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Onlookers Guess About Amanda Bynes' Diagnosis

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(April 18, 2014) Amanda Bynes is back in the headlines, or more specifically, statements by Amanda Bynes’ mother and her attorney are in the news. 

amanda_bynes"Amanda currently is on zero medication . . . . She's devoted to living her life as healthy as possible . . . . She's never had a history of abusing alcohol or hard drugs, and she's proud to say she's been marijuana-free for the past nine months . . . . Amanda does not have schizophrenia, nor has she ever been diagnosed with it,” said her attorney Tamar Arminak (“Amanda Bynes doesn’t have schizophrenia, lawyer reveals,” April 9).

 “Amanda has no mental illness whatsoever.  She has never been diagnosed as schizophrenic or bipolar,” Bynes’ mother, Lynn, has also said.  Instead, her mother attributes the unusual behavior that resulted in Bynes’ hospitalization to her daughter’s use of marijuana.

While mental health groups are all taking turns diagnosing Bynes or questioning whether the young star does in fact have a mental health diagnosis, we do know that Bynes has had several very public incidents involving unusual and sometimes dangerous behavior.  

We know that Bynes has spent some time involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. We know that Lynn Bynes petitioned for and was appointed as her daughter’s LPS Conservator, a mental health conservatorship.

We also know that the civil commitment laws in California allowed the Bynes family to help their daughter get the treatment that she needed, even if Amanda didn’t believe that she needed the help.

Even though we don’t know Amanda’s psychiatric diagnosis or her medication regime or lack thereof, we don’t need to know.

We respect Amanda Bynes’ privacy, and we support her and the Bynes’ family in her recovery. 

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“Mental Health Care in the U.S. Needs a Check-Up”

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(April 17, 2014) The Washington Post became the second national newspaper to come out in support of the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” in an April 17 editorial that says the changes in Rep. Tim Murphy’s bill “would help relieve a lot of suffering that does not make the front page.”

tim_murphy“Mental illness usually is not as dangerous or dramatic. Nearly 23 million Americans live with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Very few of these men and women are potential mass-murderers; they need help for their own well-being and for that of their families. A few, though, need services that will keep them from harming themselves or others. The nation’s health system needs to do better at treating all types.

“The Affordable Care Act has significantly increased insurance coverage for mental health care. But that may not be enough to expand access to sparse mental-health-care resources. Besides, the government is already spending billions on mental illness treatment; it has an interest in making sure taxpayers get results.

“Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) has a bill that would do so. The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act is more comprehensive than other recent efforts to reform the system and perhaps has the brightest prospects in a divided Congress. The bill would reorganize the billions the federal government pours into mental health services, prioritizing initiatives backed by solid evidence and tracking their success. It would change the way Medicaid pays — or, in this case, underpays — for certain mental health treatments. It would fund mental health clinics that meet certain medical standards. And it would push states to adopt policies that allow judges to order some severely mentally ill people to undergo treatment.”

Read the entire editorial about Rep. Murphy’s landmark federal legislation.

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“I Thought He Was Safe, That Was a Mistake”

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(April 15, 2014) When Bill O’Quin called the police to warn them that his 41-year-old paranoid schizophrenic son, David, was wandering the streets one night in February 2013, he had no idea the arrest would ultimately lead to David’s death in a Louisiana prison.

david_oquinYet “thirteen days later David Jackson O’Quin lay lifeless on a jail cell floor after being shackled to a restraint chair for nearly 170 hours during 10 days of often violent behavior,” reports the Advocate (“Dad hopes suit over mentally ill son’s death in jail will spur change,” April 14).

An artist, David O’Quin was fluent in Spanish and graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in studio art. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Los Angeles to further his art studies at UCLA.

What originally appeared to be the quirky behavior of an artist became more alarming when David moved to the west coast. “Helicopters and birds followed David around Los Angeles,” Bill O’Quin tells the Advocate. “Intelligence officials implanted listening devices in his brain . . . He often stripped naked in public.”

When he landed in the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on that February night, David was suffering from serious psychosis, according to a medical report from a prison nurse. “Recognizing he was mentally unstable, intake workers kept him apart from the general population of inmates.”

On his sixth day in jail, “David spent 24 hours strapped to his chair, screaming for at least six of those hours, and he refused to eat.” Days later, David was “shot with a stun gun and had a spit mask pulled over his face.” Much of David’s last few days were spent restrained to the chair.

On his last night alive in prison, after being released from the chair but too weak to move, “David ate dinner lying on a mat on the floor of his jail cell . . . At about 5 a.m. a deputy yelled for him, but he didn’t’ budge. . .  At 7 a.m. a guard poked the motionless man through the bars with a broom.”

David was dead.

Officials with the Emergency Medical Services declined to comment to the Advocate about the causes surrounding David’s death. The autopsy report indicates that David died after blood clots in his legs dislodged and settled in his lungs.

Bill is suing the prison to facilitate changes in how jails and prisons treat people with mental illness.

While it is unknown whether significant efforts were made to treat David’s psychosis during his incarceration, our study, “The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails,” found that Louisiana is one of 13 states where involuntary treatment is significantly more difficult because it requires a court order or appointment of a guardian by the court.

David O’Quin is one more casualty in our nation’s failure to adequately provide treatment for inmates with serious mental illness who are in the throes of psychosis. As our report notes, the consequences of failing to treat mentally ill inmates are “usually harmful and sometimes tragic.”

In this case, the consequences were tragic.

Read or download “The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails.”

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My Son Needs AOT - personally speaking

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(April 14, 2014) My 39-year-old son was diagnosed with schizophrenia 13 years ago. It started with various pains throughout his body.

mental illnessAfter his first psychotic break we took him to the hospital where he was prescribed medication, but we realized a year later that he had never taken it. He even cheated the nurse who was sent to observe him comply with his prescription.

He has anosognosia. There have been many times when he does not believe he has an illness. When he goes off his meds, he decompensates. He becomes delusional, his thoughts race and I fear for him and others around him.  

Because of this he is a classic example of the revolving door of mental illness. He has been hospitalized about 11 times over the course of his illness, usually staying about six weeks. Once he leaves the hospital, though, he stops taking his prescribed antipsychotics.

In Connecticut, we don’t have an assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) law so as long as he doesn’t believe he is sick, he won’t take his medication. People like my son are thrown back and forth in and out of hospitals and jails. 

The lawmakers don't get it. It is hard for me to believe that even after the Newtown tragedy, they still can’t find a way to pass court-ordered treatment for the most severely mentally ill.  Our son is high functioning when he takes his meds.

An AOT law would help people like him by lowering the rate of crimes and victimization. It would prevent the cycling of my son in and out of hospitals.

All we are looking for is a law that helps people with severe mental illness who need guidance when they stop taking their medication and start to decompensate.

We know that the most severely ill patients aren’t a harm to anyone until they harm someone and end up in jail, or worse.

The mother of a a man with schizophrenia
Connecticut

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Recommendations for Improving Treatment for Mentally Ill Inmates

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(April 11, 2014) Given the large number of seriously mentally ill individuals in our prisons and jails and the associated, the question becomes how these individuals can be treated for mental illness.

prison_mental_illnessMany of the seriously mentally ill inmates will accept medication voluntarily. Others, especially those who are not aware of their own illness (in other words, those who have anosognosia), will not accept medication voluntarily because they think there is nothing wrong with them.

Just as inmates should be treated for tuberculosis, diabetes, and hypertension, so also should they be treated for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depression.

The consequences of failing to treat mentally ill inmates are “usually harmful and sometimes tragic,” according to the report, which represents the first compilation of state laws and practices governing such treatment. Without intervention, symptoms worsen, leading inmates to behave in disruptive and bizarre ways and become vulnerable to being beaten, raped or otherwise victimized, to mutilating themselves or committing suicide.

All recommendations for improving the situation begin with the general premise that individuals with severe mental disorders who are in need of treatment belong in hospitals, not in prisons and jails.

The ultimate solutions to the problems presented in this report include having an adequate number of public psychiatric beds for the stabilization of mentally ill individuals and involve a fundamental realignment of the public mental illness treatment system in which public mental health officials at the state and county level are held responsible for any failure of the treatment system. Until that is done, the following are some interim recommendations.

  1. Provide appropriate treatment for prison and jail inmates with serious mental illness
  2. Implement and promote jail diversion programs
  3. Promote the use of assisted outpatient treatment (AOT)
  4. Encourage cost studies
  5. Establish careful intake screening
  6. Mandate release planning

Excerpted from “The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails.” Read or download the complete report from our TACReports.org website.

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