's murder attempt, the datatbase would not have listed his name
and others like him who have no record of involuntary psychiatric care.
5) Biased Description
The description of Russell Weston, who killed two guards in the Capitol
Building on July 24, 1998, skipped any mention of the fragmented help
he had received for his delusional problems. Although for several
years, local mental health agencies, the FBI, and even the Secret
Service knew about Weston's threatening behavior and need for
psychiatric help, he was irresponsibly dumped and abandoned. This is a
prime example of official buck-passing, where mental health care
consists of a bus ticket to another state. While it is possible that
Weston's name on the database would have prevented the Capitol tragedy,
it is spurious to ignore the surrounding story.
6) Crucial Fact Omitted
In describing the case of Peter Troy, who commited a double murder in
Long Island, NY on March 12, 2002, 60 MINUTES failed to note
the importance of the restraining order issued to protect Troy's
mother. The restraining order was a reasonable cause to prohibit Troy's
gun purchase, while his involuntary hospitalization was not.
Interestingly, the Troy case illustrates the role of inadequate funding
for mental health services. Although Troy's history of violence was
known to the system, dire mental health staff shortages allowed him to
7) Misleading and Inaccurate
Colin Ferguson, who killed six people including Rep. Carolyn McCarthy's
husband and wounded 19 others including her son on a Long Island
commuter train on December 7, 1993, was inaccurately described as an
"insane gunman who went berserk." There was no indication of insanity
or psychiatric illness prior to Ferguson's rampage. Ferguson's name
would not have been on the federal database, and he would not have been
stopped from buying his gun. In fact, he purchased his weapon in
California in strict compliance with the tough gun laws of that state
and dutifully completed the two-week waiting period. The family members
of the shooting victims, including Rep. McCarthy, told the New York
Times in 1995 that although at first they thought Ferguson had to be
insane, they later changed their minds after learning more about him.
8) Misrepresentation of People Involuntarily
Commited to Psychiatric Care
After Michael Faenza of the National Mental Health Association said,
"If you want to be serious about handguns, targeting people with mental
illness is not the place to start," Steve Croft replied, "It seems like
the perfect place to start if you know that somebody is psychotic and
delusional and may not know the diffrence between right and wrong."
Here Croft sweepingly discredits people who have experienced an
involuntary commitment during their lives as psychotic, delusional, and
untrustworthy. Misinformation such as this is deeply damaging because
it sounds plausible to an audience with little knowledge about mental
9) Conditions That Present Greater Violence Risk
The audience was not informed about groups at far higher risk of
commiting violence than people with psychiatric disabilities.
10) One Example of a Responsible Person
One person with schizophrenia who had received an exemption from the
gun prohibition was interviewed near the end of "Armed and Dangerous."
The flagrant imbalance of this "news" piece requires an explanation.
To recap the examples used to justify the gunlaw amendment: Colin
Ferguson and John Hinckley would not have appeared on the NICS (gun
purchase prohibition) list since their conditions did not warrant it
until after their crimes. Peter Troy's restraining order disqualified
his gun purchase; 60 MINUTES ignored that important point. We
concede that if Russell Weston's and Michael McDermott's names had been
on the NICS list, they may have been denied gun permits. However,
McDermott used an AK-47 type assault rifle which he must have acquired
without a permit. Let's not forget that Senator Schumer published a
study showing that illegally acquired firearms are the real menace to
Where does this leave 60 MINUTES' record for honesty?
June 29, 2003 -News
of the Week
"60 MINUTES" PLUGS A FLAWED GUNLAW
aka NICS Improvement Act (NICS- National Instant Criminal-background Check System)
Was Rebroadcast of "Armed and Dangerous" Intended to
Sway Vote in Senate?
On June 29, 60 MINUTES rebroadcast "Armed and Dangerous," a
model of biased and misrepresentative "news" reporting. The
segment concerned a proposed federal gun law amendment, the Our Lady of
Peace Act (OLOPA), that would add millions of law-abiding citizens to a
criminal database kept by the FBI for checking the backgrounds of gun
purchasers. According to the Bazelon Center, the amendment is
slated for introduction in the U.S. Senate soon.
"Armed and Dangerous" first aired on 60 MINUTES on October
13, 2002. Three days later the U.S. House of Representatives
passed the OLOPA amendment without any discussion or even a formal
vote. Will the repeat airing of "Armed and
Dangerous" trigger a similar rush in the U.S. Senate?
According to 60 MINUTES host Steve Croft,
the amendment applies to 2.7 million people who
have experienced an involuntary psychiatric commitment and thus
are prohibited from owning guns. The names of these innocent
people would be added to a federal criminal data base, the
National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
By skipping or downplaying important facts, "Armed and
Dangerous" implied that people with mental illnesses
are a serious threat to American safety.
Croft neglected to say that since its creation in 1998, the
NICS has had poor data for all prohibited
groups, including violent convicted criminals. So while
the NICS lacks information on many millions of
criminals and violent offenders convicted of crimes, 60
MINUTES chose to ignore the bigger issues and focus on five
high-profile murders, only two of them possibly relevant to the
proposed law. The result: an inflammatory scapegoating of an innocent
group of people.
We should mention that according to comments in 1994 by leading
experts on privacy, John Monahan and Dr. Paul Appelbaum, names and
medical records on the database will be impossible to shield
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
The bill's lack of protection of private records is unacceptable.
Further analysis of recent changes in the wording may reveal other
Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) is the leading sponsor of the "Our
Lady of Peace Act" or "NICS Improvement Act." We suggest you urge
Senator Schumer NOT to introduce the flawed bill in its present form.
Tel: 202-224-6542; Fax: 202-228-3027 (Washington, DC)
Tel: 212-486-4430; Fax: 212-486-7693 (New York, NY)
Electronic Contact: http://schumer.senate.gov/webform.html
Senator Leahy of Vermont is another key sponsor. Contact info: Tel
202-224-4242; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Background, contact info, and useful LINKS are posted in our archives;
see the Menu just above to locate the "News" articles listed here. For
a shortcut to the articles Click here.
April 14, 2002: "System Failed Despite Kendra's Law. Is Another New Law
the Answer?" (Describes case that triggered OLOPA amendment)
Oct. 13, 2002: "CBS Rush to Judgment Sensationalizes Mental Illnesses
Nov. 10, 2002: "Proposed Law Would Put Law-Abiding People on Criminal
Nov. 24, 2002: "A Reprieve Today, But What About the Future? Armed
and Dangerous Must Not Air Again, Ever"
Mar. 23, 2003: "Senate Will Consider Legislation That Puts Innocent
People on Federal List With Criminal Offenders; Mental Illnesses Used
As Marketing Strategy"
Mar. 30, 2003: "In 1994, Leading Experts Warned Against Brady Act's
Over-Emphasis on Mental Illnesses"
More information will be posted as it becomes available.
June 22, 2003 - News
of the Week
SUPREME COURT SETS STANDARDS IN CASE INVOLVING
FORCED MEDICATION, BUT QUESTIONS OUTNUMBER ANSWERS
Below is a thought-provoking view of the problems.
ARTICLE, New York Times
June 21, 2003
If Sanity Is Forced on a Defendant, Who Is on Trial?
By DAPHNE EVIATAR
Charles Thomas Sell has a long history of mental illness. He has told
doctors that his gold fillings were contaminated by Communists, and he
once called the police to report that a leopard was boarding a bus
outside his office.
When he appeared at a bail hearing after his indictment for Medicaid
fraud five years ago, he screamed, cursed and spat in the judge's face
when she tried to tell him his rights.
After a diagnosis of "delusional disorder, persecutory type," Dr. Sell
was deemed incompetent to stand trial in April 1999 and was imprisoned
in a psychiatric institution.
But could the government make him take antipsychotic medication so he
could be tried? On Monday the Supreme Court said it was possible, but
only in special circumstances. After setting out a list of relevant
factors, including the probable effects of the drugs and the importance
of trying the case, the court sent it back to the trial court to apply
While the court's ruling settled some legal issues, it did little to
resolve the larger philosophical questions in the case: how does one
define free thought and individual identity in an age when technology
has provided the tools to radically alter them? What is the dividing
line between the mind and body? What is the nature of personal autonomy?
To many, the idea of forcing someone like Dr. Sell — who has been
deemed neither dangerous nor incompetent to determine his own medical
treatment — to take mind-altering drugs solely for a government
proceeding raises the specter of Orwellian "thought police" or a Brave
New World of drug-induced complacency. "Over himself, over his own body
and mind, the individual is sovereign," John Stuart Mill wrote in his
celebrated 1859 essay, "On Liberty."
In their brief to the Supreme Court, Dr. Sell's lawyers argued, "The
right to be free from unwanted physical and mental intrusions has long
been recognized as an integral part of an individual's constitutional
freedom." Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy
Alliance, which submitted a brief in the Sell case, agreed. "If you
think about the most fundamental freedoms in this country," it said,
"those freedoms are ultimately meaningless unless we assume some
underlying freedom of consciousness."
But defining freedom of consciousness for someone who is mentally ill
is tricky. Do psychotropic drugs distort the individual's personality,
the existential self? Or do they do the opposite, as the government
argued, and restore a delusional mind to its pristine state?
Not even mental health experts agree on this. The American Psychiatric
Association, which supported the government, argued that mental illness
is a physical disease that should be treated like any other. "The brain
is an organ just like the liver is an organ and the heart is an organ,"
said Dr. Renee Leslie Binder, a psychiatrist who advised the
association on its court brief. "If someone has an infection, you don't
tell them to breathe deeply. You give them antibiotics to fight the
infection. When someone has a brain disease, the main form of treatment
The American Psychological Association, though, emphasized the
importance of seeking alternatives. Its brief supporting Dr. Sell said
these drugs "operate on the individual's thought processes and thus
implicate fundamental issues of personhood and individuality."
The conflict has essentially come up against the age-old mind-body
problem. If the mind is fundamentally different from the rest of the
body, the government's and psychiatric association's purely medical
view of the issue misses the point.
"The American Psychiatric Association has embraced a somewhat
reductionist approach to understanding human life," said Christian
Perring, chairman of the philosophy department at Dowling College,
whose research focuses on the philosophy of psychiatry. "If you
understand a person simply in terms of brain functions, you miss a lot.
A large number of philosophers and even psychiatrists feel that loses
sight of understanding a person as a whole person and in the context of
a larger community."
The notion of autonomy is also critical to philosophical discussions of
the right to refuse treatment. Although the idea originally referred to
political governance of states, it is now often applied to individuals
and understood as "acting on one's own considered or reflective
desires," explained William Ruddick, professor of philosophy and
adjunct professor of psychiatry at New York University. Philosophers
generally agree that "autonomy can be overridden when its exercise
harms others," Mr. Ruddick said. Although Dr. Sell's crime arguably
harmed others, his refusal of medication, Mr. Ruddick notes, does not.
Therefore "it would be a clear violation of his autonomy to override
his refusal in order to adjudicate the admittedly serious charges
That's also the view of the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics, a
California-based organization whose mission is to defend mental
autonomy in the face of modern technology. To the center, the forcible
injection of mind-altering drugs is nothing less than government
mind-control. Richard Glen Boire, counsel for the center, said the
government is claiming "the right to make you think a certain way or
not be able to think certain thoughts." He added: "Dr. Sell's case is
exactly that. He's posing no harm. They want to use one of these drugs
to make him think differently."
Dr. Sell's lawyers made the same point. "The content of Dr. Sell's
thoughts is precisely the reason the government seeks to medicate him,"
Dr. Sell's lawyers wrote to the court. "The very purpose of the
government's efforts is to change Dr. Sell's thought and speech so that
he does not evidence persecutory delusions."
Dr. Sell has said that the F.B.I. is plotting to kill him, that the
Branch Davidian Compound at Waco, Tex., was intentionally burned by
government agents, and that the F.B.I. fabricated the criminal charges
against him and sent him to Alaska to silence him. "While Dr. Sell's
view of the world and political beliefs may seem unusual in these
respects," his lawyers wrote, "until Dr. Sell is adjudged incompetent
to make medical decisions, he must be permitted to think his thoughts
and speak his mind even if the government does not like what he thinks
Indeed, not only should someone be free to be mentally ill, but there
may even be social benefits to such "diverse thinking," Dr. Sell's
lawyers argue. As they wrote to the court, Ludwig van Beethoven, Isaac
Newton and Ernest Hemingway all suffered from mental illness. They
quoted Emily Dickinson:
Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
'Tis the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur, — you're straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain."
Yet even if the government succeeds in convincing a lower court that
Dr. Sell should be brought to trial, that creates a conundrum: what if
Dr. Sell was deluded when he supposedly bilked the government of
Medicaid money? In other words, if Dr. Sell's mind is chemically
altered for his trial, is the government trying the same person?
"You are trying a different defendant in the sense that the medications
can often have a transforming effect on personality," said M. Gregg
Bloche, a psychiatrist and law professor at Georgetown University.
Indeed, whether psychotropic drugs change a person's identity is vexing
scholars, who debated the issue at the annual conference of the
Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry last month
in San Francisco.
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, emeritus associate professor of psychiatry at
Harvard Medical School and editor of the Harvard Mental Health Letter,
is disturbed by the implications in this case. "It says in effect that
whatever his disorder is, we can get rid of that for the moment and
it's clear that this man is responsible for the crime. But even if you
are treating this man's paranoid delusions, he is still a paranoid
person. His behavior, to the extent it came out of that paranoia, can't
be treated in retrospect. It just doesn't make sense to make somebody
competent to stand trial for a crime he committed while he suffered
from the disorder."
Paradoxically, Dr. Sell is probably more likely to go free if he does
consent to the drugs. He has already been locked up for more than five
years while his objection to the government's forced medication plan
has wound its way to the Supreme Court. That's longer than he would
have served if he had been convicted of all fraud charges.
(Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company)
2) HOW TO AVOID
Tune In To Free Training Session on June 25
sponsored by ADS Center
You are invited to participate in a virtual training session via the
Internet and the telephone on the topic of gaining acceptance for
housing for mental health consumers in the face of NIMBYism - "Not In
My Back Yard."
This session is sponsored by the Resource Center to Address
Discrimination and Stigma (ADS Center), a project of the Center for
Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The session is free to participants.
Date: Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Time: 2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Eastern
The training will offer the expertise of Michael Allen, senior staff
attorney of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, in Washington,
D.C., and Sister Mary Scullion, executive director of Project H.O.M.E.,
in Philadelphia, and will include a question-and-answer session.
Participants will learn how to replicate initiatives for overcoming
NIMBYism and gaining acceptance in their own communities.
The strategies are helpful both for organizations that provide housing
as well as for people who advocate for safe, affordable, and accessible
housing for mental health consumers.
The presentation will take place during the first hour, to be followed
by a thirty minute period of discussion with the presenters.
If you can access the Internet and the telephone at the same time, you
will be able to follow the PowerPoint slides that will accompany the
telephone presentation on the Internet.
However, if you would like to participate by phone only, a hard copy of
the PowerPoint presentation will be sent to you before the call so that
you can follow along.
All participants will receive a confirmation email and agenda within 48
hours of responding to this invitation. That email will include log-in
instructions for the call.
To register for this teleconference, please reply to this message,
stating that you want to participate.
For more information, please call Susanne Finiello at 800-553-4539,
Reminder: Please let us know if you would like to participate by phone
only, and materials will be sent in advance of the call.
June 8, 2002 - News
of the Week
"TEST YOUR BIASES" WEBSITE OVERWHELMED BY
Would you believe that folks are incredibly curious about their biases?
Just try to reach Harvard's bias-testing website, Project Implicit.
If you can't reach it, it's because the site shut down this weekend due
to heavy traffic.
A small item in last Thursday's New York Times no doubt triggered an
unusual avalanche of site visitors. But the site's popularity is clear;
the tests have been taken more than 2.5 million times.
Times columnist Pamela O'Connell reported that the online self-given
tests take about 10 minutes and consist of sorting words and pictures
as quickly as possible to measure unconscious preferences.
Project Implicit was developed cooperatively by
researchers at Harvard, the University of Virginia, and the University
of Washington for two organizations that deal specifically with
prejudice (clickable links):
On our visits, we noticed "mental illesses" are missing among the many
self-testing topics for bias. We will suggest this topic for future
(web project of the Southern Poverty Law Center)
(funded by the National Science Foundation)
Tests are available on both of the above sites.
June 1, 2003 - News
of the Week
LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST NYC'S SUBWAYS AND
here for New York Times article (free registration is
necessary), or scroll down for article reprint.
A serious hardship for people with psychiatric disabilities who live in
New York City has been their inability to obtain half-fare MetroCards.
Such reduced fares are readily available to millions of other people
with disabilities and elderly New Yorkers. This bias exists only in New
York City's five boroughs and surrounding counties. Most of the state
has no problem with granting public transportation half-fares to all
citizens who qualify.
Thanks to the leadership of Fred A. Levine, an advocate, lawyer, mental
health consultant and survivor, the 15-year struggle for half-fare
parity finally succeeded in 2000. Two years of painstaking advocacy
produced the Half Fare Fairness Law which specifically grants half-fare
eligibility to people with serious mental disabilities who are
receiving Social Security Supplemental Security Income. The discounts
apply to the subways, buses and commuter trains in the metropolitan
End of story? Far from it.
Half-fare applications still are being discouraged or held up by
procedure. Such a long history of roadblocks suggests that prejudice,
bias, and discrimination are at the root of the city's failure to
implement the new law.
Article from THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 31, 2003
(copyright The New York Times 2003)
Support Groups for Mentally Ill Sue M.T.A. Over
By DAISY HERNÁNDEZ
Three advocacy groups for the mentally ill have filed a class-action
lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, saying its
application process for half-fare MetroCards is too difficult and
invasive for about 37,000 mentally ill riders who are eligible for the
The suit, which was filed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn on May
22, says the application process requires the mentally disabled to
provide doctor's certifications of their illness, which can be hard to
obtain, and to make their full medical records available to the M.T.A.
Katharine Clemens, a lawyer for the Mental Health Law Project of MFY
Legal Services Inc., one of the firms representing the three
plaintiffs, said yesterday, "Because of the stigma attached to
psychiatric disorders, people don't want to make those records public."
The plaintiffs are Community Access, Fountain House and the National
Alliance for the Mentally Ill of New York City.
About 5,500 riders with serious mental illnesses have received the
half-fare rates since 2000, Ms. Clemens said.
Transit officials declined to discuss the case yesterday because it is
in litigation, but they said it was important to verify an applicant's
medical condition carefully.
Advocates for the mentally ill say the problem has become more acute
since the subway fare rose to $2 this month. Most of the city's 37,000
mentally ill residents who are eligible for the discount live on fixed
incomes and use public transportation to get to doctors' offices and
service agencies, the advocates said.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs are also seeking an order requiring the
M.T.A. to provide a simplified application process while the case goes
through the courts. The judge is expected to issue a decision on June
May 4, 2003 - News
of the Week
1) ACCURACY IS GOAL OF NEW MENTAL HEALTH
Source: New York City Voices, January-March 2003 Issue
OUR GROUP HAS BEGUN TO FIGHT STIGMA IN THE MEDIA
We Want Accurate Portrayals of Mental Illnesses
by Barbara Lurie, Director, Mental Health Media Partnership
Mindful that the media is the public's primary source of mental health
information, our organization, Mental Health Media Partnership,
is working with the entertainment industry to encourage mental
health-related portrayals to enlighten as well as entertain. By serving
as a bridge between Hollywood's creative community and mental health
experts from across the United States, we hope to promote reliable and
accurate depictions of mental health issues.
Some people go untreated and undiagnosed simply because they or their
families don't have sufficient information about what's wrong or how to
treat it. The media's role in getting the word out about mental
disabilities and their treatments is especially helpful because the
same stigma that blankets this important problem also impedes people's
access to information about it. The entertainment industry can be a
terrific vehicle for disseminating accurate information while at the
same time telling compelling stories.
We are working with producers, writers and directors to make sure they
have up-to-date, research-based information available to them should
they tackle a mental health-related subject. We're also planning
educational forums geared for enterainment industry professionals to
acquaint them with mental health issues, both from factual and
We've put together an amalgam of creative options and factual
information about mental health treatment and disabilities that the
media will be able to tap into free of charge at our new website. We
also will be offering a free technical assistance hotline, linking
Hollywood creators with mental health experts, and are developing a web
site tailored to the specific needs of the entertainment industry.
Knowing that the ultimate goal of the creative community is to tell a
good story, we are developing and will soon disseminate story ideas and
depiction suggestions about various facets of mental disabilities and
treatment that will hopefully engage audiences while dispelling myths
and inaccuracies that pervade this area.
The Mental Health Media Partnership is a joint venture by USC's
Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania's
Annenberg Public Policy Center, the National Mental Health Awareness
Campaign and the entertainment industry. We're funded by the Annenberg
Trust at Sunnylands and are fortunate enough to have several prominent
entertainment industry leaders on our board.
New York City Voices Editor's Note: The Mental
Health Media Partnership meets with various entertainment industry
folks about TV and film depictions of psychiatric disorders. Some
celebrities have agreed to talk about their own psychiatric problems.
Phone: (213) 743-4991 or (310) 376-3294; Fax: (310) 379-5124; E-mail: email@example.com
(Reprinted by National Stigma Clearinghouse with permission from NYCV)
About Barbara Lurie:
Barbara Lurie has worked for over 25 years in the mental health field,
first as a patients rights activist and more recently as a liaison with
the media industry.
In 1974, after graduating summa cum laude from Ohio State University,
then earning a Masters degree in clinical psychology, Barbara Lurie
joined the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Through
promotions, she became chief of the department's Patients Rights
Bureau. In that capacity, she worked with state legislators over the
next two decades and interfaced frequently with professional
organizations, the court system, mental health groups, the academic
community and public constituencies.
In her role as Bureau Chief, Barbara accepted more than 75 speaking
invitations annually from mental health facilities, professional groups
and universities. She also regularly taught mental health law to the LA
County/USC Medical Center's residency program.
In April, 2000, Barbara Lurie accepted a position as program director
at the Entertainment Industries Council, and more recently, she agreed
to direct a challenging new liaison with the entertainment industry,
the Mental Health Media Partnership.
We met Barbara three years ago through Ron Schraiber, a mental health
activist who directs the Bureau of Consumer Affairs at the Los Angeles
Department of Mental Health. Jean Arnold, National Stigma
Posting May 6, 2003
MIND'S VOICES GET NEW ATTENTION
(If you are registered with the Times, Click
Here for article)
Copyright The New York Times 2003
May 6, 2003
Experts See Mind's Voices in New Light
By ERICA GOODE
It was just one voice at first, loud and male, coming from the ceiling,
saying, "Hi, John," calling him by name as if they were buddies. But
after a while, the voice, which he came to know as the "evil genius,"
urged him to steal other people's brain cells and told him that he had
a cancerous tumor in his head.
Eventually, other voices joined in, maybe 50 of them, male and female,
yelling "as loud as humans with megaphones," John recalled, from the
moment he awoke in the morning until he fell asleep at night, cursing
or ordering him to kill himself or, once, when he picked up a ringing
telephone, screaming in chorus, "You're guilty! You're guilty!"
"It was utter despair," John said. "I felt scared. They were always
Auditory hallucinations are a hallmark of schizophrenia: 50 percent to
75 percent of the 2.8 million Americans who suffer from the illness
hear voices that are not there. Like John, whose schizophrenia was
diagnosed in 1981 and who spoke on the condition that he not be
identified, many people with schizophrenia spend years pursued by
verbal tormentors as relentless as the furies of Greek mythology.
Suicide is sometimes the result, death seeming the only escape from
Yet psychiatrists who study schizophrenia have traditionally shown
little interest in the voices their patients hear, often dismissing
them as simply a byproduct of the illness, "crazy talk" not worthy of
Recently, however, a small group of scientists has begun studying
auditory hallucinations more intensively. Aided by new brain imaging
techniques, they have begun tracking such hallucinations back to
abnormalities in the brain, finding that certain brain regions "light
up" on brain scans when patients are actively hallucinating. And the
experts are listening far more carefully to what patients say about
their hallucinatory experiences.
The research has led to new theories of what may cause such bizarre
alterations in perception and has spawned at least one promising new
treatment: the delivery of low-frequency magnetic pulses to areas
identified by the brain scans seems to quiet, at least temporarily, the
voices of patients who have not found relief through standard treatment
with antipsychotic medications.
Ultimately, the researchers say, knowing more about what causes
auditory hallucinations may help them understand more broadly the
mechanisms that underlie schizophrenia and other psychotic illness.
"These are critical, core experiences that really constitute what
having schizophrenia is all about," said Dr. Ralph Hoffman, a
psychiatrist at Yale who is studying the magnetic stimulation
treatment, called transcranial magnetic stimulation or T.M.S.
In research described in a recent issue of Archives of General
Psychiatry, Dr. Hoffman and his colleagues found that schizophrenic
patients who received 132 minutes of the magnetic stimulation over 9
days showed a significant reduction in auditory hallucinations compared
with control subjects given a dummy treatment. Half of the subjects in
the study experienced a return of their symptoms within 12 weeks,
though in some cases, the hallucinations remained at bay for up to a
year. All the patients were also taking antipsychotic medication.
Schizophrenic patients describe voices that not only talk to them but
talk about them, haranguing, insulting and sometimes provoking them to
hurt themselves or to perform other actions. In many cases, the
hallucinations become more intense when the patient is under stress.
In a study of 200 patients with schizophrenia and other psychotic
illnesses, Dr. David L. Copolov, director of the Mental Health Research
Institute of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, and his colleagues found
that 74 percent said they heard voices more than once a day. More than
80 percent described the voices as "very real," rather than "dreamlike"
or "imaginary," and 34 percent experienced the voices as coming from
outside their heads (38 percent said they came from both inside and
outside their heads and 28 percent from inside only).
A small minority of the patients said the voices they heard were always
or almost always supportive and positive in tone. But more than 70
percent described them as always or almost always negative.
Dr. Hoffman of Yale said some of his research subjects heard voices
intermittently, but others heard them continuously, the only respite
coming when they slept. One patient who committed suicide described her
voices as "a constant state of mental rape," Dr. Hoffman said.
Nicole Gilbert, 37, received a diagnosis of schizophrenia in 1985. For
years, she said, she could not read anything because her voices "would
tell me that it was about me."
"They would say things to try to make me believe that I was Jesus," she
recalled. "Then they would torture me and say: `We´re just
joking. You´re so stupid, how could you believe this?´ "
Ms. Gilbert, who is much recovered and is now a case manager at a
mental health agency in California, said the voices seemed so real that
she could not believe it when her friends told her she was
The findings of studies using brain scanning techniques like positron
emission tomography (PET) or functional magnetic resonance imaging
(M.R.I.) underscore how persuasive auditory hallucinations are to those
who experience them. When patients are hallucinating, areas of the
brain involved with auditory perception, speech, emotion and memory
show increased blood flow, indicating greater nerve cell activity.
"These people are not just crazy; they're telling you what their brains
are telling them," said Dr. David Silbersweig, an associate professor
of psychiatry at Weill Medical College of Cornell University who has
studied hallucinations with brain-imaging. Still, studies so far have
come up with differing patterns of brain activation. For example, both
Dr. Hoffman's group and a team led by Dr. Philip McGuire, a professor
at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, found heightened activity in
Broca's area, a region of the frontal lobe involved with speech
perception and processing. But Broca's area was not identified in Dr.
Silbersweig's research or in a study by Dr. Copolov that will be
published soon. The precise areas of the brain's temporal and parietal
lobes that show activity during hallucinations also differ from study
The discrepancies are difficult to interpret and reflect the
imprecision of even advanced technology in capturing highly complex
brain processes. The data are further clouded because the high costs of
scans limit the size of most studies.
But the disparity in the findings has also led to different theories
about how hallucinations arise.
Schizophrenia typically strikes in adolescence or early adulthood.
Extensive research over the last few decades has indicated that the
brains of people with the illness differ in significant ways from those
of healthy people. Experts agree that schizophrenia stems from a
combination of genetic predisposition and unknown environmental
What everyone who studies hallucinations agrees on is that
schizophrenic patients misperceive signals generated inside the brain.
But scientists are still debating what is being misinterpreted and how
Dr. Copolov, for example, suggests that the "voices" patients hear are
really fragments of auditory memories "that come to consciousness fused
with emotional content" and are then incorrectly evaluated as
originating from an outside source.
The fact that in some studies the hippocampus and other brain
structures known to be involved in memory retrieval are active during
hallucinations is consistent with this theory, Dr. Copolov said.
Other researchers, including Dr. McGuire of the London institute, have
argued that what is misperceived is internal speech — the running
dialogue most people engage in while thinking. In schizophrenia, in
this view, a mechanism that normally distinguishes between internal and
external speech breaks down.
Dr. Judith Ford, an associate professor of psychiatry at Stanford, and
Dr. Daniel Mathalon, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale, have
proposed that the brain's auditory cortex may play a role in this
failure to identify speech correctly as internal or external. In
studies, they recorded electrical activity in the auditory cortices of
schizophrenic patients and healthy control subjects. In the control
group, the auditory cortex showed a dampening of activity in response
to internal speech, they found. But this inhibition was lacking in
"When you and I have these thoughts," Dr. Ford said, "we are inhibiting
the response of our auditory cortex, saying, `Don´t pay attention
to this; it´s me, talking.´ But the schizophrenic patients
do not inhibit the response the way normal healthy people do."
Dr. Hoffman has a slightly different theory. In schizophrenia, he
suggests, a loss of gray matter may intensify the link between Broca's
area, involved in speech production, and Wernicke's area, responsible
for speech perception.
In the normal course of affairs, Dr. Hoffman said, Wernicke's area
receives information from a variety of nearby brain areas and distant
structures like Broca's. But in schizophrenic patients, who in imaging
studies show a loss of gray matter in the superior temporal lobe
containing Wernicke's, the signals sent from more local regions may be
knocked out or greatly decreased. If so, Dr. Hoffman suggests, the
signals coming from Broca's may then become more salient, bombarding
Wernicke's area with internally generated words and phrases that are in
some way interpreted by Wernicke's as external speech.
Dr. Hoffman noted that transcranial magnetic stimulation applied to
Wernicke's area appeared to suppress hallucinations in some
schizophrenics. "My view is that in schizophrenia it is not just inner
speech or an acoustic memory that is misinterpreted," Dr. Hoffman said.
Instead, he said, patients "are actually having perceptual experiences
that have the same clarity and vividness of external speech."
Dr. Hoffman's research team is now using M.R.I. scanning with each
research subject to determine which brain regions are active when the
subject is hallucinating, and then delivering stimulation to that area.
But whatever the research on magnetic stimulation yields, it is already
helping some of the 25 percent of hallucinating patients whose voices
are not stopped by antipsychotic drugs.
"Just stimulating in a single site appears to have a significant
impact," Dr. Hoffman said.
Other experts call the results impressive.
In the treatment, an electromagnetic coil shaped like a Figure 8 is
held to the patient's head. The coil produces a quarter-size magnetic
field that is then rapidly turned on and off, inducing an electrical
field in the cerebral cortex's gray matter.
Scientists do not know exactly how the treatment works, but they
believe it dampens the reactivity of neurons, an effect that is then
passed on to other connected brain regions.
Unlike electroshock therapy, long used for severe depression,
transcranial magnetic stimulation does not induce seizures at the
levels used in the studies and has a far more selective effect on the
brain. Nor does the treatment appear to have the serious side effects,
like memory loss, of electroshock therapy.
The most common side effect, Dr. Hoffman said, is mild contractions of
the scalp that some patients find uncomfortable. Also, in contrast to
electroshock, patients receiving the magnetic stimulation remain awake,
unsedated, through it.
John, who participated in Dr. Hoffman's research last summer, said the
procedure did not bother him. "This thing kind of taps on your head
every second and it's not intrusive," John said. He said his voices got
"smaller and not as loud" after treatment, but they did not go away
entirely, and the improvement lasted only six months.
Without a full cure in sight, John said he has developing his own
tactics for fighting the hallucinations, which persist despite the
medications he takes. He talks back to them in his head, he said, and
criticizes them when they criticize him.
Between his own efforts and the treatments, John has made much
progress. He now attends school, has his own apartment, goes out with
friends and has a girlfriend.
"I wanted to try to make the voices my friends, but I found out later
that that is not realistic," John said. "I was kicked around by them
for a long time. Now, if they start bothering me, I just kick them
Here for article including pictures and box. Free registration is
needed for access.
April 27, 2003 - News
of the Week
1) STATE DEPT'S RICHARD ARMITAGE USES PSYCHIATRIC
PUTDOWN TO SCOLD NEWT GINGRICH
2) EMPATHY ENLIGHTENS HEARTS AND MINDS
3) A NEW WEBSITE OFFERS TREASURE TROVE OF INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY
1) On Friday April 26, USA Today
reported that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage jokingly used
a psychatric slur to discredit former House speaker Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich is under fire for criticizing the State Department in a recent
Two ways to reach out to Mr. Armitage come from Harold A. Maio and
Morgan W. Brown.
LET MR. ARMITAGE HEAR FROM US, ADVISES HAROLD MAIO:
E-mail address for Richard Armitage - http://contact-us.state.gov/ask_form_cat/ask_form_secretary.html
The newspaper USA Today quoted Deputy Secretary of State
Richard Armitage as saying: "It's clear that Mr. Gingrich is off his
meds (medications) and out of therapy."
Messages to Mr. Armitage should be brief. Harold wrote: "This remark is
totally uncalled for, demeans people who experience mental disorders
and treats us as a joke. There was a time this particular barb would
have been directed at African Americans or against women, but each has
to a large degree overcome the laissez faire that permitted
such remarks. Mr. Armitage, apologize immediately." Harold A. Maio
Harold also e-mailed the editors at USA
Please, you do not have to quote people's demeaning remarks. Richard
Armitage's remarks are insulting and should not be a part of any
editorial policy. Mental health is no joke, and for those of us
struggling with it, it is a very serious matter. Derogatory asides like
his were often aimed at women and at African Americans with impunity,
until we learned better manners and stopped disregarding their
Tell such a joke about some ethnic group and watch the letters pour in.
We are no different. When you insult us we hurt. Apologize immediately.
Harold A. Maio, Advocate; Member IAPSRS Publications Committee; 8955
Forest St.; Ft Myers, FL 33907
2) A POEM BY
MORGAN W. BROWN
STIRS EMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING
certain people hear voices sometimes:
not just thoughts pounding away inside
their own mind either; but as if the words,
mutterings or noises being uttered were
from something or someone around them;
yet never heard by anyone else within
earshot, other than upon the ears whom
these sounds have either chosen or fallen
some are often as rude, negative, angry, mean,
insulting, scary, distressing and given to shouting
or murmuring as those experienced from various
people during numerous situations encountered
throughout one's lifetime; others can be calm,
positive, quieter, soothing, nurturing,
supportive, inspiring, gentle and clear spoken
harm, wounds, maiming, ill health and tormenting
nightmares become wrought by the former; faith,
hope, healing, well being and pleasant dreams
fostered as a result of the latter
when enough time, effort, consideration
as well as thoughtfulness is taken to reflect
upon hard questions concerning what any soul
would really prefer; if ever they truly had
such choices for themselves what befell their
own cherished ears; before the next word left
one's tongue, it may be more carefully chosen or,
even better, never said or thought of again
by Morgan W. Brown
April 22, 2003
Montpelier, Vermont, USA
The above poem specifically concerns the matter of hearing voices
(i.e., the voices or sounds being heard) and is not merely
focused on those who are hearing voices or the behavior of voice
The poem does reference the behavior of others whom voice hearers often
come into contact with however.
The author, that is me, is a hearer of voices himself. -- MWB
3) A NEW WEBSITE OFFERS
TREASURE TROVE OF INFORMATION AND COMMENTARY
Received by E-mail from: firstname.lastname@example.org
(Morgan W. Brown) Date: Wed, Apr 23, 2003
Below is the Web address for a links page I recently compiled which may
be of interest:
Alternative Mental Health Links: http://nht_amhl1.blogspot.com
This is a links page concerning information about alternatives to the
traditional, medical model-based, mental health system.
Included within these listings as well, will be links to certain
Websites, articles, reports and other informational pages determined to
be of related interest concerning these matters.
My personal Web log or "blog," Norsehorse's Home Turf, is available at http://nht.blogspot.com/. MWB
April 20, 2003 - News
of the Week
REACH OUT TO JOURNALISTS WITH AN
OUTSTANDING HANDBOOK FROM NEW ZEALAND
We applaud New Zealand for its "Have No Shame" campaign!
A tool of the campaign is an excellent booklet explaining mental
illnesses to journalists: Media Handbook: a resource for
journalists and sub-editors reporting on mental illness.
This outstanding little 19-page handbook is illustrated with photos
created for a "Have No Shame" touring exhibition that describes the
experience of living with a mental illness. The combined talents
of mental health services users, journalists, and members of the NZ
Mental Health Commission produced this model of informative
jargon-free writing. First funding was from New Zealand's Health
Funding Authority, and currently is from the Ministry of Health.
Among the booklet's useful topics (language, headlines, interviewing
tips, facts, descriptions of specific illnesses, and more) is an
important sidebar on violence: "Nine Facts About Mental Illness and
Although a few of the terms used are special to down-under countries,
this attractive handbook is an outstanding resource for journalists
everywhere. In fact, it is an ideal tool for anyone doing
outreach and advocacy work.
For information about ordering the booklet, contact:
Huia Communications in Wellington, New Zealand
PO Box 17-335 Wellington
Tel: 04 473-9262
Fax: 04 473-9265
Add two phone codes (international 011, country 64) and drop the 0 if
calling from the U.S. The time in NZ is 16 hours later than Eastern
April 20 News, Item 2:
INC. ANNOUNCES WEBSITE
(Received by e-mail from
Workers Against Mismanagement
National Disability Resources on the Internet
Information is power! Most people with disabilities can live, learn,
love, work and play independently and in the mainstream of society, but
they often need information to achieve their goals: information about
legal rights, financial resources, assistive technology, employment
opportunities, housing modifications, childrearing and educational
options, transportation and mobility services, and more. This
information is available from a wide variety of resources - nonprofit
organizations, government agencies, books, pamphlets, magazines,
videotapes, and online - often at little or no cost. Finding it,
however, isn't always so easy.
Disability Resources is a nonprofit organization that monitors,
reviews, and reports on these resources every day. We disseminate
information about them to libraries, disability organizations, health
and social service professionals, consumers and family members,
Publications, such as our award-winning newsletter Disability Resources
Monthly (check it out for a FREE copy)
Online resources, including The DRM WebWatcher, our easy-to-use online
subject guide to the best disability resources on the 'Net, and The DRM
Regional Resource Directory, our guide to state and local agencies and
Customized services, such as consultant services, bibliographies,
workshops, and speakers (contact us for more information)
We hope you will take some time to check out this web site. Use it to
explore the wonderful world of information on the Internet, and return
frequently. Here are some suggestions for new visitors:
If you're just browsing, you may wish to start with the FAQs, the
current week's features (listed on the left side of the home page), or
some of the other pages we've featured in recent weeks.
Check out The DRM WebWatcher, our spectacular subject guide to the best
disability information on the 'net. We recommend starting with the
complete index, though it may take a few extra seconds to load. Once
you have a sense of what's in the WebWatcher, you may prefer to use the
shorter alphabet indices or the search engine on the home page.
Find your home state in The DRM Regional Resource Directory and explore
the resources and services in your area.
We update this site every few days, so be sure to check What's New for
the latest additions and changes. If you wish, you can register to be
notified whenever there are significant updates.
We've tried to organize this site in a very straightforward,
easy-to-use manner. The key sections are listed in the table of
contents. More detailed information can be found on the site map.
Using a text browser or synthetic voice? Check out our handy tips for
accessing this site.
Please take a few minutes to learn more about our organization and our
If you'd like to contact us, request that we review your web site as a
possible WebWatcher or Regional Resource Directory link, volunteer to
help us, or support our efforts, please let us know. And don't
forget - information is power.
(c) 1997-2002 Disability Resources, inc.
April 13, 2003 - News of the Week
PUBLIC'S MISTAKEN BELIEFS HAMPER ADVOCACY EFFORTS
An article in the current Psychiatric Services (April 2003) by
Patrick Corrigan, Ph.D. and Amy Watson, Ph.D. is a thought-provoking
guide to improving advocacy results. (For the article, choose a
LINK from the list below.)
In "Factors That Explain How Policy Makers Distribute Resources to
Mental Health Services," Corrigan and Watson (University of
Chicago) explain a number of ways that public officials decide funding
priorities when money is scarce. Which groups have the greatest
hardship? How effective are the programs to be funded? Are
the disabilities or illnesses perceived as personal faults?
The article makes many useful points, all worthy of study. We
took particular interest in Corrigan and Watson's finding that
"legislators who view people with psychiatric disabilities as
responsible for their illness will be likely to divert funds away from
mental health programs."
This underscores the harm done by deeply embedded misconceptions about
mental illnesses -- mistaken beliefs that appear to be
self-perpetuating despite decades of work to correct them. A National
Mental Health Association survey of public attitudes showed the
following: (as reported in The Houston Chronicle, March 1, 2002)
71 percent thought mental illnesses are
caused by emotional weakness.
How can such misconceptions be corrected? The mental health community's
most convincing voices are people who describe their first-hand
experience of symptoms, treatment, and ways to survive. Considering the
risks involved, their numbers are understandably small.
65 percent thought mental illnesses are caused by
35 percent felt mental illnesses are caused by
sinful or immoral behavior.
43 percent thought people bring on their mental
illness in some way.
LINKS TO ARTICLE
That Explain How Policy Makers Distribute Resources to Mental Health
Services," by Patrick W. Corrigan, Ph.D. and Amy C. Watson, Ph.D. Psychiatric
Services, April 2003. A subscription is necessary for free
online access to the full article.
HERE for a free abstract of the article.
for the full article, reprinted (with permission) by Antistigma Home
March 30, 2003 - News
of the Week
More on "OUR LADY OF PEACE ACT" (OLOPA) --
See also March 23 News just below
IN 1994, LEADING EXPERTS WARNED AGAINST BRADY BILL'S OVER-EMPHASIS ON
The Proposed "Our Lady" Act (OLOPA) Reinforces Flaws in Brady Bill
Noted by Paul Appelbaum, John Monahan, and Ray Lewis
Paul Appelbaum, the current president of the American Psychiatric
Association; John Monahan, director of the MacArthur Research Network
on Mental Health and the Law; and Ray Lewis, a psychiatrist in
Shepherdstown, West Virginia, all voiced concern in 1994 about the
Brady Bill, a then newly-enacted federal law to control gun violence.
In particular, they criticized the inclusion of individuals with mental
illnesses on a federal data base under consideration at the time. We
now know this data base as the National Instant Criminal Background
Check System (NICS).
Lewis put his objections in a letter to Psychiatric News: "It
would seem we are losing the battle against stigma! ... There is simply
no sensible excuse for lumping people with a history of mental illness
with dangerous criminals, and even less for registering them in a data
base whose accessibility to the general public would be almost
impossible to control."
In a Boston Globe opinion piece (4/29/94), "Brady Bill's
False Step," Paul Appelbaum and John Monahan wrote: " A centralized
database that allows the police -- and their friends -- to find out who
has been committed for treatment for depression, post-traumatic stress
disorder and other psychiatric conditions is a privacy nightmare. ...
For the rare people with serious mental illness who may commit violent
acts with guns, putting meaningful mental health benefits in health
care reform is a much more promising prophylactic measure. ...
Targeting gun control legislation on people with mental illness,
thereby threatening to deter many of them from seeking needed
treatment, is not an effective way to protect the public."
The National Stigma Clearinghouse published and circulated the Lewis
letter and the Appelbaum/Monahan opinion piece in its 1994 reports to
media monitors (discontinued after 1996). For copies, e-mail email@example.com. Be sure to
include a mailing address.
Let the bill's sponsors know your views.
U. S. Senator Charles E. Schumer - New York
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: 202-224-6542; Fax 202-228-3027
District Office: 757 Third Avenue, Suite 17-02
New York, NY 10017
Tel: 212-486-4430; Fax 212-486-7693
(click "contact" and fill out webform)
U. S. Senator Larry Craig - Idaho
U. S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510-1203
Tel: 202-224-2752; Fax: 202-228-1067
(click "Idaho office locater" then "contact me")
For RELATED LINKS, scroll to bottom of March 23 posting, just below
March 23, 2003 - News
of the Week
SENATE WILL CONSIDER LEGISLATION THAT PUTS
INNOCENT PEOPLE ON FEDERAL LIST WITH CRIMINAL OFFENDERS
"Mental Illness" Used in Marketing Strategy for Legislation Affecting
Mainly Felons, Domestic Abusers, and Criminals
The proposed federal gun law amendment ("Our Lady of Peace Act") will
fund and expand a national background checklist of individuals
forbidden to buy firearms, including people who have been hospitalized
for a mental illness. The amendment passed the House of
Respresentatives in October 2002. After the 107th Senate adjourned
without voting on the act, the 108th Senate has included it in a vast
security bill (S.22). (See below for LINK and background.)
The "Our Lady" act is now part of a massive Senate bill (S.22) titled
"Justice Enhancement and Domestic Security Act of 2003" and appears
under the heading "Part 5, Disarming Felons."
However, Senators Charles Schumer (D-New York) and
Larry Craig (R-Idaho) may reintroduce OLOPA by itself.
It is interesting to note that the "Our Lady" act had been floundering
before October 13. Then 60 Minutes broadcast "Armed and
Dangerous," an inflammatory segment incorrectly linking the
Washington area snipers to severe mental illness.
Three days after 60 Minutes host Steve Croft reported that the
bill had been "gutted in committee," it passed the House with an
informal vote and no discussion.
Advocates have urged the authors of the flawed amendment to add
safeguards to the Senate version. Nonetheless, the concept of stopping
crime by casting a wide net over innocent individuals is abhorrent.
There are ways to lower the astronomical number of gun fatalities
without criminalizing people who never have and never will commit a
serious crime. For example, the N.A.A.C.P. faults the gun industry for
allowing violent people to have easy access to firearms. The N.A.A.C.P.
has brought a lawsuit (see below) against the gun industry for their
laxity in permitting guns to be channeled to criminals.
The "Our Lady" amendment stigmatizes people with mental illnesses by
wrongly presuming they present a high risk of violence. "Armed and
Dangerous" reinforced this belief with misinformation. In contrast,
the N.A.A.C.P. lawsuit seeks to keep guns out of the hands of
criminals. If Congress is serious about reducing the toll of gun
deaths, this strategy might work.
As we noted in October and November, the 60 Minutes rush to
judgment was blatantly irresponsible. CBS has not redressed the damage
done. 1) CBS broadcast misinformation that almost certainly influenced
the passage of a flawed amendment; 2) CBS has failed to publicly admit
it was wrong to presume that the Washington serial killer was mentally
ill; 3) CBS has previously aired biased and inaccurate reports
concerning violence and mental illnesses on numerous occasions.
The criminalizing "Our Lady" act is likely to pass without any revision
unless we press hard for changes.
Let the bill's sponsors know your views.
U. S. Senator Charles E. Schumer - New York
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: 202-224-6542; Fax 202-228-3027
District Office: 757 Third Avenue, Suite 17-02
New York, NY 10017
Tel: 212-486-4430; Fax 212-486-7693
(click "contact" and fill out webform)
U. S. Senator Larry Craig - Idaho
U. S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510-1203
Tel: 202-224-2752; Fax: 202-228-1067
(click "Idaho office locater" then "contact me")
To reach the House bill's author:
U. S. Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy
1224 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Tel: 202-225-5516; Fax 202-225-5757
District Office: 1 Fulton Avenue, Suite 30
Hempstead, NY 11550
Tel: 516-489-7066; Fax 516-489-7283
Let your Senators hear your views on the
gun bill even if you have already done so.. The message: the bill
criminalizes law-abiding people. Contact Information: To locate
senators go to GOOGLE Enter a
search for "Senate Members"
or, Enter your Senators' names.
BACKGROUND AND LINKS
Enhancement and Domestic Security Act of 2003 For "Our Lady"
section: Enter S.22; scroll down to TITLE V Combating Drug and Gun
Violence. Scroll to Subtitle B - Disarming Felons., Part 1, Our Lady of
Again to Make Gun Makers Liable for Shootings," by William Glaberson,
For info about 1968 gun law and Brady Bill Click here. Enter GOOGLE search for
"1968 gun law"
March 2, 2003 - NEWS
of the Week
"UNABOMBER" STORY CONTINUES TO UNFOLD
Five years ago, the capture and trial of Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber)
produced reams of speculation about what lay behind his violent acts.
Was he a meticulous killer responsible for his premeditated murders, or
did he have a mental dysfunction that rendered him incapable of sound
judgment? Based on the arguments of the opposing lawyers, either
explanation could presumably account for the Unabomber's obsessive
hatred of modern technology that led him to kill three people with
letter bombs and wound 28 others.
When in 1998 a court-assigned psychiatrist diagnosed Kaczynski as
having paranoid schizophrenia, the mental health community shared the
family's pain and responded with empathy and support.
Equally painful for many mental health advocates was the daily
reporting blitz that linked schizophrenia with evil violence.
Furthermore, there were puzzling gaps in the picture, since Kaczynski's
behavior during his 25-year withdrawal from society was inconsistent
with the schizophrenia that most advocates see.
A new book by Alston Chase, Harvard and the Unabomber: The
Education of An American Terrorist adds a new twist to the
Unabomber story. Kaczynski spent his formative years at Harvard
beginning in 1958 at age 16. Chase suggests that Harvard's educational
philosophy during these years may have laid the groundwork for a "brand
of antisocial rage" that became Kaczynski's obsession. Chase notes that
Kaczynski was subjected to a highly stressful experience when he took
part in psychological experiments with "Manchurian Candidate overtones"
designed by a doctor who was prone to "sadism, sexual fantasies, desire
for power, anger, a need to explode and cause pain."
Janet Maslin's review in The New York Times (reprinted below) calls the
book a "cogent, disturbing analysis."
Could the bombardment of Unabomber publicity during the late 1990's
have fueled the public's exaggerated belief that violence and mental
illnesses are closely linked (Surgeon General, 1999) ? "Harvard and the
Unabomber" contradicts that link.
LINKS TO RELATED READING
"Harvard and the Making of the Unabomber (2000), by Alston Chase, Atlantic
Monthly June 2000
Click here to
use Google.com Search for Links About Alston Chase.
Post Review by Todd Gitlin, March 2, 2003 (Registration needed) OR,
Google.com has a link to this article, use "Alston Chase" search.
Times Book Review by Janet Maslin, March 3, 2002 (Registration
needed) OR, see reprint below.
(copyright The New York Times Company 2003)
HARVARD AND THE UNABOMBER: The Education of an
by ALSTON CHASE
Reviewed By JANET MASLIN, March 3, 2003
Alston Chase's first assumption
in his new book about Theodore J. Kaczynski is that widely propagated
notions of the Unabomber as a mentally unstable loner have been
conveniently misleading. This impression, Mr. Chase says, "encouraged
people to say, `He killed because he was weird,´ rather than ask,
`Why did someone so like me commit murder?´ "
Of course the Everyman aspects of Mr. Kaczynski — who seriously
contemplated a sex-change operation so that he could enjoy the presence
of a woman in his 10-by-12-foot Montana cabin — are open to
argument. But Mr. Chase has tough, persuasive points to make about the
forces that shaped the Unabomber's brand of terrorism. He argues
forcefully, if at times repetitively, that the educational philosophy
prevalent during this killer's college years laid the groundwork for an
all-too-epidemic brand of antisocial rage.
"As we shall see" — to use one of the favorite phrases of an
academia-trained author specializing in intellectual history —
this argument is complex. And it has its roots in the philosophy of
science that flourished in the aftermath of World War II. In 1945, with
the advent of the influential Harvard report entitled "General
Education in a Free Society," the role of ethics in academia began to
be closely examined. By 1958 when Mr. Kaczynski arrived at Harvard as
an undergraduate, the cold war had created covert new links between
research and government, links calling for moral blinders that rendered
traditional scientific ethics all but obsolete.
The precepts of "General Education," the author writes, "delivered to
those of us who were undergraduates during this time a double whammy of
pessimism. From humanists we learned that science threatens
civilization. From the scientists we learned that science cannot be
stopped, Taken together, they implied there is no hope." This created
what became a permanent fixture at Harvard and, indeed, throughout
academe: "the culture of despair."
Much of "Harvard and the Unabomber" defines this intellectual
atmosphere while ticking off the attendant cultural and historical
forces that helped to shape it. Such sections of the book are both
familiar and overly general, as are Mr. Chase's recapitulations of the
Unabomber's crime, capture and manifesto. But the author, who also
attended Harvard (and who also made his getaway to rural Montana),
succeeds in creating a provocative synthesis out of all this
summarizing. And he places a malleable young Mr. Kaczynski in the midst
of this moral upheaval.
The book identifies a professorial nemesis for Mr. Kaczynski in Dr.
Henry A. Murray, who recruited the future Unabomber for a psychological
experiment with "Manchurian Candidate" overtones. When Mr. Chase
published an article on the subject in The Atlantic in June 2000, he
says, the Harvard files on this work were "permanently removed" from
the Murray Research Center the next month. "In this closet are many
skeletons, some quite fresh," the author announces. "The fear is that
that I might open that door. And in this book I do."
The experiments involved what Murray called "stressful disputation" or
"the Dyad," but "whatever its name, it was a highly refined version of
the third degree." Subjects like Mr. Kaczynski were humiliated,
ridiculed and secretly photographed while debating overqualified
opponents, in a process that Mr. Chase regards as dishonest and
damaging. The future bomb-building anarchist, whose code name during
this process was Lawful, would himself describe it as "a highly
At its kinkiest the book ties Murray's interest in hostile
interpersonal dynamics not only to a C.I.A. connection but also to the
doctor's long-term sadomasochistic love affair with his colleague,
Christiana Morgan. Mr. Chase notes that members of the Murray's family
take issue with this, but he also cites a bizarre diary devoted to the
affair. And he concludes that Mr. Kaczynski and his classmates
unwittingly served not only Murray's highly esteemed research but also
his "sadism, sexual fantasies, desire for power, anger, need to explode
and cause pain."
In any case the mixture of emasculation, snobbery and ethical confusion
that Mr. Kaczynski experienced at Harvard would have lifelong effects.
Soured on the value-neutral scientific method that had treated him as a
guinea pig, and so angry at parental authority that he would berate his
mother for mailing him the wrong nuts, Mr. Kaczynski began developing
theories that were anything but incoherent ravings. Mr. Chase carefully
analyzes the Unabomber's precepts as an extension of his educational
experience, and as material worth examining closely, for its roots if
not for its content.
"University scholars all too willing to devote seminars to such pop
cultural dross as the Grateful Dead and `Star Trek´ have
virtually ignored the manifesto," he writes. "The manifesto is neither
brilliant nor a symptom of mental illness. It is a compendium of
philosophical and environmental clichés that expresses concerns
shared by millions of Americans."
And not only Americans. "Harvard and the Unabomber" ultimately makes
its case for the global nature of such thinking. "Terrorism is as much
a product of our own history, ideas and values as those of other
peoples," he writes. "Defeating this enemy will require that we come to
terms with modernism — not just science and technology but also,
especially, its political thinking. A flawed conception of reason
created the culture of despair, which in turn transformed our time into
an age of ideologies, and these ideologies are now killing us. By
politicizing everything, we leave ourselves no sanctuary."
But it would help, he argues, if students as bright as the Harvard-era
Ted Kaczynski were prized rather than ostracized, and if their work
were assessed in terms of absolute morality, rather than the relativism
that can so easily be rejected, subverted or ignored.
This book's last glimpse of the Unabomber comes in an article he
published last year, in a publication describing him as "a prisoner of
war." He advocates attacks on the biotechnology, entertainment and
communications industries, and on computer and educational systems.
"When Henry Murray spoke of the need to create a new `World Man,´
´ Mr. Chase writes in conclusion to his cogent, disturbing
analysis, "this was not what he had in mind."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
February 16, 2003 - News of the Week
DISABILITIES ACTIVIST SHATTERS STEREOTYPES
Do Not Miss
by Harriet McBryde Johnson
The New York Times Magazine 02/16/03
Click here for the article (a free registration is required)
for our posting of the article.
February 2, 2003 - News of
CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT RIGHTS OF PEOPLE WITH
Senate Judiciary Committee Will Soon Vote on Nomination of Jeffrey
With scores of protestors from across the country watching, on
Wednesday (1/29) Chairman Orrin Hatch opened the Senate Judiciary
Committee hearing of 42-year old Jeffrey Sutton, a candidate for a
lifetime judgeship in the U. S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. (Other
judicial nominees who were lumped with Sutton got much less attention.)
Senator Hatch began his introduction of Sutton by dismissing the
protestors as "the usual gang of fringe leftist lobbyists," seemingly
unaware of the group's bipartisan, far-from-radical grounding.
In fact, people with disabilities are vulnerable citizens with meager
funds and little political leverage. Out of necessity they have taken
to heart the words of the fiery founder of Justice For All, the late
Justin Dart: "If we don't protect our rights, who will? Join the fight
The current protest, led by the National Coalition for Disability
Rights (ADA Watch!), has received backing from 400 organizations
and countless individuals.
Members of the Judiciary Committee will vote on the Sutton confirmation
within two weeks. If approved, the nomination will go to the floor of
the U. S. Senate for confirmation.
The 19 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are:
Orrin G. Hatch (Chairman) Utah - R
Charles E. Grassley, Iowa - R
Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania - R
Jon Kyl, Arizona - R
Mike DeWine , Ohio - R
Jeff Sessions, Alabama - R
Lindsey Graham, South Carolina - R
Larry Craig, Idaho - R
Saxby Chambliss, Georgia - R
John Cornyn, Texas - R
Patrick Leahy (Ranking Democratic Member) Vermont - D
Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts - D
Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware - D
Herbert Kohl, Wisconsin - D
Dianne Feinstein, California - D
Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin - D
Charles E. Schumer, New York - D
Richard J. Durbin, Illinois - D
John Edwards, North Carolina - D
WE MUST ACT NOW:
1) Go to the well-organized ADA
WATCH ! website for updates, contact information for U. S.
Senators, and much more. Keep checking the site for developing
2) If there are Judiciary Committee members from your state
(see list above), let them hear your views NOW. Be ready to contact
your state's U. S. Senators in the event the Sutton nomination reaches
the full Senate for approval.
Here to read what the press had to say about the protest in
Washington. (Thank you, Harold Maio, for forwarding this info from firstname.lastname@example.org.)
4) Click Here to reach
the website of the U. S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. The
site offers a wealth of information about this important committee.
Here for Backgound Information on the Jeffrey Sutton
nomination issued on January 26th by ADA Watch
January 19, 2003 - News of the Week
MENTAL HEALTH GROUPS URGE PRESIDENT'S
COMMISSION TO ACT
Emphasis On Attainable Policies
Everyone knows that the nation's mental health system is in dire need
of profound change. A group of national organizations, despite their
somewhat differing perspectives and missions, have joined forces in an
attempt to guide that change productively. This week they issued
recommendations to the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental
Health, a commission charged with formulating an action plan to improve
the nation's delivery of mental health services.
We reprint below a summarized version of the recommendations which we
received by E-mail from the New York Association for Psychosocial
Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS). We also recommend visiting the
website of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health and the Law (link
to President's Commission on Mental Health
Bazelon Center for
Mental Health and the Law
The world portrayed itself
in white images,
And I was white.
I took no notice.
The world portrayed itself
in male images,
And I was male.
I took no notice.
The world portrayed itself
And I was whole.
I took no notice.
And then I broke.
And I looked around
For broken images,
And there were none.
--Harold A. Maio