23 people talk about the heartbreaking reality of having a parent who is mentally ill
Working in a jail or prison is like working in a large mental health hospital, without all the necessary trained staff needed to actually run effectively.
As a matter of fact, the biggest mental health providers in our nation right now are our jails. The three biggest mental-health providers in the nation today are: the Cook County Jail in Chicago, the Los Angeles County Jail and Rikers Island jail in New York.
These are no places for people who are severely and chronically mentally ill.
Decades ago when there were plenty of beds in state hospitals, the most severely ill were often locked away in asylums and forgotten in order to “keep society safe”. Often times they were locked away and offered no real help and suffered horrible conditions and treatment.
Today jails and prisons have become the new asylums.
The mentally ill often get into trouble due to their illness. Often the crimes are as harmless as sleeping on a park bench, trespassing or having an open container of alcohol. Rarely are they violent offenses.
A 2010 study by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association estimated that 40 percent of the seriously mentally ill have been in jail or prison at least once in their lives.
In the county jail I work in I would say about 75% have some sort of mental illness while about 10% have a severe mental illness that should be treated at a psychiatric facility and not in jail.
Most jails and prisons, like us are understaffed. We currently have four full mental health professionals including myself and a psychiatrist. Ideally, we’d have at least three or four more but there’s not enough funding.
Many corrections officers are under trained when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill and the overall outlook of mentally ill inmates on both medical and security staff in jails and prisons is not usually conducive to effective treatment. Especially for the severely and chronically mentally ill who are often in and out of jail.
Like the young lady I met earlier this week. She’s a 38 year old woman who came up in the foster care system. She had came from an abusive and neglectful family and it’s unclear if the abuse and neglect caused her mental illness or if she was abused and neglected because of it. Either way, starting at a young age she suffered almost every kind of horrible abuse you can imagine.
As an adult she has been arrested over 20 times for everything from possession of cocaine, parole violations and battery.
In 2001 she was arrested for aggravated battery after she attacked and kicked a state hospital guard who ended up suffering a heart attack and dying.
In 2003 she was arrested after two men reported they had unprotected sex with her without knowing she was HIV positive. She later told authorities she knew she had HIV since 1999 and didn’t tell any of the at least 200 men she claims to have had unprotected sex with. She plead guilty and served 23 months.
She continues to cycle between being on the streets, going to jail, the state hospital and prison.
Often times no one wants to take her (the state nor DCF) because she is so mentally ill and has grown more and more violent.
When she came into our jail there was a big push to get her out and back to some place that could manage her better.She’s trapped in a system that in some ways may have helped create her and doesn’t want anything to do with her.
In many ways she has been abandoned since she was a child and as an adult who is now nearing the end stages of AIDS, she is still alone and abandoned.
Continuing to incarcerate the mentally ill over and over again doesn’t work. It doesn’t help anyone. We lock them up where they may or may not get treatment and then send them back out on the street where they may or may not get treatment.
What’s the solution?
We need more state and federal funding for mental health, reform treatment laws to address intervention, assisted outpatient treatment for released mentally ill inmates, expansion of mental health courts that offer treatment instead of incarceration and ideally a health care system that provides systematic health care for those suffering from a mental illness.
If we can find a way and the money to build a wall between between the United States and Mexico, surely we can do this!
January is Human Trafficking Awareness month and believe it or not, it’s a bigger problem than you may think.
Around the world sex traffickers make more illegal profit a year than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.
Human trafficking is modern day slavery. People are enslaved through the use of fear, violence, drugs and psychological control.
Often when we see people walking the streets or online selling their bodies we assume that they are willing participants, but more often than not, they are being forced into prostitution. The sad part is that half of the victims of human sex trafficking are children with an average age of 11 to 14 when they are first forced into sex trafficking. Many of them are runaways or looking to escape abusive and neglectful homes.
And while the face of a sex trafficking victim in the United States is usually a young White girl, young Black girls make up 40% of sex trafficking victims.
Many sex trafficking victims are looking for love, attention or even just food and shelter when they are targeted. He or she may pose as a caring figure and seduce the young girl (or rarely boy) and then turn on them using lies, manipulation, drugs, threats and violence to force the person into prostitution.
Before the victim realizes it they are sleeping with multiple people a day with all of the money going towards their sex trafficker/pimp who may give them what they need as far as bare essentials or drugs like heroin to keep them addicted.
Often they threaten to abandon them, hurt them, and kill them or their family if they leave or don’t do what they tell them to. Some even often to embarrass them by telling their family. They will use whatever they think it takes to control the person.
On the Netflix Documentary Tricked, one girl explains how she ran away with a guy she met on the internet expecting to have a great getaway only to be seduced for two days and then on day three she was told through the threat of violence that she was now his whore, was going to call her family and let them know she was somewhere safe and happy and that her life now depended on him. She went on to be forced to have sex with men for money that went directly to her sex trafficker.
One young girl I worked with was 12 when she met her sex trafficker. She was from a very bad home and ran away. She met an older man who became her boyfriend and introduced her to drugs and alcohol. He started having her have sex with his friends to support his drug habit and then he started having her have sex with strangers and even taking her to different cities and counties across the state before she got arrested and rescued.
When I met with her she was 14, had already contracted HIV and was so emotionally broken that she appeared more like a thirty something year old woman than a teenager. Still, she didn’t see herself as being victimized other than when she contracted HIV which says came from her being raped. She still didn’t see her sex trafficker as the bad guy.
Sadly, too many people see their sex trafficker/pimp that way and society doesn’t help. Often times we don’t see pimps as criminals as much as we demonize and criminalize the women who work for them. Often times the sex trafficker is never arrested while the victim is arrested multiple times.
Even their customers or “Johns” are often given a pass while the law and society comes down hard on these young women who are often just trying to do what they feel like they have to do in order to survive another day.
Many victims of sex trafficking are physically and psychologically abused, on a regular basis. One girl in the documentary Tricked was forced to douche with bleach when her pimp found out she was pregnant. When that didn’t work he beat her until she had a miscarriage. She ended up having to have a full hysterectomy.
They are used until they are broken and then they are discarded. That’s if they are not killed by their sex trafficker or a customer first.
Only recently as sex trafficking has exploded, especially online, are the victims starting to be seen as victims and being offered the appropriate help and support.
Sex traffickers present a major danger to vulnerable and unsuspecting young people. Sex trafficking is a crime against humanity. It is modern day slavery where slaves are being sold for on average $90.
So as this is Sex Trafficking Awareness month, let’s remember that anyone that is being exploited to have sex is a victim first, not a criminal. They deserve to be offered help and support and not just thrown into the legal system or treated like they’re nothing. After all, like sex trafficking, most victims have been treated as if they were invisible for far too long.
Sometimes life can make you feel like a rag doll being tossed around from one crisis to the next, one situation to the next and even one emotion to the next.
In this new year, it’s time we finally start taking real control over our lives. The way we do this starts with making a shift within ourselves.
We have to realize that we are in control. That we are unique individuals here to serve a purpose and we all have special talents and gifts to offer the world. We all deserve happiness and success and we can’t depend on anything or anyone outside of us to provide that.
We have to take control of our thoughts, emotions and actions.
I’m never going to pretend to have all the answers or to be someone who has no problems. I have lots of them, trust me. However, I’m on a constant quest to change my life for the better. Sometimes that means taking inventory on my thoughts and feelings and shifting them so that a five minute incident doesn’t ruin the next sixty plus minutes of my day. Sometimes that means truly apologizing for something once I’ve stop trying to justify it and realize I was in the wrong. Other times that means letting go of whatever is holding me emotionally hostage (fear, anxiety, etc.).
The way I do that isn’t always fast and easy, but for the most part it is effective and becomes easier and easier to do. It’s like a switch that goes off. A shift in thought and emotions so that I don’t continue to go down the same path feel irritable, angry, sad, self-doubting.
Anyone can do this and here are six tips to help you start shifting your mind whenever you want to:
- Stay optimistic. I know sometimes that is easier said then done, especially when you are surrounded by so much negativity in the world, but once you start feeding into the negativity, it’s hard to see anything positive that comes your way. You have to remember that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. We create so much of what’s around us and if we are focused on the negative, we will bring more negativity. If we focus on the positive, we’re more likely to bring more positivity into our lives or at least see opportunity in difficulty.
- Be happy! Yes, this too I know can be hard and sometimes we have to work really hard on being happy, but just like optimism, the more you exude happiness, the more likely you are to feel and stay genuinely happy. Force yourself to smile. Force yourself to be positive and before you know it, you will feel better and draw to you energy that will bring about genuine happiness.
- Realize your strengths and utilize them. We all have strengths, but sometimes we focus so much on our weaknesses that we downplay or outright forget about our strengths. When we start focusing on our strengths and looking for opportunities to use them, not only will we fell better, we’ll actually grow stronger within our natural gifts and talents.
- You’re not going to please everyone. Some people just won’t like you no matter what you do so stop worrying about them, trying to win them over or searching for their approval. It’s a waste of time. Instead, focus on people who do like you and perhaps those who don’t like you will come around. Even if they don’t, who cares?
- Stay away from negative people. We all emit energy, just like the sun. Some days it’s positive, some days it’s negative. However, some people emit way more negative energy than positive energy. Stay away from those people, all they will do is bring you down and cast a dark shadow over your life.
- You’re never alone. Sure there will be times when you feel lonely, or like you’re the only one going through something, but remember, you are never truly alone unless you want to be, and that’s okay too. Sometimes we need solitude and there is a difference between solitude and loneliness. When you start thinking you’re all alone that opens the door to all type of \emotional reactions such as depression and desperation as well as poor choices to fill the void.
Sometimes when I am struggling, reflecting on messages that were sent to me like this one helps shift my thoughts and mood and reminds me that I am in control of how I choose to experience whatever is going on around me.
I’m not saying any of this is easy. Sometimes It’s downright hard to attempt to be positive and happy and some times will be harder than others. However, we don’t have to be lead by the world, other people or even our own emotions and negative self talk. We can take control and steer our lives into the direction we want to go even with whatever roadblocks, detours and traffic jam life throws at us.
I watched this TED Talk and thought you would find it interesting.
Isaac Lidsky: What reality are you creating for yourself?
Learn more about watching TED Talks on all of your favorite platforms: https://www.ted.com/about/programs-initiatives/ted-talks/ways-to-get-ted-talks
There is a lot of stigma when it comes to mental health issues, even common ones like depression. Often times when people feel depressed they feel ashamed, as if they don’t have the right to feel depressed. Many will attempt to hide the way they feel and just say they are doing “ok”. Many more will try to drown their depression with alcohol, drugs and even other people.
It’s okay to be depressed. When you’re depressed that means something in your life is not going the way you want it to go and you need to sit down and evaluate your life so that you can move in a different direction. That may mean making small changes, big changes or accepting something for what it is if you can’t change it at all.
These are some of my favorite tips on dealing with depression:
- You’re not alone. Many people go through depression at some point in their lives. Some people suffer from clinical and chronic depression while others seem to bounce out of it pretty quickly. If you’re feeling down, just know that you’re not the only person who feels that way and it’s actually pretty common.
- It’s okay to seek professional help. Sometimes family and friends just don’t understand why you’re not happy. They’ll say that your life isn’t “that bad” and that there are many people out there who have it worse. Most of them are trying to be helpful even when they leave you feeling like crap. People like me are trained and paid to listen and can help you maneuver your way through the pain.
- Medications can help if needed, but they are not the only answer. When people start feeling depressed, many of them will immediately want medication to make the bad feelings go away. Most people going through depression do not need antidepressants, but even if you do, they may only help so much. Antidepressants are good for getting people out of deep depression so that they can intellectually and physically function enough to actually process what’s going on in their lives and attempt to make changes to feel better.
- Remember to take care of yourself. Even if that means writing notes to remind yourself to do simple things such as taking a bath or eating nutritious meals. Doing the self-care things you don’t feel like doing will make you feel better in the end.
- If you really don’t know what might be making you depressed consider getting some blood work done. Anything from vitamin D deficiency, low iron and hormonal issues to blood sugar problems can cause you to feel depressed and lethargic. Curing your depression can be as simple as correcting an imbalance in your body.
- Learn and practice daily mindfulness and meditation. Start with something as simple as focusing on your breathing. Imagine breathing in slowly through your nose to smell a birthday cake and exhaling slowly through your mouth to blow out the candle. Focus on your breathing, try to keep your mind from wandering to all the bullshit and just be in the present moment.
- Stay away from emotional vampires. You need all your energy when you’re going through the depression. You don’t have any to spare so stay away from anyone who will drain what little you have left. Instead, try to surround yourself with people who can help you refuel your energy.
- Don’t envy others. Everyone is, has or will go through their stuff. You’re just going through yours. Even if someone looks happy, well put together or whatever, they still have things they are dealing with that you might not know about. The grass is not always, or even usually greener on the other side.
- If you can find the energy, go for a walk. Exercise, fresh air and sunlight are great for depression. Even small steps help.
- Learn to let go. A lot of times depression is about the past. Past guilt. Past disappointments. Past hurts. Learn to let go and you will reclaim so much of the strength and energy you are given up. As the saying goes, let go or be dragged.
There are so many great tips out there on dealing with depression. Hopefully this will get you started, but definitely find tips that work for you and know that you can come out of depression a stronger person.
When it comes to avoiding certain types of people, even in jail, child abusers, child molesters and pedophiles usually make the top of the list.
At my job I deal with these individuals everyday. There is no way around it and on top of that I have to try to remain unbiased and nonjudgmental which isn’t always easy. I have a three year old son so sitting across from someone accused of killing a toddler and showing unconditional positive regard has at times been one of my greatest challenges.
As a mental health professional, I had to learn how to separate my personal feelings from my professional job and one way I’ve learned to do that is by intellectualizing the situation. That allows me to look at the situation in a rational, interesting, matter of fact way and remove all personal emotion.
That’s what I did today when I sat across from yet another pedophile. It was towards the end of the day and I really did not feel like doing the assessment, but it had to be done so I asked myself, what made this man sexually attracted to children?
Interviewing A Pedophile
This individual was one of the more forthcoming and open pedophiles I have ever talked to. He wasn’t denying his issues or charges, nor did he seem to minimize his actions like most. For the most part, he seemed to take responsibility for what he had done.
Most pedophiles I talk to either deny everything despite the insurmountable evidence proving their guilt. Or, they blame the victim for seducing them, like one married man I spoke with who blamed a 10 year old for causing him to leave his family and run off to another state with her where they were caught in a hotel room.
Talking to this particular man reminded me of the first time I met someone with schizophrenia who was insightful enough to tell me about her hallucinations and how she was able to distinguish what was real and what was not. It was an eye opening experience, better than any book on abnormal psychology I had ever read and it helped me work more efficiently with other clients suffering from psychosis.
What Is A Pedophile?
When most people think of a pedophile they envision a creepy old man or some other odd person. However, from shows like To Catch Predator, we know that most pedophiles are regular neighbors, friends, religious members, family members or even teachers like the individual I spoke with today.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), pedophilia is defined as intense, recurrent sexually arousing fantasies, impulsive desires, or behaviors involving sexual acts with a child and that occur over a period of at least six months.
In most situations, the pedophile is at least sixteen years of age and at least five years older than the child.
It doesn’t have to be acted on to be considered pedophilia and generally it causes the person a lot of distress or interpersonal difficulties.
This man says he took a fondness to the young girl he ended up abusing because she came from a troubled background and he wanted to help her.
He says that he became emotionally attached to her and then sexually attracted. While that may be true, I believe he had a sexual attraction to her to begin with.
He went on to have sexual contact with her several times over the course of a school year before he was caught. He would keep the girl after class, after school and even give her rides home.
Her parents (an abusive, yet inattentive father and schizophrenic, disabled mother) weren’t the ones who caught on, but an observant teacher who had her suspicions and once she approached the young girl with her concerns, the girl was able to give numerous details of their sexual activities together including times and locations as well as details of his naked physical appearance.
He was arrested, yet plead guilty to lesser charges and served only a couple of years in prison before being let out on probation as a sexual predator.
Categories of Pedophiles
While most people think of pedophiles as adults attracted to prepubescent children, there are also adults who are attracted to children who are right on the cusp of puberty and adults who prefer children who have already gone through puberty.
Hebephilia describes adults attracted to pubescent 11 to 14 year old children and while not considered pathological, ephebophilia describes adults attracted primarily to individuals aged 15 to 19.
Some pedophiles are called exclusive pedophiles because they are only attracted to children while non-exclusive pedophiles are attracted to both adults and children.
It’s hard to get an accurate number of how many pedophiles are exclusive pedophiles because most of the research comes from pedophiles who have been arrested and they tend to over-exaggerate their attraction to adults in order to appear more “normal”.
Most male pedophiles are homosexual or bisexual when it comes to their attraction to children.
The guy I saw today is married and has adult children. He has an attraction and compulsion for young girls under the age of 13.
How Do They Gain Access To Children?
Pedophiles will go through great lengths to gain access to children. They will volunteer at churches to lead youth groups or offer to coach youth sports.
Ninety percent of sexually abused children are abused by someone they know. That includes a large percentage of family members, caregivers, family friends, neighbors, clergy, coaches and teachers.
This man was an Exceptional Education teacher who worked with emotionally and behaviorally disturbed children. I can’t help but to think, at least on some unconscious level, that he choose both his profession and specialty in order to gain excess to vulnerable children.
The other 10% of abused children are usually preyed upon through sex trafficking and the internet. This is how he got his second offense.
After being arrested once for inappropriate sexual contact with a child, he violated his probation by being caught soliciting a child for sexual contact online.
While he claims he knew better and wanted to put his life back together after his first arrest, he admitted that his compulsion to have sex with little girls caused him to act upon them.
This compulsion or urge is what drives pedophiles. Many of them, like this man, will attempt to live normal lives and fight their sexual attraction to children. Some may be successful at this and never break a law or offend. They will keep these urges and fantasies a secret and suffer in silence for as long as they can.
Most of them will isolate themselves out of fear of the stigma and consequences of being sexually attracted to children and will not seek professional help out of shame and fear.
But can pedophiles be helped? We’ll talk about this in part II.
What It’s Like to Have Borderline Personality Disorder