Crisis Intervention Teams would help the NYPD better respond to the more than 100,000 “emotionally distressed person” (“EDP”) calls that they receive annually. While responding to EDP calls last year, the NYPD reported 56 incidents in which people were accidentally injured or killed by police gunfire. CITs would aim to de-escalate these situations, thereby diverting people experiencing a mental health crisis from the criminal justice system; minimizing the risk of added trauma, injury, or death to these people; and instilling confidence in family members who seek help from emergency services for their loved ones in crisis.
The speakers were eloquent and represented different perspectives on the topic. My personal favorites were Sahar Khoshakhlagh and long-time Fountain House friend, Fred Levine. Ms. Khoshakhlagh was accidentally shot by police officers trying to subdue a man behaving erratically in Times Square while experiencing a psychotic episode. (Ironically, the man, Glenn Broadnax, has been charged with assault on the basis that he is responsible for the injury to Ms. Khoshakhlagh and another bystander.) Ms. Khoshakhlagh, coincidentally a mental health worker, now feels that it is her duty to help police better understand how to deal with people in emotional crisis.
Fred Levine offered remarks from his own experience of actually being a person in emotional distress subject to police intervention. The content of his speech was great but even more powerful was his accomplished and articulate demeanor – a potent reminder that, for most people in the midst of crises of this kind, it’s simply a bad moment in time, not their abiding character and certainly not a crime.
The press conference marked the launch of a public awareness campaign to support the passage of the Crisis Intervention Act, a bill introduced by State Senator Kevin Parker that would mandate the creation of CITs. It was exciting to see the Fountain House Advocacy Committee in action at this event. However, legislative battles aren’t won in a day. If you’re a New Yorker interested in this issue, please join us and become part of the Communities for Crisis Teams in NYC coalition.
Andrea Roy Communications Director, Fountain House
Fountain House is pleased to announce that it has formed a new partnership - with Charlotte Bridge Home, a community-based organization, which helps veterans in Charlotte, NC transition home after military service; JRC Advisors, LLC, a consulting firm founded and led by John Campbell, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Office of Warrior Care Policy; and Threshold GlobalWorks, LLC, which designs and implements social impact initiatives - to de
Authentic. Real. Down-to-earth. These were my immediate impressions of Professor Elyn Saks and of her husband, Will. Elyn was invited to Fountain House to present an award to Dr. Ralph Aquila for his 20 years of service to our members and to the mental health community. She was asked to meet with a group of members, colleagues, staff, and friends prior to that event. Here is my view of that discussion.
After Jeff Aron’s wonderful introduction, Elyn immediately asked for us to go around the room and introduce ourselves, which not only put everyone at ease, but helped open the floor to a more in-depth talk. Interestingly, all of the members were keen to learn more about not only her writing itself, but the process she underwent to complete her book, The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.
I think all of us expressed gratitude to her for her very public stance on her experiences with chronic schizophrenia, both in her book, as well as numerous media appearances, such as the TED Talk in 2012. She laid out for us the source of her recovery and success. There were three main areas she talked about.
The first part of recovery was recognizing not only the need for her to take medication but also for regular, weekly sessions of psychoanalysis. The second component was the tremendous support of family and friends. And the third component was having a work environment that was also extremely supportive and helpful.
It is here that I can compare my own experiences with mental illness - in my case it is manic-depression, otherwise diagnosed as Bipolar I - to hers. For me, it is very important to have the right and proper medication and therapy and the support of family, friends, employers and co-workers, but I also need something else that I believe Elyn would agree with. (She did later in the course of the discussion.) That is having a community like Fountain House, which provides what I consider the “fourth leg” of recovery to help maintain both mental and physical health, and an environment that focuses on the member’s strengths and not the illness.
In closing, Elyn said that she believes the following: we need to provide more research for effective and safe medical treatments in order to improve the lives of individuals who live with the challenges of severe mental illness. Next, we must stop criminalizing mental illness. And lastly, we should encourage both the entertainment industry and media to provide better and more accurate portrayals of mental illness to combat stigma and show “the humanity we all share.”
Thank you Elyn and Will for your honesty, integrity, and a great sense of humor, and for showing me and others that we are not alone in this battle.
I am happy to present three of my most important writings on mental health to date. My name is Will Jiang, and before coming to Fountain House I worked for a year as an adjunct lecturer at Kingsborough Community College, and then I served for seven years as NYSPI/Columbia Psychiatry’s Chief Patient Librarian. Now, I am writing and working as a freelance designer. My most fun and exciting new project as a designer has been www.freelanguagepractice.com because I feel that learning a language should be a free exchange between cutures.
This book is important to me because rates of serious and persistent mental illness keep climbing for a multitude of modern-day reasons, and I feel I knew enough about the situation to write about some natural things we can do to help ameliorate and, sometimes, prevent serious mental illness such as schizophrenia. A Historical Reader: The New York Times and Madness, 1851-1922
“Todo escritó no es la verdad.” is Spanish for, “Don’t believe everything you read.” That applies for sure, to even the “Paper of Record”, The New York Times when it comes to reporting about the science and society of mental illness. Reading Freud, for me, for the first time, in his own words was amazing. To read about the supposed scientific cures and tests for dementia praecox, now known as schizophrenia, is, in retrospect, laughable. The use of the lives of American men and women residing in mental asylums as unwitting subjects in deadly scientific experiments, horrifies our modern sensibilities. This reader brings us back to an earlier time in mental health, and it is important to go back in history to primary documents to see how far we have come and how far we still have to go as a society. A Schizophrenic Will: A Story of Madness, A Story of Hope
This is my bestselling autobiography. As the title says, it is a tale of madness and a chronicle of hope. When Academy Award winner Jennifer Connelly, of A Beautiful Mind fame, came to visit me after she learned about my book, I knew my memoir would touch people’s lives. Jennifer and I sat talking and sharing, for a little more than an hour in my patient library at NYSPI. My library overlooks the majestic Hudson and the picturesque Palisades, in upper Manhattan. I remember it was a fine autumn day, and the leaves on the trees by the river were turning all kinds of beautiful oranges, fiery reds and mellow yellows . She was dressed down, in jeans, probably because she did not want to be mobbed during her visit. In retrospect, I noticed her quick mind and insightful questions. Also, I respected her family-oriented mind. When she left, I vowed that my book would be bigger than Sylvia Nasar’s A Beautiful Mind someday. After I lowered the cost of the book, that did happen, for one day on Amazon.com. It was a dream come true.
I guess my autobiography is important to me because of what my sister-in-law told me one day, when I was about half-way finished with the long text and discouraged, with writers block. She said to me, “Will, you have an important story to tell, and if you only help one person with your inspirational life story, then it was a book worth writing.” I saw truth in her words. As of last month, my stories have reached over three thousand readers, and I have touched more than three thousand lives, hopefully for the better. I hope to reach more readers. The books sell slowly but surely. Maybe someday soon will be a big break for me as a writer. Who knows what the future may hold. As George Michael famously sang, “You gotta have faith.”