Tags Posts tagged with "Mental Illness"

Mental Illness

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Congressman Lee Zeldin. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

People who come home after serving our country overseas should not have to cope with mental illnesses stemming from their experiences, but the sad reality is that most veterans have seen or dealt with traumatic things. That means we have to do everything we can for those who return home with post-traumatic stress disorder.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), an Iraq war veteran, is on the right track in addressing this. When he was in the state legislature, he established a peer program in which veterans could help one another battle mental issues, and now he is working to take that initiative to the national level.

Part of the reason this program is important is that it addresses the stigma surrounding mental illness. The shame people feel deters the average citizen from getting help, but think of how those feelings must be compounded in people who carry the weight of a reputation as one of our country’s bravest and strongest. And even without the fear of appearing weak, veterans have experienced many things others cannot truly understand if they have not served in the military. They need and deserve the support of people who have been in their shoes — people who know what they are going through. Mental illness is often woefully misunderstood as it is, so we must mitigate that as much as possible.

Ultimately, we would prefer more resources for military psychiatrists to better identify and treat issues with active servicemen, so they leave their PTSD or other mental or emotional problems overseas, but we will gladly support a national veterans’ peer program to assist those we have so far failed to help.

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By Elof Carlson


My mother was a paranoid schizophrenic.

She had been married before in a traditional Jewish arranged marriage to her father’s business acquaintance. He told his daughter, “Ida, this is Max. He will be your husband.” She had two children with her husband, my half-brother Ben and my half-sister Sadie. The marriage failed and eventually they separated, and the children were placed in a Hebrew orphan asylum in New York City.

My mother tried to get her children back, but when she stormed the desk of a charity worker she was instead committed as insane to Pilgrim State Hospital. After three months she was released, and one winter day in Manhattan as she sold key rings on the streets, she tried to warm up in a hotel lobby. The doorman told her to warm up downstairs in the employee’s room. There she met my father, a Swedish-born, lapsed Lutheran,  merchant mariner who settled in New York City. He took her to dinner and they began a courtship.

Max obtained a divorce and my parents were married in New Jersey. A year later, my brother Roland was born and a year and a half later, in 1931, I was born.

I began to realize my mother was different when I was about 5 years old.  She would get hysterical. She had fights with our father. When she got angry at our behavior, she would smash dishes on the floor and we would scoot under the bed. I got used to meals left half-eaten at restaurants or movies whose ending I did not get to see when she would leave, because she thought people were staring at her or talking about her.

But I also realized she was very protective. My brother was born with a congenital heart condition. She made sure he did not exert himself and took us to the parks to play rather than to play with neighborhood children. She took us to art shops and museums, or cooled us off during heat waves by going back and forth on the Staten Island Ferry.

She took us to bookstores and shared with our father, an elevator operator, the importance of learning and the arts. Every day she would take her violin and play for us for an hour, especially the music of Stephen Foster, Fritz Kreisler and other light classical selections. When we were teenagers, she began going out in the evening and playing as a street musician.

I think my father stayed in a bad marriage because he did not want to see his two children also ending up in an orphan asylum or foster home.

I learned from my mother that she was not insane all the time. She had her good days and I never doubted her love for us. She encouraged our efforts at art and praised our passion for reading. I also admired her ability to do a lot with very little money.

She liked to visit her daughter in California and would get a one-way ticket by train, get off during a rest stop, play her violin for donations from passengers and continue on until she got to California. She only took a sneaker bag for her clothes and her violin case as luggage. It taught me how creative I could be when I lacked the traditional ways to do things.

When I was at Tougaloo College teaching in an all-black school, I found the library had no books or journals on human genetics. So I called the medical school in Jackson, Mississippi, and arranged to bring four students at a time in my car to its library. I taught the students how to use the “Index Medicus” to select articles. We read together taking notes at the library table. I learned about my students’ lives during the car trip to or back from the library.

I would not have improvised had it not been what I learned from my mother.

Elof Axel Carlson is a distinguished teaching professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University.

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Colorado Springs is not around the corner. But the effects of a tragic shooting there the day after Thanksgiving have trickled down and made a very real impact on Suffolk County.

We spent much of the fall season interviewing candidates running for various offices, and more than once we were reminded that our county police department was being stretched too thin.

Fast forward a few weeks to the aftermath of Friday’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado that killed three and injured nine. Our county police department announced it would be increasing patrols near the five clinics in its jurisdiction as a result. The department also committed itself to training Planned Parenthood officials in crime prevention, which hopefully will provide a more lasting impact on preventing similar tragedies here.

Sometimes there is a disconnect between the national conversation and the small-town scuttlebutt, but this is an example of how one person’s actions can have a nationwide effect. In our case, it is strapping an already taxed police department.

The consequences are real, and there are things we could do on a local level that could perhaps trickle in the opposite direction — up to the national conversation.

We could strive to better care for our neighbors, both through publicly funded mental health programs that provide more access to treatment and more comprehensively deal with mental illness, and by speaking up when someone we know is behaving erratically or speaking in an alarming manner. We are seeing more and more irrationally thinking people commit acts like the shooting in Colorado Springs, in which the assailant targeted people unknown to him. And it seems impossible that none of these perpetrators displayed irrational behavior or thought beforehand.

A strongly connected community is an excellent safety net. We should work to weave ours tighter.

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Nikos Inslee photo from SCPD

Story update, Sept. 10, 10:15 a.m.: Police reported that Nikos Inslee has been found, unharmed.

A missing teenager with a mental illness might be suicidal and is in need of his medication, the Suffolk County Police Department reported on Wednesday afternoon.

Authorities issued an alert for the missing 15-year-old from Centereach, Nikos Inslee, who has bipolar disorder.

Police described Nikos as white, 5 feet 7 inches, and about 145 pounds. He has brown eyes and brown hair and was last seen wearing a red T-shirt with a Crooks Castle logo, sweatpants that are red, black and white, and black shoes.

Anyone with information about Inslee’s location is asked to call 911 or the 6th Squad detectives who are searching for him at 631-854-8652.