Mental Health First Aid, A $20 Million Price Tag for Compassion

December 2nd, 2015 | Press Releases

What are the odds Gary Scheppke, a member of the Marin County Board of Mental Health, would happen to be on the Golden Gate Bridge with his newly obtained “mental health first aid” certificate in hand to stop a person from jumping? According to the San Jose Mercury News the odds were pretty good, as explained in its article: A surge in federal funding for Mental Health First Aid could make it as popular as CPR.

Getting beyond the bizarre bridge encounter and Scheppke’s relationship with the Marin County Board of Mental Health, let’s take a look at the comparison the article draws to CPR and Mental Health First Aid and then the $20 million federally funded “certificate.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a lifesaving technique useful in many emergencies, including heart attack or near drowning, in which someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone — untrained bystanders and medical personnel alike — begin CPR with chest compressions.”

The Mayo Staff continues, “It’s far better to do something than to do nothing at all if you’re fearful that your knowledge or abilities aren’t 100 percent complete. Remember, the difference between your doing something and doing nothing could be someone’s life.”

The Mental Health First Aid eight-hour course reportedly provides skills to individuals on how to identify symptoms of mental illness, such as depression and how and when to intervene. According to Discovery’s executive director, Kathy Chierton, the course provides interactive and role-playing exercises that help participants empathize with people with mental disorders, “Often, says Chierton, “it can take a decade from when the first symptoms of mental illness show up to when people receive treatment, so early intervention is crucial.”

Let’s remember, though, that there is no objective test for diagnosing any alleged mental disorder – no X-ray, blood work, CAT scan. The diagnosis is completely subjective, based on a set of criteria voted into existence by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). According to the former head of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Thomas Insel, the problem with diagnosing mental illness, “it lacks validity.”

Despite the fact that psychiatric diagnosing is based in neither science or medicine, millions of dollars continue to funnel into mental health services, which largely consists of prescribing dangerous mind-altering drugs – often causing the very behaviors they allegedly “treat.”

For example, the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a mentally disturbed young man, Adam Lanza, killed 20 children and six adults was the rallying cry for President Obama to sign an executive order providing $20 million in federal funds for the Mental Health First Aid program.

However, according to the Connecticut state police investigation and the Connecticut Child Advocate’s “story” on Adam Lanza, from a very young age, Lanza received the best mental health money could buy. In fact according to the Hartford Courant report, the psychiatry department at Danbury Hospital performed mental health screening on Lanza and released him, concluding he was not a harm to himself or others. This is a clear indication that mental health screenings (diagnosing) are completely unreliable and, as NIMH Insel said, “lacks validity.”

It isn’t very often that someone can say they talked a person out of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge but, according to San Jose Mercury News, Gary Scheppke, now that he has received the mental health first aid certificate, can identify mental illness when he sees it and act accordingly? Wow, that’s some miraculous training. Or, is it really just a case of one human being showing compassion to another. This compassion, though, comes with a $20 million price tag.

State Child Advocate Still Investigating Sandy Hook Shooter

April 21st, 2014 | Breaking News

State Child Advocate Still Investigating Sandy Hook Shooter

 Although the State Police Report of the shooting incident at Sandy Hook Elementary provided zero information about the motive for the murderous actions of Adam Lanza, there still is an on-going investigation by the State’s child advocate’s office that may provide additional clues.

In March of 2013, the child advocate’s office requested Lanza’s school records, including report cards, attendance records, any individualized education plans, minutes of any meetings with specialized teams, psychological reports or evaluations, suspension and expulsion records, nursing and social work reports, and any correspondence with his family.

That’s a lot of information and much of it may provide a glimpse into not only the kind of mental health treatment Lanza received while attending school, but whether or not he even received state mental health care benefits. Hopefully, unlike the State Police Report, the public may learn something about the last five years of Lanza’s life.

As everyone now is fully aware, the State Police Report provides no information about Lanza’s mental health treatment for the five years leading up to the shooting incident. This complete lack of mental health information did not, however, stop state legislators from implementing costly increases in mental health services throughout the state.

Worse still, even if there had been information about Lanza’s mental health treatment in the investigative report, it would not have made a difference to lawmakers, as they passed the legislation, with no public input, seven months prior to the release of the investigative report on Sandy Hook.

Faith Vos Winkel, the Assistant Child Advocate, advised Ablechild that they received the records in February of this year and it would be at least two months before the report would be completed.

The state Office of the Child Advocate investigates child deaths and, in this instance, to collect information “to say, what are the lessons potentially to be learned here,” Vos Winkel has been quoted as saying.

Yes, what are the lessons of Sandy Hook? It’s hard to know given the complete shutdown of specific information about Lanza’s mental health treatment, including what drugs Lanza had been prescribed over the course of the last five years of his life.

The state Police Report provides information that in 2007 Lanza was prescribed Celexa. But in a recent New Yorker Magazine article by Andrew Solomon, the public was made aware that Lanza also had been prescribed a second antidepressant, Lexapro.

Nancy Lanza reported that Adam experienced severe adverse reactions to both drugs and was essentially blown off by mental health care providers and labeled as being “non-compliant” because she refused to continue to subject her son to the drugs.

According to an interview conducted by the Newtown Bee with Assistant Child Advocate, Faith Vos Winkel, the child advocate’s office “subpoenaed many records, not just school documents.”

That’s great. The question, though, is will the public be allowed to review these documents? Will the child advocate’s report be a carbon copy of the previous investigations of the shooting incident, where the public is entitled only to the opinion of those who write the report, rather than having access to the actual documents in order to make an informed decision?

Only time will tell.  But Ablechild will alert its members of any updates and, of course, provide the report for review when it becomes publically available.

 

 

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