Category Archives: mental health

An Inspired Duet: “The Soloist”

by Guest Contributor Rebecca Linz

I was looking forward to “The Soloist” for two reasons: having played the violin all my life, I love those rare contemporary films that dare to explicitly appreciate classical music, but also because I am a sucker for based-on-a-true-story films.

The dynamic between the two protagonists (Jamie Foxx as Nathaniel Ayers, a Julliard-trained cellist turned homeless man suffering from what appears to be schizophrenia and Robert Downey Jr. as Steve Lopez, an L.A. Times reporter) evolves from a relationship between a potentially successful article topic and a struggling journalist into a mutual friendship. “I’ve never loved anything as much as he loves music,” Lopez muses in awe about his subject. Flashbacks into Ayers’s childhood reveal that his mental illness was probably always present but began to torment Ayers during his time at Julliard when he was a college student (which is a common age for symptoms of schizophrenia appear).

Among the voices that haunt Ayers’s mind is a woman telling him: “They’re white, heartless aren’t they? . . . Turn you white . . . Whiteness, whiteness, whiteness,” which not-too-subtlety reminds the viewers that Ayers is one of very few students of color (and the only African American student that we see) at Julliard. Continue reading

Prisons: The New Asylum for Youth

By Guest Contributor Leticia Miranda, originally published at RaceWire

10juve.xlarge1.jpg

A New York Times article reports that more and more courts are ordering mentally ill youth to jail as community mental health programs are facing bigger cuts and thinning resources.

“We’re seeing more and more mentally ill kids who couldn’t find community programs that were intensive enough to treat them,” said Joseph Penn, a child psychiatrist at the Texas Youth Commission. “Jails and juvenile justice facilities are the new asylums.”

Some judges say they’ll get the help they need in prison. However several lawsuits and federal civil rights investigations in Indiana, Maryland, Ohio and Texas say these prisons neglect and abuse incarcerated youth, a majority of which are youth of color, with mental illnesses, sometimes body slamming them and breaking their bones. While across the country, many of them are over prescribed with drugs sometimes just to help them sleep. But there seems to be little other recourse for some families.

From the article:

According to a Government Accountability Office report, in 2001, families relinquished custody of 9,000 children to juvenile justice systems so they could receive mental health services.Donald has been in and out of mental health programs since he attacked a schoolteacher at age 5. As he grew older, he became more violent until he was eventually committed to the Department of Youth Services.

“I’ve begged D.Y.S. to get him into a mental facility where they’re trained to deal with people like him,” said his grandmother, who asked not to be identified because of the stigma of having a grandson who is mentally ill. “I don’t think a lockup situation is where he should be, although I don’t think he should be on the street either.”

I’m not an expert on prisons or a psychiatrist, but a prison system that thinks about mental illness as a crime is most definitely not any path towards mental health and personal healing.

When Systems of Oppression Intersect: Mental Health and the Immigration System

By Special Correspondent Thea Lim

Angry Asian Man reports on the story of Xiu Ping Jiang, a 35 year-old Chinese illegal immigrant diagnosed with a mental illness who has been stuck in immigration limbo for over a year. From the New York Times:

jiang

[Jiang] has spent more than a year in jail, often in solitary confinement, sinking deeper into the mental illness that makes it impossible for her either to fight deportation or to obtain the travel documents needed to make it happen, according to a pending habeas corpus petition that seeks her release. It contends that she is suicidal, emaciated and deprived of proper medical treatment.

More distressing is the report of her first court appearance in the NYT, which led to her deportation order:

Twice the immigration judge asked the woman’s name. Twice she gave it: Xiu Ping Jiang. But he chided her, a Chinese New Yorker, for answering his question before the court interpreter had translated it into Mandarin.

“Ma’am, we’re going to do this one more time, and then I’m going to treat you as though you were not here,” the immigration judge, Rex J. Ford, warned the woman last year at her first hearing in Pompano Beach, Fla. He threatened to issue an order of deportation that would say she had failed to show up.

She was a waitress with no criminal record, no lawyer and a history of attempted suicide. Her reply to the judge’s threat, captured by the court transcript, was in imperfect English. “Sir, I not — cannot go home,” she said, referring to China, which her family says she fled in 1995 after being forcibly sterilized at 20. “If I die, I die America.”

The judge moved on. “The respondent, after proper notice, has failed to appear,” he said for the record. And as she declared, “I’m going to die now,” he entered an order deporting her to China, and sent her back to the Glades County immigration jail.

As Angry Asian Man says:

The situation illustrates the vulnerability of the mentally ill in the immigration system. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement keeps putting increasingly strict enforcement measures in place, more and more people with mental illness are being put into detention — and no one is really looking out for them.

In a bizarre twist, the only reason Jiang’s case is getting attention is because she happens to have the same name as the ex-wife of Jiverly Wong, a Vietnamese American who shot 13 people in April at a Binghamton immigration services center. In looking for Wong’s ex-wife, reporters stumbled across Jiang.

Yet Jiang is by a long stretch not the first (or I imagine) the last immigrant of colour with a health issue to be forgotten within the double prejudice of a system that is both xenophobic and ableist. Continue reading