Wednesday, May 30, 2007


There was a very interesting article in the May 18, 2007 issue of Psychiatric News titled “Court Still Clarifying Rules for Executing Mentally Ill”. I am going to go to the end of the article. There is other important information in it, but it was the ending that really caught my attention.

According to this article the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the National Alliance on Mental Illness have filed an amicus curiae brief urging the US Supreme Court to rule against Texas and order a death sentence commuted. The brief says that folks as ill as this person “cannot rationally understand the reasons for their executions as they frequently suffer from bizarre delusions that disrupt their understanding of reality.”

Now I think it is “bizarre reality” that we still have the death penalty in this country at all. We know we have put innocent people to death and that others were saved before their wrongful executions I also find it disturbing to know folks are advocating for only some people to be saved from this barbaric punishment that we as a nation don’t seem to be able to move beyond.

Their main argument is also bizarre. My next statement may be the most controversial I have ever made on this blog. Here goes. There is no objective way to determine if a person is suffering from “bizarre delusions” or not. There is not a single scientific or medical test I know of to prove if a person is or is not delusional. You can even argue about what reality is, but I am making a more basic point than that. The psychiatric techniques to make such a determination are more art, experience and intuition on the part of the practitioner than true science. Observation is used, but you must remember that one of the main sources of information about these delusions comes from the words of the person.

From the article; “One of the key issues in Panetti is whether being aware of the acts one committed equates with mental competence. Panetti is aware of why he is facing execution, namely, that he killed his wife's parents, but suffers from religiously based delusions in which he maintains that the people planning to put him to death are part of a conspiracy to prevent him from preaching the gospel.”

How does one determine the truth of what “he maintains”? The question is important to all of us with a serious mental illness.

The struggle by the mind to understand and define the brain has been a tough one, but neurobiology, new brain imagining equipment, biopsychiatry and pharmacological psychiatry have made great gains in understanding the brain and the disorders and diseases of the brain. Biopsychosocial approaches as well as self-help approaches have helped to ease the pain of living with a brain disorder. I am not trying to be dismissive of the gains made, but rather trying to get you to look at the limits of what any psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional can testify to in court as truth.

Why? Because courts are used not just to determine if we should die for a crime, they are also used to lock us up on mental wards involuntarily. They are also used in some states for what is called community commitment. Therefore; it is important to be truthful about the limitations of their knowledge.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know I have been locked away myself. Mostly I have gone voluntarily just before I would have been going involuntarily. I have watched some of my fellow sojourners say what they knew they needed to say to get in the hospital and then say what they needed to say to get out when they were ready to leave. Since I know this can be done and since I know the psychiatrist has no real way of knowing when he or she is being told the truth or a falsehood, then how could any of them go into court and swear to anything?

Let me be clear. I am against the death penalty for everyone. Seriously mentally ill folks like me, the developmentally disabled or the chronically normal folks who are in the majority in this world. I simply oppose it for anyone. I also oppose mental health professionals going into court and swearing an oath to tell the truth and then saying they know for a fact whether a person is delusional or not or swearing to anything else they don’t know.

The person testifying in the above case could say the person says they are trying to prevent him from preaching by putting him to death. They might even go on to say that they believe him, but my dear friends they can not say whether it is true or not. They simply do not know.

It is as important to know what you don’t know as it is to know what you do know. Some of the most dangerous people in the world are those who do not know the limitations of their knowledge. I may be one of those people in your mind, but at least I know you can’t tell if I am delusional or not and I know I can’t tell if you are.

You can reach me at

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Do we know what Memorial Day is? It is more than a long weekend. It is more than a big sale. It is one of our most important holidays.

“Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.
In 1915 Moina Michael conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms.Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.” (From the Web site

There are some folks buried around this country I would like to draw your attention to also. In the last blog I wrote about us dying early and what could be done about it. I wrote about my own experiences having surgery in a VA hospital and having trouble getting my psych meds. In fact, my psychiatrist at the VA mental health clinic in a building next to the hospital does not have privileges at the hospital and could not have come and written orders for my psych meds for me while I was in ICU or on the surgical unit. We die earlier than the normal population today, but years ago we were buried on the grounds of state hospitals many times in unmarked graves. First I want to share a letter with you dated 1842 asking about a patient who they claim went crazy at a camp (revival) meeting.

Letter Concerning Patient from Alabama-1842
Wairion(?) Bridge, Washington County, Alabama
Feb. 6, 1842
Having no acquaintance in your State to who to direct this will be sufficient apology for addressing myself to you for information, what be the charges for an inmate in the lunatic Asylum in ___ State? A young gentleman in my vicinity was as unfortunate to become deprived of his reason by attending last Fall one of those sickening phantastic assemblies called Camp meetings, and his parents are desirous to try whether he can not be restored to his previously sound mental faculties. A speedy answer will be thankfully received.
by your’s
Very Respectfully
obedient servant
Joseph A. Huber
To the Postmaster
Louisville, Ky.

This person was apparently at what is now Eastern State Hospital. The Eastern State Hospital, Richmond, Kentucky was established by a legislative act of Dec. 4, 1822 and is the 2nd oldest mental hospital in the United States. On May 1, 1824 the hospital, known then as the Lunatic Asylum, welcomed its first patient. Over the years, the name changed several times, until 1912 when the Kentucky General Assembly officially renamed it Eastern State Hospital.
The Eastern State Hospital Cemetery, located on the hospital grounds, in use from the first quarter of the 19th century until the early 1950s, is no longer intact. Local industrial development resulted in a relocation of many cemetery graves to a small common area of land near the hospital grounds. It is unknown how many individuals are buried in the cemetery, but is believed to consist of 10,000 or more. These persons came from all over the state of Kentucky, as well as from other states.
Eastern State Hospital Cemetery Club was formed in the spring of 2006. Their goal, to give dignity to those buried in the hospital cemetery by erecting a monument in their honor. They are currently working on gathering as many names as possible of those buried in the cemetery.
Naming the Forgotten - the Eastern State Hospital Project is assisting the club by sharing information found regarding persons interred at the hospital cemetery.
Naming the Forgotten - the Eastern State Hospital Project, began in December 2006 as a special project within the KyGenWeb. Working with various records, our goal is to identify those who lived and died at the hospital before 1956. Prior to the state mandated registration of deaths in 1911, records pertaining to these individuals are scarce.

There are folks working at state hospital cemeteries across this country trying to right this injustice just like our young men and women who fought and died in our military trying to right wrongs around the world and defend our homeland. May we always remember.

You can contact me at


Wednesday, May 23, 2007


The aorta is the largest artery in your body, and it carries blood away from your heart. Your aorta runs through your chest, where it is called the thoracic aorta. When it reaches your abdomen, it is called the abdominal aorta. The abdominal aorta supplies blood to the lower part of the body. Just below the abdomen, the aorta splits into two branches that carry blood into each leg.
When a weak area of the abdominal aorta expands or bulges, it is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). The pressure from blood flowing through your abdominal aorta can cause a weakened part of the aorta to bulge, much like a balloon. A normal aorta is about 1 inch (or about 2 centimeters) in diameter. However, an AAA can stretch the aorta beyond its safety margin. Aneurysms are a health risk because they can burst or rupture. A ruptured aneurysm can cause severe internal bleeding, which can lead to shock or even death.
As I have written about in a previous blog, I had AAA repaired on the 28th of March. I spent five days in ICU after the open surgical repair procedure and then another two days on a surgical unit. Two months later I am moving well, but I am still on what the military calls “light duty”. My surgery and aftercare took place at the James H. Quillen Veterans Administration Medical Center, Mountain Home, TN.
Even though both VA hospitals and military hospitals have been in the news because of the poor care they are giving some people and the overall lack of coordination between the two systems, I personally am a lucky man. My wife is my personal advocate and she is a great one and we always do our homework before going to see the doctor.
The tragedy pointed out in a recent report released at a meeting of state hospital directors is that if you have a mental illness you will most likely live a shorter life. Joseph Parks, director of psychiatric services for the Missouri Department of Mental Health and lead author of the report according to USA TODAY “thinks agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should track the health of adults with mental illness, just as they do other vulnerable groups, to identify problems and solutions.”
When I had a tube down my nose into my stomach in ICU, I asked about my psych meds and was told I would have to wait till the tube came out. I looked at the doctor and said, “You had better think long and hard how long you want me under your care off my meds for my bipolar disorder.” My meds were there in just a short while and I swallowed them down beside the tube. The point is the vascular people nor the folks from cardiology who had been called in cared about my psych meds.
The problems are not hard to identify. The medical specialties do not communicate well with each other. Even vascular and cardiology did not in my case and neither cared about my psychiatric needs. If we have a physical problem lots of times we do not get good medical care once it is known we have a mental illness. The psych meds themselves have side effects that cause health problems. We have habits that cause health problems. The leading cause of the AAA I am told is smoking and I smoked from the time I was twelve years old till February 13th of this year and I am 58. You do the math.
The solution is harder to identify than it is to identify the problems. The solution should be an integrated system where you get your mental health and other health needs taken care of at the same place where they are talking to each other. However, they can be in the same system and even in the same building, but that does not mean they will talk to each other. The Vascular Clinic does not speak the same language as the Primary Care Clinic or the Mental Health Clinic does not have the same language as Cardiology. There is a language barrier and a territorial battle to be settled even if they are all under the same roof and organization. If they are under different organizations and are being paid from all sorts of different pools of money, then getting them to talk and work as one seems to me to be an impossible task.

I don’t have a solution. I know some of the problems. I know we die early. USA TODAY said in the article written by Marilyn Elias that those of us in the public system die about “25 years earlier than Americans overall.” That tells me we need a solution. Who should we look to for one?

You can contact me at


Sunday, May 20, 2007


After World War II, the federal government expanded its role in mental health care by creating the National Institute of Mental Health. On July 3, 1946 President Truman signed the National Mental Health Act, which called for the establishment of a National Institute of Mental Health. The first meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council was held on August 15, 1946. Because no federal funds had yet been appropriated for the new institute, the Greentree Foundation financed the meeting.

The Great Society programs such as community mental health centers, amendments to the Social Security Act and the passage of Medicare and Medicaid further expanded the federal government’s role in the mental health care arena. The 1963 federal Community Mental Health Centers Act was an attempt by NIMH and community mental health advocates to create a system that would emphasize preventive, community-based, outpatient care as an alternative to institutionalization in state mental hospitals. However well intentioned the idea was it was never funded enough to be effective so deinstitutionalization took place without a true replacement.

My problem with the concept of “in the community” or “community-based” has been not only did no one ever intend to fully fund it, but just who and where in the community did the designers of this grand plan think we would be welcome? I got news for you. When you are truly ill and in a bad episode you are not welcome anywhere.

I have walked the streets and knocked on church doors, gone to social service agencies and begged for food from my fellow man. I may have been too psychotic to know some things, but I was not too mad to know I was not welcome.

I am lucky now. I have a wife who understands my illness and medications that are working, but that is not true of all of my fellow sojourners. Where are they welcome? I have seen them run out of drop in centers run by their peers. I have seen them dropped by programs taking public money to serve them. Jails and prisons seem to be the only places in this country that can’t refuse to serve the mentally ill. I guess that is what is meant by community-based programs.

Faith communities are a natural support system that should not be overlooked by those who find themselves helping folks integrate back into the community. In fact, the more natural supports you can help the person find the more likely the person will be able to become a full participating member of the community.

The following article found in the May 20, 2007 edition of the Charlotte Observer reminds us that folks in institutions have something to teach people in the community. Knowledge and wisdom does not just flow one way.

“After graduating from art school at the University of Texas, Priscilla Wallace left the art world feeling hopeless and frustrated.
‘I walked away from art feeling like the biggest failure in the world,’ the Morganton artist said during a recent interview at Burke Arts Council's Jailhouse Gallery, where her works are on display. ‘It was like a failed marriage.’
Although the faculty at the University of Texas was wonderful, said Wallace, the pressure she felt to produce fine art within the confines of what Wallace described as a ‘snobbish and elite’ art world left her feeling like she had nothing to offer.
But after moving to Morganton in 1998 to work as a special education teacher at the J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center, she fell in love with art again.
Wallace, who recently retired from the center, said its emphasis on craft production as a primary classroom activity for residents inspired her to try dabbling with acrylic paints and mixed media.
‘It was because of this encouragement that I took a deep breath, picked up paint and brushes again and began to make things,’ said Wallace. ‘I owe everything to the center for this, because I'd turned away from art years ago as something I just couldn't do.’
She realized that art didn't have to be about sticking to media, subjects and style as defined by anyone or anything but the artist's own imagination. That is when Wallace said she began making the unique collage creations she refers to as ‘crafted paintings.’”

She went into the community of the institution and came away with a different idea of what art was. We need to look at “community-based” again and come up with a different art of helping folks become welcomed back into the community. It is an art not a science to learn how to walk beside someone down the pathway they decide towards their dream. To learn to Dream Again is a step towards finding a community.

you can reach me at

Saturday, May 19, 2007


The other day I had an email from William Schneider, Consumer Affairs Coordinator, Office of Consumer Affairs, Broward County, Florida about Dream Again Groups that are a pilot project of the Office of Consumer Affairs there. It got me to thinking about what I meant when I used those two words, Dream Again, all those years I spent advocating for folks like me in south Florida. I found a document copyrighted in 2000 by Novastar Opportunities for the Mentally Ill, Inc., a nonprofit corporation under which Project Dream Again, Dream Again Press, Dream Again Journal and Dream Again Groups were operated as well as funds provided to other nonprofit organizations, in which I defined what I meant by Dream Again. The document is a training manual titled S.E.A.R.C.H. A Natural Recovery Model.

The Introduction to this copyrighted document follows. I am the author.

“You have the right to know my biases before you begin reading these pages. I call myself a folk anthropologist because it sounds better than calling myself a consumer of mental health services or ex-patient of mental hospitals or a survivor of child sexual abuse. I could even make the case for having co-occurring disorders of bipolar I disorder with psychosis, substance-related disorder, dissociative disorder, and personality disorder not otherwise specified. That would give me three Axis I diagnosis and one Axis II diagnosis according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition. That means I would be quad diagnosed not just dually diagnosed. This may sound silly, but I do qualify for four different diagnoses. Which is primary? That depends on which day we are talking about and what period of my life. Labels, even as precise as those in the DSM-IV, may be a beginning point, but they are not the whole story. You are not going to get the whole story because this is not an autobiography. I just felt you needed to know that a person who is making life’s journey while learning to cope with madness wrote these pages.

Folk anthropology is the study of humankind using participatory research and education methodologies in order to draw from the collective intuition, experiences, knowledge and wisdom of all mankind. The American Anthropological Association does not recognize folk anthropology as a true subfield of anthropology: nor; do they recognize my definition of folk anthropology. Its direct application to the issues important to those of us who have been given a DSM-IV diagnosis is that it gives validity to our intuition, experiences, knowledge and wisdom. We do not remain merely the subjects of research and discussions, but we can participate as full partners. We have moved to the fron of the bus.

I was raised on a mission station in southern Africa. (Rhodesia now Zimbabwe) I served in the military during the Vietnam War. After twenty years in the business world, I helped form Novastar Opportunities for the Mentally Ill, Inc. N.O.M. I. ( pronounced know me) is a not for profit corporation dedicated to bringing more joy into the lives of my fellow sojourners.

My personal goal is more than merely becoming functional. I am not so sure that being functional in today’s world should be worn as such a great badge of honor. Maybe not fitting in is more moral, ethical and higher ground than fitting into an immoral, unethical and violent world.

That leads me to say that the goal of Dream Again is not functionality, but rather wellness by healing from the wounds of this world not by fully joining in the world’s madness. Welcome to Dream Again.”

I also would like to quote 3 of the 11 points of Novastar’s philosophy found in that same copyrighted document.

“2)Respect for the reality of others is the starting point for any relationship intending to facilitate healing and recovery even when their reality appears not to be based in one’s own understanding of reality or in the larger community’s collective understanding of reality.
5)That recovery is a journey that can be supported and facilitated by others, by that only the individual can determine the direction and destination of the recovery journey.
9) That peer support and self-help are both means of supporting and facilitating the recovery journey, but that a holistic approach also includes other modalities and technologies.”

Dream Again stood for embracing the person in the most natural way possible by respecting their reality and walking beside them on the pathway leading to their dream. Any concept that is in conflict with the statement in the preceding sentence is in conflict with Dream Again as presented by Ed Cooper.

You may contact me directly at

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I went with my wife to the Glen Alpine United Methodist Church, Glen Alpine, NC last Sunday. This was the church her Mom had walked down the railroad tracks to as a young girl to attend. The Pastor’s message for Mother’s Day was “Building a Home”. One of his points was the Christian home and the church should be a home that anyone could return to no matter what they had done just like in the parable of the prodigal son. (Luke 15: 11-32) It was a powerful thought for me because I have been on the streets homeless. Not since the 80’s, but the memories are still very fresh. I have lived on the streets of both New York and Los Angeles among other cities in between those two. Having a home has a real meaning to me.
A few short years ago I started trying to learn more about the region of my birth hoping I could become more rooted. More at home in this world. With both of my parents gone, I was beginning to feel like a ship at sea without a captain, sail, or rudder. So I began the study of Appalachia. To be more specific southern Appalachia. To get even more specific West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Southwestern Virginia, Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina and Northern Georgia. As you can see I have defined southern Appalachia my own way, but so have many others.
The official body who defines Appalachia is the Appalachian Regional Commission. On their web site they tell you the states and the counties that make up Appalachia among lots of other stuff. The Kentucky county of my birth is in Appalachia. The North Carolina county of my wife’s birth is. The Kentucky county my two sisters were born in is. My parents were born in Appalachia as well as my wife‘s parents. We just moved from a Kentucky county that was in Appalachia to a North Carolina county that is. One of my sisters lives in a Georgia county that is in Appalachia and my oldest sister is moving to one in Tennessee that is.
Anna Jarvis who is considered to be the lady who was the power behind the official establishment of Mother’s Day was born in Grafton, West Virginia. In Appalachia. On May 10, 1908 the first church to hold a Mother’s Day celebration was St. Andrews in Grafton, West Virginia and is now the International Mothers Day Shrine. Mother’s Day started in Appalachia.
I have enjoyed the study of Appalachia, but I am not more rooted. The stigma of my mental illness keeps me from ever feeling at home. The words spoken after the tragedy in Blacksburg tells me stigma is still alive. Go back to the Old Posts (there is a link at the bottom of this page) and read “MY FATHER’S WORDS” to see what growing up in a Christian home on a mission station with a mental illness was like.
I started in 1988 working as a mental health consumer advocate trying to get faith communities to embrace those of us with serious mental illness. I still believe the natural support of faith communities is the best way to help folks like me believe we can truly have a home in the community and for us to learn to dream again the first step to healing. Medications can calm my mind, but if no one helps me heal my heart I will remain an outsider and never find a home where I can be safe and at peace.
I am asked why we do drugs. I guess the proper question is why are so many of us dually diagnosed? It is very simple. We have had fairly good medications for some mental illnesses for years now. For example, I can control my bipolar disorder with the medications I am prescribed. We also know more is needed. We have been told for years that medications alone are not enough. So the medications help control the bio. A lucky few get some psychosocial programming, but wait a minute we are bio-psycho-social-spiritual beings which means we need more. We need something that reaches the pain of our hearts and souls or we will find something to dull the pain with.
I do not have an addiction problem, but I have watched many of my friends. I am convinced that if they were embraced as the prodigal son was in a community of folks who wanted them and showed it without reservation the healing process would begin from within.

You can contact me directly at

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I am writing this the day before Mother’s Day and just a little over two weeks before Memorial Day. My mother has passed on as well as my father. My wife’s mother is still alive, but her father’s death is just a few days from being a year ago. Both the living and the dead have their own stories, but who gets to tell them.
My mother can no longer tell her own story and even when she was here own earth with us was she telling her story or the story she thought someone wanted to hear? I have my doubts that my mom ever told her story the way she would have if she had felt she was a free and supported woman.
Not long ago I called my oldest sister to ask her a question about something when mom and dad lived in the mountains of Kentucky before dad got called up for World War II. She didn’t know so she called a sister of mom’s who didn’t know so she called another sister of mom’s. I found out things I did not know, but not the answer to my question. Had I not asked enough questions of mom and dad or had they not told enough stories? Maybe my memory is bad.
I am 58 and will be 59 later on this year. As the years go by I understand more about the importance of each person getting to tell their own story the way they want to. Some of us will have to rewrite our stories because we have let others define us and tell our stories for so long that for the true story to come out they must be totally rewritten.
To rewrite your story you need more than a journal. You need someone who will listen. Listen and not try to change the story or write it for you. Carl Rogers (1902-1987) contributed a great deal to the field of psychology with what he called a person-centered approach. It was based on being nondirective, nonjudgmental and holding the person in unconditional positive regard. His approach is not a buzz word among the elite crowd, but if you want to be able to tell your own story you will need a person who believes like Rogers did or a person who has decided to reach out in the same manner God reaches out to us.
God’s Grace for us is not based on our being good but on God’s goodness. That is a story we can count on as being true. We should help those around us tell their stories. Listen to them. Remember them. The stories of our people are powerful. Each story that does not get told is a person lost. Each person listened to is a found person.

I can be reached at

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Three years ago I moved from Florida to here on Little Clear Creek. I left people whom I had grown to love deeply when I left Florida. Leaving here I am leaving earth I have grown to love.
This Kentucky farm of over 120 acres is made up of woods, bottom land, a branch, a creek, waterfalls, mountains, hollows, flat places and steep climbs. A small house which I am told I should call a cottage is where Patty and I lived. She had overseen its being totally updated. There is a big old country barn, two other out buildings, and the best looking outhouse in these parts. I worked outside on the land here and never went to a meeting about anything. I know my friends in Florida find it hard to believe that for three years I have basically been quiet. Just mowing grass and playing in the dirt. Learning to simply be.
Now I am moving to North Carolina. Patty’s father died and her Mom has asked us to come there to be close to her and help her. So I am leaving Little Clear Creek for Glen Alpine, North Carolina near Morganton where Patty was born.
Will I be quiet there or will I come out of retirement and resume the advocacy I did for years in Florida? I will come out. I will try to take the advise of my friend Jan who said to me that more people heard me when I was not so loud and angry. I got other advice from Norma, Anita, Val, Jana and Steve. All of my friends know I sometimes listened, but mostly I advocated from my own heart and soul the things I believed in deeply. Maybe I should have listened better, but then I would not have been Ed.
Who will I be in North Carolina? The same Ed I was in Florida and in North Carolina before that. You see I have been in North Carolina as an advocate before. I worked with NCAMI when I was there and I was one of the founders of the statewide consumer’s group there. Also it was the state that NOVASTAR, the nonprofit we worked under in NC & FL, was born in. So in a way I am going home. The state where I began my first efforts as an advocate for folks like myself who have a mental illness.
In Florida during the Service Planning days we talked about a person’s “Long Term View“. In North Carolina they have what they call a “Person Centered Plan” which asks for “Long Term Goals”. It is a funny form because it also asked other people about the person’s “Long Term Goals” including the professional with the piece of paper.
I have never really understood what people thought was the real starting point if you wanted to help me. The whole country after 9/11 was talking about wanting to be safe. After the tragedy in Blacksburg, the real issue is how to make a campus safer. Well, if you want to help me or any other person with a serious mental illness we must first feel safe with you and we must also be in a safe environment.
Safe is the beginning point of being able to dream again. There is no need of asking me all these questions to put on your forms if I don’t feel safe with you. I will either not answer them or make something up. If you want the truthful answers to your questions, then you must build a natural relationship with me in which I feel at least some degree of safety.
Why am I saying all this now? Because the world is full of talk about how to make the world safe from us and I want to make the point we have always had to fear the world. You want to help us. Help make us safe. See us as fully human. Support our families and loved ones. Build a mental health system both private and public that is available, affordable and covered by insurance just like any other illness.
Will I be quiet in North Carolina? Hardly. Will I try to not be too loud yes, but I will be heard even if it changes nothing. You can count on that.

You can email me at

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


On NAMI New Hampshire Web Site we find the following:
"People with Mental Illness Enrich Our Lives"
Information about famous people throughout history who have been diagnosed with, or thought to have a serious mental illness or mood disorder.
Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States
The revered sixteenth President of the United States suffered from severe and incapacitating depressions that occasionally led to thoughts of suicide, as documented in numerous biographies by Carl Sandburg.
Winston Churchill
"Had he been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might well have concluded that we were finished," wrote Anthony Storr about Churchill's bipolar disorder in Churchill's Black Dog, Kafka's Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind.
Does that mean that maybe the Civil War was caused by President Lincoln’s mental illness rather than slavery or states rights and secession? Is Storr correct that Churchill was helped by his mental illness or was it the cause of more evil?
In New York a state senator is holding hearings about how to make colleges safer. Newsday wrote it up this way, “College officials from across a broad spectrum said yesterday that campus security measures were intertwined with the mental health needs of students. It was clear at a legislative hearing, convened by state Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) in the wake of a mentally ill student's deadly rampage at Virginia Tech, that students' mental health needs was an even bigger challenge for colleges than campus security. "This issue is broader than the security issues," LaValle said. John R. Ryan, outgoing chancellor of the 64-campus State University of New York, testified that the "numbers of students entering our colleges and universities with professionally treated mental health issues is increasing."
The public must be becoming very concerned. The truth is having a hard time getting through all the fear producing rhetoric and the politicians who want to seem to be doing something. Truth is a very hard thing to determine. Can you still remember why we went to war in Iraq? Were we told the truth? Was the war over when our President declared it so four years ago? If you were in a psychiatric hospital and your reality was being determined, you had better hope you would be closer to reality than our President was when he took us to war in Iraq or when he declared it over. My point is simple. Truth is illusive and we need calm and considered dialogue not fear producing journalism and politicians trying to score points.
The rights of all of us with a serious mental illness are on the line here. The outcome will change our lives and those of our families and loved ones either for the better or for the worse. It all depends how close we come to the truth.

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“Killings are almost impossible to prevent especially when they are result of terrorism, domestic disputes or mental illness. But losses can be reduced with proper training and education. Community and other small colleges are especially vulnerable because they don’t foresee the potential threat that can suddenly arise as was the case at Tech.” Paul D. McDermott, Gaithersburg (Gazette.Net, Maryland Community Newspapers Online, May 2, 2007)
Larry P. Arnn president of Hillsdale College in Michigan wrote in the following in The Detroit Press, “The murderer at Virginia Tech took a course in which students watched the movie ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and were invited to contemplate the altered rules under which horror has become a ‘masochistic pleasure.’ Such courses abound these days.”
He also made it clear in the same article that he thought a college should not be forced by any law to keep a student on campus who was suicidal or otherwise emotional disturbed and certainly ought to have the right to call their parents even “if an emotionally disturbed student refuses permission.”
Do a Google News Search and you will find many more articles written around the country calling for something to be done about the potential for violence from folks like me who suffer from a serious mental illness. If there ever was a time we need our friends to stand up with us in solidarity and speak out it is now. Not later. Later may be too late.

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness has a good Virginia Tech responses and resources section on their web site.
Mental Health America’s Position Statement Number 43 and background information about it is on their web site. Statement Number 43 is about their position on our constitutional rights and medical records.
The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law also has a comment on the issue on their site.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


By Ed Cooper
January 14, 2007

When Grace stopped by my darkened soul,
I wondered just how long Grace would stay.
I know that God made Grace possible,
Through the blood of His only Child.
That only made me feel more unworthy,
Of such a great and wondrous sacrifice.
My soul is so black that even I can not look,
For more than a few moments at a time.
Now Grace has stopped by,
I fear Grace will run away.
But you know she has stayed a few days,
And my soul seems lighter when I look.
What a grand day when I know Grace will stay,
And my soul will be white as snow.
Then when I look in the mirror of my soul I will see,
Not what the world sees but what God has always seen.
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