Mental Illness

Durham County Jail
Laura Candler

The Durham County Sheriff's office has received more than $275,000 in federal and local funding to improve mental health services for inmates at the Durham County Detention Facility.

When Dawn Dreyer was diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder, her therapist suggested that she make drawings as a way to cope with her depression.

The drawings evolved into a comic strip about a superhero called Bipolar Girl and Kacey the Wonderdog, who are in constant battle with The Creature, a villain who represents shame, depression and perfectionism. 

Gun wall featuring rifles and assault riffles.
Michael Saechang - flickr.com/photos/saechang

Craig Stephen Hicks, the man accused of killing three young people in Chapel Hill this February, could face the death penalty. A Durham County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that the prosecution brought forth enough incriminating evidence to make him eligible for a death sentence.

Photo: Death row inmates are housed at Central Prison in Raleigh. No executions have been carried out in North Carolina since 2006.
North Carolina Department of Public Safety

About 12 percent of the inmates in North Carolina's prisons are mentally ill, state prisons administrators told lawmakers at a hearing this week.

Administrators, including David Guice, the commissioner for the state Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, said the they're starting a re-structuring of how they handle the roughly 4,600 mentally ill inmates. They're beginning to concentrate transfer some inmates and concentrate some services in some locations - instead of having them spread among the roughly 37,000 inmate population throughout the system's 56 facilities.

The Ice Garden

Nov 12, 2014

The characters in Moira Crone’s new book The Ice Garden (Carolina Wren Press/2014) have been rattling about in the author’s head for decades. 

    

On March 12, 2014, Michael Anthony Kerr, an inmate at the Alexander Correctional Institution, died from dehydration en route to a hospital in Raleigh.

The treatment of Mr. Kerr in days leading up to his death have led to many questions as well as investigations by the US Attorney’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation.

Regarding My Son
Finishing Line Press

    

When Sonia Usatch-Kuhn's son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, she started keeping a diary of sorts.

She wrote poetry about the devastating moments when her son was institutionalized, and when he did not speak for two years. She also wrote poetry about the moments of joy when he began to distinguish reality from his paranoia and hallucinations.

Sonia’s writings are now a book of poetry that follows the story from her son’s diagnosis 35 years ago to his life today.

A DNA rendering
YNSE / Flickr

An international team of researchers has made landmark progress on the study of Schizophrenia.

A consortium co-founded by the University of North Carolina's Patrick Sullivan reports that it's identified 108 points of genetic variation in people with the illness.

  

In his debut novel, Chapel-Hill based author Michael B. Jones explores a tumultuous relationship between a father and son who search for happiness and identity as their lives fall apart around them.

Police Training
Nashville.gov

In the early morning hours of November 19, Durham  youth Jesus Huerta left home. His family called 911, reported him as a troubled runaway and noted his drug problem. A Durham police officer located Huerta, frisked him, cuffed him, and put him in the back of a cruiser. Moments later, the 17 year-old was dead from a gunshot to the head. His family questions the circumstances surrounding his death.

Friends and relatives posted pictures like these of Jesus Huerta around Durham, NC
Leoneda Inge

  

Jesus Huerta died from a gunshot wound while in police custody last November. Did officers know he was at risk of killing himself? The teen's family says yes.

Durham authorities have said the officer on the scene, Samuel Duncan, had not been told the 17-year-old threatened to kill himself and used drugs before the officer picked him up the morning of Nov. 19.

But the attorney representing Huerta’s family questions that and points to this radio communication in which officers talk about Huerta having a history of drug abuse:

Lee Smith Explores History Through Fiction

Dec 3, 2013
Algonquin Books

  

In her latest novel, Chapel Hill author Lee Smith tells the story of Asheville's Highland Hospital, a pioneering mental institution that once housed Zelda Fitzgerald.

"Guests on Earth" (Algonquin/2013), reveals this real-life history through the prism of fiction, all while exploring the relationship between creativity and madness. Frank Stasio talks with Lee Smith about her new book.

Wikimedia Commons

    

Schizophrenia is a frightening disease, characterized by audio and visual hallucinations.

A researcher at Duke University thinks he may have a clue as to how the auditory hallucinations occur.

Duke neurobiologist Richard Mooney said there is a long history of research that indicates that the way we hear is influenced by what we see happening around us.

Duke University Hospital
Duke Medecine

  

Parents of teenagers with mental illnesses struggle to find appropriate care. When those adolescents also have developmental disabilities, they often end up in a cycle of psychiatric treatment that keeps them in residential facilities far from their homes.

Host Frank Stasio talks with News and Observer reporter Mandy Locke about a story of one family facing these challenges and the state’s resources for treatment.

Diagram of human brian.
Flickr Creative Commons

Researchers at NC State say it's safer and more cost effective for the government to treat people with mental illnesses. 

a pharmacist
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Differences in state budget proposals are prompting mental health advocates to rally for more spending on group homes and treatment. 

Gov. Pat McCrory's budget increases spending on mental health by about 2 percent over the next two years.  But the state Senate's plan cuts about 3 percent. 

The Seventh Angel By Alex McKeithen
http://www.theseventhangelbook.com/

When Alex McKeithen was a junior at Davidson College in the late '80s, his life changed. He was visiting Paris and studying art when one day he found himself stripping naked in public and proclaiming himself the seventh angel of the apocalypse. It was the beginning of an undiagnosed episode of bipolar disorder, and that experience is the focus of his memoir, "The Seventh Angel" (Lorimer Press/2012).

GO INTERACTIVE WELLNESS, Flickr, Creative Commons

Treatment for mental illness that is safe, healthy, and not too expensive can be hard to find. But new research from  Duke University suggests that yoga might be effective in treating certain psychiatric symptoms.

DSM-V

Dec 13, 2012

The bible of the psychiatric community is undergoing a major revision. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness or DSM has just approved its fifth revision. The DSM-V includes big changes to certain categories, including depression, dementia and autism. Some say the changes go too far.

About 2,000 people with severe mental illness are facing eviction from group homes at the end of the year. That was the message from group home residents and staff and mental health advocates who rallied at the state Capitol yesterday. A change in Medicaid rules means residential facilities for the mentally disabled will lose some federal funding at the end of the year. State lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year providing replacement funds for adult care homes...but group homes were left out.

A new study by Disability Rights North Carolina says the state is failing disabled children with complex treatment needs. Vicki Smith is the advocacy group's executive director. She says the state isn't following its own guidelines for treating children with both a mental illness and developmental disability.

Vicki Smith: These are kids, so there should be really good robust cooperation and collaboration between education and mental health and social services, because we have to treat the whole child.

Hospitals in eastern North Carolina are now using an online message board that lists beds available for patients with mental illnesses or substance abuse problems. Sixteen facilities are using the pilot program designed to streamline the admission process for those patients. Luckey Welsh is the director of the Division of State Operated Healthcare Facilities. He says patients can sometimes spend days in the Emergency Room while the hospital looks for an available bed.

Nashville housing counselor Louetta Hix
Rose Hoban

  In the last 10 years, multiple studies have concluded that housing people with mental health disabilities in adult and family care homes is not the best plan for them. Each study has recommended phasing out use of the homes and improving the system. Despite that, the number of homes has increased along with the number of adults with mental illness who live in them.

For people with mental health disabilities, housing’s an intensely personal issue. Many want to live independently, some want to live with others. But mostly, what folks with mental health problems say they want is some choice in the matter. But housing is a political and economic issue too. Many factors prevent people with mental health disabilities from getting the housing they want… and need.

 

It probably wouldn’t occur to him, but Alfred Brown is in the vanguard. He’s weathered a lifetime of schizophrenia and alcohol abuse…

Clinton Toy in front of his Nashville home.
Rose Hoban

  Around the country, advocates have come to realize that one of the most important services for people with mental health disabilities is housing – and that most people with disabilities are able to live independently with some help. States have tried many strategies to create suitable housing options. Tennessee dedicates a small amount of state money every year to local groups that succeed pretty well.