She had a ‘History’ of Mental Illness

Photo of a Homeless woman sleeping on a mattress on Haight Street in San Francisco, November 22, 2016
A Homeless woman sleeps on a mattress on Haight Street in San Francisco, November 22, 2016

In 2005 a woman with a history of mental illness threw her three children into the Bay.

She was a single Mother living in a homeless shelter with her children.

She had chronic debilitating schizophrenia.

She told dozens of care providers that God was commanding her to
throw her baby’s to the sharks and no one intervened.

No one removed those children from her custody and no one saw the connection between her psychiatric decline, her refusal to take medication and the stress of trying to Mother three children without housing.

“Relatives of a mentally troubled woman from Oakland who reported hearing voices before she allegedly threw her three young sons into the bay to die said Thursday they had tried unsuccessfully to persuade Alameda County social service workers to help them gain custody of the children.

Members of the family of La-shuan Ternice Harris said they had argued that the 23-year-old woman was unstable and unfit to care for her boys — 6-year-old Trayshaun Harris, 2-year-old Taronta Greely Jr. and 16-month-old Joshua Greely.

They had given up trying by Wednesday, when Harris went to the home of a cousin and told her she was going to feed her children to the sharks.

The cousin tried frantically to prevent Harris from leaving for San Francisco with her boys, but she failed, relatives said. At 5:30 p.m., police said, Harris took the children to the end of Pier 7 along the Embarcadero, stripped them naked and threw them in the water.”

The San Francisco Gate

Bad law and public apathy murdered three children in San Francisco.

This was written 14 years ago:

San Francisco Chronicle
February 18, 2001

“California’s pathetic patchwork of services and outdated laws mock the magnitude of the problem.

‘We spend billions of dollars dealing with the consequences of mental illness rather than spending that money wisely on adequate services,’ the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight group, concluded in November.

Today, 50,000 or more Californians wander the streets homeless. One-third of them suffer from severe mental illness, according to various studies.

STATE OF NEGLECT

What’s legal is not always what’s moral.

More rom the article about Harris: “Her aunt, Joyce Harris of Oakland, said Thursday that Lashuan Harris’ mother had contacted Alameda County social services officials about three months ago to seek partial custody of the children because Harris had stopped taking medication for schizophrenia and had made threats regarding the boys.

“They said she was sane, that they couldn’t do anything,”

San Francicso Gate

In Californian, you’re sane if you can lie about how sick you are.

The law regarding mandatory treatment is a paradox for people with chronic and severe mental illnesses because it is designed to protect people who are merely eccentric from unnecessary mandatory commitment.

Our laws do not recognize ‘grey” when it comes to mental illness.

It does not make room for people who lose behavioral control even as they know that what they are doing is wrong.

What is the collective delusion that allows the public to continue to deny the utter failure of deinstitutionalization when the evidence of that failure is all around us and has been for nearly thirty years?

California’s Lanterman-Petris Short Act states that a person must be an “imminent” danger to himself or others.

Imminent means that without direct intervention by the state the patient will act on homicidal or suicidal impulses.

Imminent means a situation in which action to impose treatment over a person’s objection is immediately necessary for the preservation of life or the prevention of serious bodily harm to the patient or to others and it is impractical to first gain consent from the patient.”

As long as Lashuan Harris denies that she has an imminent plan to harm herself or her children she is completely sane under the Lanterman-Petris Short Act.

I don’t play politically correct word games when people’s lives are at stake.

I don’t believe that people with mental illnesses are no more violent than other people because reality does not bear that out.

Twice this week I was verbally abused and physically threatened by young men who were homeless, psychotic and in desperate need of treatment.

It’s more accurate to say that people with serious mental illnesses are no more violent than other people when they are in treatment.

The Lanterman-Petris Short Act is a stupid law that only benefits
for profit hospitals.

It’s cheaper for the Behavioral Health System when a ‘chronic’ goes to jail.

Loss of impulse control means just that.

The patient may not even know what she’s doing, or she believes that
because God tells her to do it, it’s right.

Losing one’s sense of reality is what it means to be psychotic.

I Googled the phrase “a history of mental illness’ and here are a few of the results I got, chosen at random:

$500k bond for mom accused of beheading infant daughter: Mar 20, 2015

Bond was set at $500,000 cash Friday for the mother accused of beheading her own 3-month-old baby.

“Less than two months ago, Watkins was diagnosed with postpartum psychosis and prescribed the medication Risperdal, county court records show.  Caseworkers at Hamilton County Job and Family Services said they believe Watkins may not have been taking her medication. That could have led to delusional thinking and hallucinations.”

CINCINNATI (FOX19)

But they didn’t take away the baby.

Cops: Knife Wielding Killer Had A History Of Mental Illness Police say the man had a history of mental illness. Oct 29, 2014

CBS

Double Killer Sentenced To Death Had A History Of Mental Illness

MSNBC

Suspect in I-71 shooting has history of ‘mental illness and substance abuse,’ records show: Feb 2015

DRB.com

Machete-wielding New Orleans airport attacker dies: March 21st, 2015

“His family has been very cooperative. We have been able to determine that there is a mental illness component here.”

Yahoo.com

Report: Sandy Hook Shooter Adam Lanza Was Obsessed With Mass Shootings: Nov. 25, 2013.

The opening of the article about Adam Lanza is especially interesting:

“A new report released Monday paints a disturbing portrait of a lone gunman suffering from serious mental illness. The Connecticut State Police report, however, provides few clues about what motivated the 20-year-old shooter.”

A portrait emerges of someone with serious mental illness and the police don’t know why he did it.”

USANews

A portrait emerges of someone with a serious mental illness and the police don’t know why he did it?

Does that make sense to you?

This is sometimes called Mental Illness.

From Madness, Deinstitutionalization & Murder

Deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill was one of the truly remarkable public policy decisions of the 1960s and 1970s, and yet its full impact is barely recognized by most of the public. Partly this was because the changes did not happen overnight, but took place state-by-state over two decades, with no single national event. While homelessness received enormous public attention in the early 1980s, the news media’s reluctance to acknowledge the role that deinstitutionalization played in this human tragedy meant that the public safety connection was generally invisible to the public. The solution remains unclear, but recognizing the consequences of deinstitutionalization is the first step.

Madness, Deinstitutionalization & Murder

Deinstitutionalization is a dangerous failure.

While the solution to correcting the mistake of deinstitutionalization may ‘remain unclear’ there are steps we can take to rectify some of its consequences:

1. Loosen commitment requirements so that they reflect the reality of serious mental illness and the impact of untreated mental illness on behavior.

2. Re-open the long-term hospitals a harm reduction measure to protect patients and the public.

3. Provide oversight when hospitals are reopened to prevent the alleged abuses that prompted their closure.

mhwgmember2015

RG 2015

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20 thoughts on “She had a ‘History’ of Mental Illness

  1. Robert, we all know what the problem is. Nobody cares. Nobody wants to exert the time, energy and money to try to help these people. How many millions of dollars were dropped on the last presidential campaigns? Why are those people not concerned with what is happening to “the people they want to serve?” The homeless and mentally ill can’t contribute anything, so they have no value. They have no importance.
    Where are the social workers who are supposed to be alerted about situations like this? Maybe ignoring a child who has been tied to a front porch for months?
    We, as a society, are outraged when a teenager is shot by a policeman. We are outraged when a student decides to slaughter a few teachers and classmates. Why aren’t we outraged by this?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I hear people describe this moment as the first time he is in fear of his government I can’t help but think that this is how it’s felt to be mentally ill in the United States for over 40 years…I think if we’re lucky we might be able to prevent the suffering that always results when one group of people take it upon themselves to dehumanize another group of people. This is how it feels to have your suffering ridiculed and negated with stereotypes and lies. I think remember this when your fear passes because the mentally ill will still be among you. I know this sounds angry and I guess in a way I am…Compassionately angry, perhaps?

      Like

      1. It doesn’t sound angry at all…but maybe we should get angry. The homeless and mentally ill are too easy to ignore.
        I don’t understand how anybody can walk by these people, day after day and do nothing.
        If those people were or had at one time been famous, there would be a loud cry for help from the community. There would be donations and offers of help.
        Now I sound angry…but goddamnit…I have a son who is homeless much of the time and obviously mentally ill but nobody cares…except me.
        I will say though, that there are “phrases” that can be dropped (especially by women) who want to be taken care of because they’re lazy, that can and will afford them free housing, scrips, counseling and even social security…even if they’ve never had a job.
        Now THAT does make me mad. The real mentally ill and homeless can’t get any help.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It is also the same here in Australia. So called individual rights and freedom prevent authority from acting before it is too late. People are still committed here but have to agree to sign themselves in????? That poor woman would have been found not guilty with a plea of insanity – but her children are still dead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In the United States she goes to jail because our legal definition of insanity is the question of whether or not one knows the difference between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

      The presumption is that the awareness that it is wrong to kill should stop you from killing.

      The problem is that one can be in the middle of a floridly psychotic episode in which the brain loses it’s capacity to process reality and still know the basic difference between right and wrong.

      Every time this woman opened her mouth to tell someone that she was going to throw ‘my babies to the sharks” she was asking for help.

      Had someone in the shelter that she shouldn’t have been living in with children been a professional trained to ‘listen’ to what she was saying those children would be alive.

      I fully believe that half of the violence in the United States is directly related to our refusal to admit the truth about deinstitutionalization so that we can restore the mental health services that we defended.

      The fact that we haven’t suggest that some group of power brokers is turning a profit on it.

      Like

  3. Morning Rob. This is an attitude that extends to the U.K. . I know someone who has disclosed that she is scared she is going to act out on the voices telling her to kill people because she is tired of fighting her thoughts, she drinks because her medication doesn’t work. She has a form of schizophrenia. The law here is she will not be sectioned because she is not suicidal! which is b/s. My Gran has vascular Dementia but families still withdraw because they don’t know or investigate how to communicate with a person with any type of mental illness. I go visit my Gran every week. Sometimes she is okay sometimes agitated, tired but she acts out in a non conventional way. I have (in recovery) Anorexia and Bipolar and BPD and have been ostracised from my peers and family since I was a child. I turned to drugs to cope. I have on both sides of my family a long history of mental illness. What makes me angry is on my Dad’s side there is a pre disposition to drinking to excessive – but are they alcoholics? OH NO, OF COURSE NOT! We have a long way to go to tear up the stigma label. I am in a position where I can volunteer my time to mental health charities and I’m learning so much. I get put on courses to train me to help people with mental health issues in different ways . I don’t know if I will ever find work again because of the gaps in my employment history. This is counter productive because society is sending the message I can never be well enough again to work. Anyway great post. Got me thinking. Laws need to be aligne with morals and what id right in my opinion – I don’t mean living in a secular society but plain common sense.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The only way to end this is for people with mental illnesses and for their families and friends to say no more. These ‘rights’ are nothing more than cost cutting ventures used to bleed profits from our shortened lives. It’s not a matter of morality. It’s a matter of the people forcing their leaders to lay aside self interest for the larger good of the whole. Thank you for reading the blog and leaving a comment…:)

      Like

  4. Wow this was a lot to digest and a lot of comments. I can’t say I am surprised at all, I know plenty of people who talk circles around others and do not know they have issues but because they are good at putting others down and dispelling any problem it is you and not them.

    Being I am dealing with a lot of that at the moment and it goes without monitoring I am the smoking gun, the one who is willing to talk, learn, share, care and try. Those who throw tantrums when you are trying to address things while redirecting think that means they are smarter because they never let you get a word in edgewise and when you do you are a bad person.

    If I do something fundamentally wrong, I will own up to it. But people that think they are OK do not get the help that they need and bite the hand that feeds them. Even in my situation that is bad I ultimately feel bad for those holding power over me and constantly putting me down when I would tell both sides of both people. But many people do not get that luxury in the system. In different places the system works different unfortunately.

    Great information:)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you read it and left a comment.

      My general attitude toward people who become offensive toward me is to cut them out of my life. I don’t mean people who offer helpful criticism or who question something I write.

      An intelligent question can open new ways of understanding an issue that you think is settled.

      My favorite comments are those that ask me to clarify a statement or that present a different point of view.

      Intelligent criticism is never demeaning. It is based on mutual respect and the critique is designed to strengthen, not weaken.

      Someone who puffs themselves up by demeaning other people is like a pathogen.

      They will make you sick is they get into your life.

      You must treat them as pathogens.

      The psychic anti-viral is the awareness that you are worthy of respect because you are here and have something to say and do.

      Mixed with a healthy dose of STFU and you’re better in no time. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree whole heartily, though at home I can’t do that, the telling them off, I can’t even show proof of dates and it gets shot down. I had this car from here to here 11 months, no it was 3 years. Um, no here is the receipt for selling that one and the new one and 11 months later I sold that. But I am making it up without being allowed to present proof. Last night I was treated like crap from a tag team. I’m being spied on, forced to take down posts not liked and my sister’s bf told me he literally is able to see every post I write and from the post, not comments or emails that he can see the IP. Which I know how to check for info in headers and things like that but them being bi polar and a lot of things themselves, everything they do is OK. I was blasted last night as a vanilla post I wrote had Carla responding and they villainized her for defending me. The people in my life are pathogens for sure and it takes me having a good day and then I will be out of here and never talk to them again. I need to figure out some ways to block them, find out how this ass is getting ips just from posts when that kind of info was cut out for civilians several years ago. Spy ware would be different.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your IP address is visible on every comment you make…and if you have a domain name a reverse DNS lookup may also reveal your IP address.

        The problem with DSL and Cable is that you have a static IP. The only good thing about modems were that the IP assignment was dynamic…

        As I reply to your post I see your email address and your IP address…and when you reply to this one you can see mine…:)

        Like

  5. The takeaway point is that people are people and we can deny needs and let them fester until we get a shooting and then we gnash our teeth and point fingers. An 11 yr old gets raped and we have layers of excuses. Closed mental institutions, stigmas and the feeling that the mentally ill have when they need help. Feeling a loss of autonomy and fear of harassment further complicate the malaise that hangs over us all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for a thought provoking reply. I said to my therapist that my real problem is that I have been on both sides of the couch for most of my life. My first job in the field of mental health was at a long term psycho dynamic facility in New Haven…

      Then during the AIDS epidemic I fell completely apart and had to use the underfunded public mental health system to piece my life together and I
      did and spent close to 15 years as the program director for a residential mental health facility until the symptoms of my DID emerged and I had to stop working again.

      My biggest struggle was not with mental illness, but with a public system
      that became a system of lethal neglect.

      Whether this is intentional or not is incidental to the fact that it is…

      I had to fight the department of social security because it did not know it’s own rules to a program that it runs that is designed to help people return to work…

      While most people in their frustration would see this as a problem of “big government’ it is actually a problem of
      a government made small and cruel.

      In all of my years in mental health, either as a patient or a provider, I never met a severely ill person who wasn’t grateful to have had his illness treated.

      The illness clouds every aspect of reason..and bear in mind that I was forcibly hospitalized in my teens for being Gay.

      That was clearly wrong.

      The State Hospital I went to was no snake pit…and the State had no business locking me up for being gay even though it was legal.

      Imposing psychiatric treatment on someone who doesn’t need it is wrong.

      Not imposing psychiatric treatment on someone who does need it and whose judgement is dangerously compromised is also wrong.

      Liked by 4 people

  6. Adequate access to mental health facilities should be a basic right for all, especially i an age where there are so many stresses on people.Any authority which hears of a pending action by someone who is mentally ill and fails to act should be taken to task and the situation overhauled to prevent a repeat.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My own opinion is slightly less forgiving…I think that the AMA should issue a formal apology to the families of the patients who suffered and died on the streets during it’s thirty year collusion with the politics and policies that turned the mentally ill out into the streets.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. From what I’ve read, part of the problem is the side effects of medications for schizophrenia. I understand the side effects can be as debilitating as the illness.

    And from someone who was involuntarily jailed inside a mental institution for a week, I have a problem with mandatory commitments. Yes, it’s obvious that Ms. Harris’ children should have been taken away from her, but why did she stop taking her medication? Was it the illness, side effects, or because she couldn’t afford it? Did she have consistent and adequate mental health care? Should she have been committed against her will because she didn’t get the care she needed before this tragedy happened?

    While long-term care facilities are a great thing, there are plenty of things that could (and do) go wrong with commitment laws. I don’t know what the answer is, but just like there are plenty of innocent people in jail, I’d say there are plenty of people who aren’t mentally ill who have been committed against their will.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Being committed to a hospital today is very different–to begin, everything about our mental health is designed to discourage people from using it. Today’s hospitals are short term understaffed hell holes…

      One of the symptoms of Schizophrenia is lack of insight…if one doesn’t know that one’s reality testing is gone then one will throw one’s children into the Bay–this is not the fault of the person with Schizophrenia…

      I’ve never met anyone who was committed who didn’t need it–either before Reagan or after him…I know that there was a problem with wealthy people throwing rich relatives into the state hospitals for greed but do we really have to leave a huge population of chronically ill people on our streets in order to protect the rich from themselves…?

      I do feel your concerns…but what we have now is wrong and degrading to everyone.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I’m not the only chronic pain patient who has been committed against her will, but that has more to do with the drug war than mental health. Of course, if you don’t think anyone is committed who didn’t need it, I guess you’ve diagnosed me as mentally ill and are saying that I belonged there. Funny, I didn’t feel the same way.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No…I’m not saying that at all…

        I was locked up and was not mentally ill when I was 16…at least not from being bi-sexual/gay.

        What I said was very specific to people who are clearly symptomatic with psychotic disorders — these are the people that I see on the streets on my City–

        I have never met someone who was symptomatic and on the streets because of a schizophrenic process
        who was not grateful for mandatory treatment…

        If you had no mental illness you had no reason to be locked up..

        The solution to the wrongful commitment of people without mental
        is tighter regulation of the law…

        But I don’t know you, I can’t diagnose you, and if you were wrongfully committed I’m on your side.

        Liked by 2 people

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