NEWS ARCHIVE 2003 (JAN - JULY)


Prepared by:
National Stigma Clearinghouse

Please Scroll Down for earlier postings

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 false.

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 at large.

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 Attempt
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 elude care.

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 illnesses.

9) Conditions That Present Greater Violence Risk Were Ignored
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 public safety.

Where does this leave 60 MINUTES' record for honesty?

June 29, 2003 -News of the Week

"60 MINUTES" PLUGS A FLAWED GUNLAW AMENDMENT (OLOPA)
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 from misuse.
 
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 problems.

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 senatorleahy@leahy.senate.gov

 
NOTE:
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 Once Again"

Nov. 10, 2002: "Proposed Law Would Put Law-Abiding People on Criminal Checklist"

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 the standards.

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 is medication."

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 against him."

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 or says."

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 NIMBY-ISM

Tune In To Free Training Session on June 25 sponsored by ADS Center

Dear Colleague:

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, Ext. 334.
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 RESPONSES

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):

Tolerance.org
(web project of the Southern Poverty Law Center)

Understanding Prejudice
(funded by the National Science Foundation)

Tests are available on both of the above sites.
On our visits, we noticed "mental illesses" are missing among the many self-testing topics for bias. We will suggest this topic for future development.

June 1, 2003 - News of the Week

LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST NYC'S SUBWAYS AND BUSES

Click 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 area.

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 Half-Fare Cards
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 discount.

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 24.

May 4, 2003 - News of the Week

1) ACCURACY IS GOAL OF NEW MENTAL HEALTH MEDIA PARTNERSHIP

Source: New York City Voices, January-March 2003 Issue
Website: http://www.newyorkcityvoices.org
E-mail: editors@newyorkcityvoices.org

ARTICLE

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 experiental standpoints.

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: blurie@mhmp.org
(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 Clearinghouse

2) FOR MORE ABOUT "MEDIA HANDBOOK," VISIT ITS WEB SITE (First reviewed on April 20.)
Go to the LIKE MINDS, LIKE MINE web site. Click here, then click "Media Center." Scroll down to "Media Handbook" for information and an order form.

Or, contact Huia Communications, 27 Pipitea St / PO Box 17-335 / Wellington / Aotearoa New Zealand
E-mail: teresa.p@huia.co.nz

Special 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 around."

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 unending harassment.

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 study.

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 hallucinating.

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 to 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 influences.

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 this occurs.

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 schizophrenic patients.

"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 around instead."

Click 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 speech.

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 khmaio@earthlink.net)

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."
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030425/pl_nm/iraq_usa_diplomats_dc&cid=615&ncid=1480

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 (Mayo) 239-275-5798

Harold also e-mailed the editors at USA Today
http://asp.usatoday.com/marketing/feedback-receive.asp?type=COM+-+ED

Editors:
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 humanity.

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


hearing voices

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


Author's Note:
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 hearers.

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: morganbrown@hotmail.com (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 Violence."
 
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
E-mail teresa.p@huia.co.nz

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 Daylightsaving Time.

April 20 News, Item 2:

DISABILITY RESOURCES INC. ANNOUNCES WEBSITE

http://www.disabilityresources.org/

(Received by e-mail from
Workers Against Mismanagement
WAMmerger@aol.com )

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, through:

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 organizations

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 publications.

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.
     
  • 65 percent thought mental illnesses are caused by bad parenting.
     
  • 35 percent felt mental illnesses are caused by sinful or immoral behavior.
     
  • 43 percent thought people bring on their mental illness in some way.
  • 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.

    LINKS TO ARTICLE


    "Factors 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.

    CLICK HERE for a free abstract of the article.

    CLICK HERE for the full article, reprinted (with permission) by Antistigma Home Page.

    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 MENTAL ILLNESSES

    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 stigmanet@webtv.net. 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
    E-mail; http://www.senate.gov/~schumer
    (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
    E-mail: http://www.senate.gov/~craig (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
    E-mail; http://www.senate.gov/~schumer
    (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
    E-mail: http://www.senate.gov/~craig (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

    Justice 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 Peace Act.

    "Trying Again to Make Gun Makers Liable for Shootings," by William Glaberson, NY Times

    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

    Article: "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.

    Washington Post Review by Todd Gitlin, March 2, 2003 (Registration needed) OR, Google.com has a link to this article, use "Alston Chase" search.

    New York Times Book Review by Janet Maslin, March 3, 2002 (Registration needed) OR, see reprint below.

    BOOK REVIEW (copyright The New York Times Company 2003)

    HARVARD AND THE UNABOMBER: The Education of an American Terrorist
    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 unpleasant experience."

    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

    UNSPEAKABLE CONVERSATIONS
    by Harriet McBryde Johnson
    The New York Times Magazine 02/16/03


    Click here for the article (a free registration is required)

    OR

    Click Here for our posting of the article.


    February 2, 2003 - News of the Week

    CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT RIGHTS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES CONTINUES

    Senate Judiciary Committee Will Soon Vote on Nomination of Jeffrey Sutton


    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 today."

    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 information.

    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.

    3) Click Here to read what the press had to say about the protest in Washington. (Thank you, Harold Maio, for forwarding this info from adawatch@aol.com.)

    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.

    5) Click Here for Backgound Information on the Jeffrey Sutton nomination issued on January 26th by ADA Watch

    January 26, 2003 - News of the Week


    URGENT CALL TO ACTION!
    by the National Coalition for Disability Rights

    U. S. SENATE WILL CONSIDER AN ANTI-DISABILITY CANDIDATE FOR CRUCIAL JUDGESHIP THIS WEEK

    With a pre-confirmation hearing for federal judge candidate Jeffrey Sutton scheduled in the Senate on Wednesday, we pass along an urgent appeal from the National Coalition for Disability Rights.

    PLEASE TAKE AT LEAST ONE ACTION recommended in the Coalition's comprehensive, well-documented briefing paper.

    LINK:
    Briefing Paper.

    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 below).

    LINKS:
    RECOMMENDATIONS to President's Commission on Mental Health

    Bazelon Center for Mental Health and the Law
    ______________________

    The World

    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
    As whole,
    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

     

     

     

     

     

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