Unhappy Birthday

Writing about family mental illness is a lot like treating an open wound: you flinch, unsure if it's really worth it. Only later does one see the healing.

A week ago I saw my sister Austine, on the occasion of her birthday, and I haven’t been able to write a word of this blog since.

You see, there's this depth of fear in her eyes that haunts me, an inconsolable sadness.

Plus, she doesn't speak. My sister Austine is sunk in silence, so meekly catatonic that the vast distance between us fills me with dread. She's as unreachable as a distant star, and I am helpless to help her.


Blood Test May Help ‘Normalize’ Schizophrenia

If it's not used against you, a blood test for schizophrenia, which appears to be in the offing, may turn out to be the single most useful way to help stamp out the stigma.

It's not for everyone. Blood tests for biomarkers raise the specter of mental illness scorecards for one in five Americans, generally, who have a clinical mental disorder. Whether to be tested for the markers will be a very personal choice.

Yet since there's no lab test or brain scan to confirm schizophrenia, when someone's sanity crumbles like a wall of dust, as happened, twice, in our house, families go on an endless search for answers.  A blood test that confirms one condition or another would seem to be a good place to start.


Discipline for ‘Disgusting’ Restraint Death

Because inhumane treatment of mental patients should always shock the public, the governor of Massachusetts showed his own undisguised disgust for the unpunished death of a 23-year-old Massachusetts man diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick intervened Saturday with disciplinary action for three Massachusetts state prison guards put on paid administrative leave for their roles in the death of Joshua Messier.

Correction Commissioner Luis S. Spencer was also given a formal reprimand for his inaction.

Patrick said at least two should face disciplinary proceedings for improper use of force in the death, which was determined to be "homicide" four years ago by medical coroners--with no further action! The district attorney never presented evidence to a grand jury, despite the homicide finding.

Bipolar Disorder

Restraints Banned After Man Killed

A Boston Globe story on Sunday moved the governor earlier today to end the use of four-point restraints on the mentally ill in state prisons.

Citing the horrific death of 29 year-old  Joshua Messier, Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick said inmates who are not a serious danger to themselves or others “should not be tied down, limb by limb, in the 21st century here in Massachusetts,” the


Death of Man in Restraints Questioned

Judge for yourself from this video showing the final moments of Joshua Messier's 23 year-old life in state care.

After being restrained by all these big guards at Bridgewater State Hospital putting all their weight on him, you can see him turning blue and die.

Read for yourself today’s expose in the Boston Sunday Globe.

It begs the question: Was he killed by the state just for exhibiting symptoms of schizophrenia?

Alice Wexler

Genetics Heralds Exciting Era

What’s to be done with genetic information? Would you prefer to know the bad news? Or would you rather just roast on the spit of indecision, hoping for the best?

There is no gene test for schizophrenia yet, but it’s on the horizon, coming to a genome lab near you, eventually.

When it does, we’ll all be genetic pioneers. Or genetic guinea pigs if we’re not careful.

This weekend four writers facing four different genetic disorders were...


Mother Begs for Help for a Boy and His Voices

A stunning portrait of a helpless family that was posted last night on CNN has gnawed at me all day long. The depiction of a child diagnosed with bipolar schizophrenic affective disorder ran under the hard-to-ignore headline: Suicidal at Age 4.

It’s a family tragedy of the first order, so it’s admirable to say the least that this family has plucked up the courage to tell it like it is. So few do, it’s a rare thing indeed, yet it is what's needed most of all.

Voices and visions are what Jennifer Cristini and her husband Vittorio are up


60 Minutes Moves Nation Briefly

Family mental illness is a top trending issue thanks to Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds' speaking up on 60 minutes.

The story of how Deeds was slashed and stabbed repeatedly last November by his son Gus, who then took his own life, feels like a galvanizing moment.

But in listening to the president’s State of the Union Address tonight, not a word was heard about mental illness, apart from a passing reference to the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting.

It was an impressive act of courage for Deeds to liberate the nation from naive notions about the availability of mental health treatment--even for the sturdier pillars of society--for one night only. But my inner cynic tells me our restless nation has already returned to its obliviousness. Only fellow families truly stay with this story.


Death Penalty for Psych Symptom

To be mentally symptomatic is to face execution.

As of Thursday, at least, in Pakistan.

That’s when an elderly British man was handed a death sentence--hanging--for having a religious delusion, a symptom so commonly found in  schizophrenia.