I just returned home from an appointment at the Veterans Administration where I was able to reflect on my much improved life. Years ago, when I turned my life over the the VA, I was down on my luck. Today things are much better. I am feeling optimistic about life. I might be able to go to New Orleans next month for a conference. MC3, the mental health quality improvement board, sent me an email asking whether I would like to be a part of their steering committee. The Department of Health and Human Services for Milwaukee County is asking me to participate in an environmental scan to help them understand what is going on. And I am finishing a book Americanah about Nigerian refugees in America and Great Britain.
I am uncertain whether any of these things are related. I am a regular at the MC3 events and I am reasonably articulate. I participate in the small group discussions. MC3 is the group that recently nominated me for the Mental Health Board. It is possible that there is some connection between being on this steering committee and being on the board. My sister Chris would say that I am marketing myself. Let’s get this guy out there in the community.
There have been a few people who were marketed, awarded, publicized in the newspaper and magazines as knowing what there is to know about living with a mental illness and or helping those who have a mental illness. Suddenly, there might be an awareness that they need to have black men as part of these discussions. Too often, black men are the victims of the mental health system. There was a memorial recently regarding Dontre Hamilton a young black man with a mental illness who had fallen asleep in a downtown park and was killed by police. The first thing I would tell this Mental Health Board is to stop killing young black men.
When you check the staffs of agencies that are providing services such as case management you don’t find a lot of black men and yet the people who we have the most difficulty understanding are black men. Is that a surprise? So, hire some of them.
I asked a Milwaukee County worker, ask yourself, what can I do to help? She called my supervisor and told her she thought I was telling her how to do her job. Eventually, the county worker did what I was asking her to do.
The book Americanah tells about the differences between Africans in American and Britain and African-Americans. I have told my facebook friends about this and invited them to comment on the book. It was a very big seller not so long ago. The main character was a Nigerian woman who became a successful blogger. Maybe people will offer to sponsor my blog and I will not be working with people who are living with a mental illness? I seriously doubt that but perhaps something more interesting will happen. Stay tuned.
Why is attorney Lynne Stewart in prison? Why was she persecuted originally under the Bush administration?Why did the Obama administration appeal her original sentence? Why hasn’t she been released under a compassionate discharge program given the progression of her cancer?
There are many whys about her persecution that need to be answered. This woman should be free and assisting more clients. This is a bogus case constructed by two administrations. It is time for justice.
Imagine that you have reported wrongdoing to the people at the top of the agency and in return you become investigated. Your higher ups come to your house and have you sent to a psychiatric ward without your consent and without a psychiatric evaluation. Your family does not know where you are. Is this a story about psychiatric abuse in the Soviet Union? No, it is abuse of power by the New York City Police Department. The very institution charged with enforcing the laws is in fact a lawbreaker. And even after being exposed for their venal behavior, the police routinely visit a police officer on leave far away from the city where they have no jurisdiction and demand that he “act like a man” and return with them for even more abuse. As if to tell him, “we have the right to abuse you.”
The Village Voice series that broke Schoolcraft’s story, written by Graham Rayman, is here. Schoolcraft’s website looking for other cops to come forward is here.
My concern is with the psychiatric abuse part of the story. If you listen to Schoolcraft’s story, you will hear a recording of the incident I referred to in the introduction to this blog. His superiors came to his apartment under false pretenses and decided that his refusal to leave with them constituted mental illness. In my work as a peer specialist the police I have seen are scrupulous in informing mental health consumers of their rights. There are very strict procedures to be followed when declaring that someone is exhibiting dangerous behavior and must be transported to an institution. But the New York City police felt they were above this law. That is the most dangerous part of what happened to Schoolcraft.
What if others are being locked away under similar circumstances? We must continue to advocate for the right not to be violated. Employers can not be allowed to manipulate our minds, the way that the police attempted to manipulate Schoolcraft’s. We must be vigilant. Schoolcraft could be anyone. Say no to mental abuse.