New at “Read…”: Meds Made Elizabeth “Sick”: A Theatrical Review

NJPRAAt last month’s New Jersey Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association annual conference, PsychOdyssey’s Tom Pyle witnessed an incredible performance. The keynote speaker was actress/activist Elizabeth Kenny. Instead of a speech, she presented a one-woman play. Titled Sick, the drama was about her own turbulent psychodyssey. As her website describes, “Sick is a true story of misdiagnosis and medication is a fearless, unsentimental and hilarious testament to our ability to find ourselves, even in the darkest conditions. “As a parent struggling alongside a loved one struggling with schizophrenia,” Tom reported, “it moved me to tears.”

About Elizabeth Kenny:

Elizabeth KennyElizabeth is an actor, playwright, teacher, and lecturer. She has been working in the professional theater since 1993 and became an Artistic Associate at New City Theater in 1998, working as a generative collaborative artist under the direction of John Kazanjian. Elizabeth has honed her writing and contemporary performance skills as a key collaborator, developer, and performer of new work by playwrights Kristen Kosmas and Ki Gottberg, and is an accomplished solo performer, receiving critical acclaim for performances including Neil Labute’s Bash and Ki Gottberg’s The Compendium of Nastiness. Elizabeth and Kristen Kosmas founded Shady Lane Productions in 2007. Shady Lane is a theater company focused on the development of new work that is intimate, immediate, and provocative.

Prescribed medication for an ovarian cyst, Elizabeth began having inexplicable reactions. She was plunged into the maelstrom. One thing led to another, all to nowhere good, even to psych hospitals and varied psychosis diagnoses. Thank God for her parents, who didn’t believe all their desperate daughter had been told, including  Elizabeth’s many supposed psychotic disabilities. Finally, a random doctor determined the original medication’s toxicity–and began reversing all the erroneous diagnoses, prescriptions, psychic trauma–and, hopefully, stigma.

About her play, Sick :

SICK-Elizabeth3Sick, a solo performance written and performed by Elizabeth and collaboratively created with New City Theater Artistic Director John Kazanjian, premiered at New City Theater in 2011. Sick explores a patient’s two-year odyssey inside the most advanced healthcare system in the world—an odyssey that almost killed her. It investigates how treatment by well-meaning, sophisticated practitioners for a common gynecological issue plunged her into a downward spiral through the complex medical and mental health establishments. It examines the ways that the intricate threads woven between healthcare providers, pharmaceutical makers, insurance companies, and medical educators unknowingly conspire to undermine patient care. Sick is the story of everyone trying hard to get it right…but getting it wrong anyway.

“It didn’t have to happen this way!” By God’s grace, Elizabeth survived the resurrection from “schizophrenia” to normal health intact. Her one-woman play, excerpted here as a 15 minute Ted-Med Talk, offers an inspiring–but also frightening, exasperating, and infuriating–account of how badly wrong things in psychiatry can sometimes go. Elizabeth’s deeply moving story is a cautionary tale for all families navigating the maelstrom of mental illness–and all in the field of psychiatry–and everyone else.

Visit Elizabeth Kenny’s website here.

See all of PsychOdyssey’s film and theatre reviews here.

See all of PsychOdyssey’s book reviews here.

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New at “Link…”: Family Caregiver Alliance and Caregiver Action Network

Every family navigating the maelstrom of mental illness becomes all too familiar with the challenges and burdens of family caregiving for a loved one.  On this last day of National Family Caregivers Month, I was pleased to come upon some important resource links for families navigating the maelstrom of mental illness.

First is the Family Caregiver National Family Caregiver AllianceAlliance. Founded in the late 1970s, the Alliance supports and sustains the important work of families nationwide caring for loved ones with chronic, disabling health conditions. It is one of the first community-based nonprofit organization in the country to address the needs of families and friends providing long-term care for loved ones at home. The Alliance addresses the caregivers’ daily challenges to better the lives of caregivers nationally, provide them assistance, and champion the family caregiver cause through education, services, research and advocacy. Have a look at this short intro video from FCA’s Executive Director, Kathy Kelly:

Caregiver Action NetworkSecond is the Caregiving Action Network (CAN). Founded in 1993 as the former National Family Caregivers Association (different from the Family Caregiver Alliance above), CAN is another leading family caregiver organization working to improve the quality of life for the millions of Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age. CAN serves a broad spectrum of family caregivers ranging from the parents of children with special needs, to the families and friends of wounded soldiers; from a young couple dealing with a diagnosis of MS, to adult children caring for parents with Alzheimer’s disease. CAN (formerly the National Family Caregivers Association) is a non-profit organization providing education, peer support, and resources to family caregivers across the country free of charge.

Also, here is a helpful list of articles about National Family Caregiver Month from the Huffington Post.



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New at “Research…”: The State of Mental Health in America 2015

MHA State of MH in America 2015For many years, Mental Health America has wanted to identify a common set of data indicators for mental health that would give a more complete picture of mental health status in America. As both the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act were implemented, it also saw a need to establish a baseline from which we could document the successes and failures of both federal and state initiatives aimed at improving mental health status. This report is the result.

For the first time, Mental Health America has pulled together a number of indicators available across all fifty states and the District of Columbia. It has organized them into general categories relating to mental health status and access to mental health services. Some indicators are specific to children; others to adults. Together,they paint a picture across the entire nation of both the nation’s mental health and how well the nation is caring for it.

Click here to see MHA’s America’s Parity or Disparity: The State of Mental Health in America 2015.

Click here to be directed to all of PsychOdyssey’s research items.

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“Public Finance 101”: PsychOdyssey Explains PsyR Funding in New Jersey

NJPRALast Thursday, PsychOdyssey’s Tom Pyle led a workshop at the 2015 annual conference of the New Jersey Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, of which Tom is also a board member. Entitled “Show Me The Money: PsyR Public Finance 101”, Tom explained the specific funding sources for mental health in New Jersey’s proposed FY 2016 budget. Tom’s presentation slides are accessible below.

Public Finance 101 for NJPRA

PsyR Public Finance 101


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From Pete Earley: Democrats Attack, Republicans Defend Murphy’s Mental Health Bill During Markup

Pete Earley's website 2Mental Health Advocate and fellow family champion Pete Earley (pictured here with his son; journalist and acclaimed author of Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness) today blogged important news that final “mark-up” work is now underway in Washington on the most important mental health legislation currently before Congress, HR 2646, The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. This legislation is attempting to bring much needed reforms to a broken mental health system as many families in the maelstrom want and need.

The bill is offered by Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, a practicing psychologist who has emerged as Congress’ leading mental health services reformer. Rep. Murphy’s website contains several interesting short videos about the mental health debate in Washington over the last few months. These provide a worthy update for families in the maelstrom who want to understand better and participate in this critical national dialogue.

HR 2646 is supported by family groups, but is drawing fire from civil liberties advocates, mental health services consumer groups, practitioner professional associations, and community health service providers.

Opening remarks of the session in the video below reveal the differences between the Democrats and Republicans on this important legislation. This 45 minute video is recommended viewing for all family members. The essential differences are summarized in the first 5 minutes of remarks, first by Rep.  Gene Green (D-TX), followed by Rep. Murphy (R-PA).

Also see Pete Earley’s blog here: Democrats Attack, Republicans Defend Murphy’s Mental Health Bill During Markup.


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New at Link… Monarch Housing Associates in New Jersey

Monarch Housing AssociatesLoved ones need proper independent housing and supportive housing to facilitate their recoveries. But such housing for those in the maelstrom is often extremely difficult to procure, especially in states like New Jersey with very high property costs.

Monarch Housing Associates is a mission driven, results oriented New Jersey non-profit dedicated to providing housing solutions for those in need. Its vision is that every person will have quality affordable, permanent housing that fosters freedom, independence and community integration. Its mission is to expand the supply, accessibility and variety of affordable, permanent supportive housing through development, planning, advocacy and partnerships. Monarch Housing assists consumers, providers and family organizations to develop, manage and operate permanent, affordable and supportive housing for persons with disabilities. This is accomplished by developing partnerships with public-private entities and the non-profit community.

An introductory video by Monarch appears below. To see Monarch’s website, click here. To see all of PsychOdyssey’s links, click here.

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Remembering John Nash, the “Six Dollar Man” with Schizophrenia Who Won The Nobel Prize

John NashNobel Laureate John Forbes Nash, Jr. was tragically killed last June in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike. On October 24 in Princeton, NJ, the extraordinary life of John Nash, including his many lost years in the maelstrom of schizophrenia, was celebrated at a memorial service hosted by Princeton University’s Math Department on the Princeton campus. The keynote lecture was given by Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind, which became the subject of the Oscar nominated movie of the same name starring Russell Crowe. Nasar recounted Nash’s amazing life–and especially heralded the heroic role his dear wife Alicia played as a family member in Nash’s ultimate recovery.

John and Alicia Nash at the Academy Awards, 2002

John and Alicia Nash at the Academy Awards, 2002

John Nash (r) with his son, c. 1975

John Nash (r) with his son, c. 1975

PsychOdyssey’s Tom Pyle attended Nasar’s lecture.  Tom offered his own undergraduate remembrance of John Nash during his lost years, when Nash was literally a deluded, disheveled, and destitute drifter wandering in Firestone Library in the 1970s. So strange did Nash seem that undergraduates at the time, invoking a comparison to a popular TV superhero show of that era called The Six Million Dollar Man, callously dubbed the Firestone phantom “the Six Dollar Man.” Two decades later, Tom nearly choked on his breakfast when reading the front page of the New York Times. The 1994 Nobel Prize for Economics was awarded to… The Six Dollar Man!

Although Tom did not know it then, Nash’s haunting presence in Firestone Library was Tom’s first exposure to schizophrenia, which later would befall his own family’s life. At the end of Nasar’s lecture, Tom rose to share his recollection–and  to express his admiration especially for Alicia Nash and for all family and friends of loved ones with schizophrenia who persevere to keep them connected and thus keep alive the flame of hope for recovery. As Tom stated:

This was the first time schizophrenia touched my life. I didn’t realize it at the time. Schizophrenia then came on to touch my own family’s life, in which a dear family member has been through many of the experiences that John Nash had, by which I came to understand the great tragedy of schizophrenia, but also some great blessings–especially, as you have noted, Alicia standing by him and the importance of family support and, may I say, for the support of the University and all his colleagues who welcomed him back… So critical is this! 

So I just wanted to put it out there… I highly appreciate all the support and attention that was drawn to him and to those who have schizophrenia. God bless the University, God bless John Nash, and especially God bless Alicia, his dear wife!

Sylvia Nash’s 45 minute memorial to the life of John Nash can be viewed below. Tom’s 90- second remarks begin at 43:00.

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New “Yikes!…” Section To Expose Stigma. First Up: ABC’s “Modern Family”

yikesToday launches a new tab, “Yikes!…”, to expose stigma and prejudice against loved ones with psychiatric disabilities.

Our first case: Modern Family, the popular ABC comedy show, has drawn protests from leading national mental health advocates for its callous portrayal of individuals in psychiatric hospitals.

Check out the show’s 90 second promo video just below. Read the news story about the protest from leading national mental health organizations and their letter of objection to ABC here.


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New at Link… National Catholic Partnership on Disabilities

National Catholic Patnership on Disabillities

For families in the maelstrom, a critical recovery concept is hope. For Christian families in the maelstrom, hope is a matter faith, deriving from suffering.[1]  For Catholic families in the maelstrom, there is a specificly Catholic ministry resource: The National Catholic Partnership on Disability’s Council on Mental Illness.

The National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) was established in 1982 to foster implementation of the Pastoral Statement of U.S. Catholic Bishops on People with Disabilities. NCPD’s  mission:

Rooted in Gospel values that affirm the dignity of every person, the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD) works collaboratively to ensure meaningful participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of the life of the Church and society.

The NCPD directs its activities for Catholics with psychiatric disabilities through its Council on Mental Illness, which offers a theological framework, catechetical resources, a newsletter a listing of other resources, events, links and foundational Catholic documents and concepts in disability ministry.

See the NCPD’s Council on Mental Illness webpage here.

See all of PsychOdyssey’s national links here.


[1] As the Bible (Roman 5:1-5) says:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.

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New York Times: New Study Stresses More Talk Therapy and Family Support For Schizophrenia Treatment

New York Times T

Today on Page One, The New York Times reported important findings of a major new study about the treatment of schizophrenia–news that all families in the maelstrom should hear and take to heart. The gist: less medications, more talk therapy and family support during the first 2 years of treatment.

From the article:

…The findings, from by far the most rigorous trial to date conducted in the United States, concluded that schizophrenia patients who received smaller doses of antipsychotic medication and a bigger emphasis on one-on-one talk therapy and family support made greater strides in recovery over the first two years of treatment than patients who got the usual drug-focused care…[Emphasis added.]

Read the entire Times article here.

Early this morning, PsychOdyssey’s Tom Pyle posted to the Times website the following response:

This good news should be no surprise to any familiar with the science of psychiatric rehabilitation and the peer-led wellness movement, as well to any paying attention to the Open Dialogue movement in Scandinavia.

That only now does such news arrive to Page One suggests the impetuosity of expectations of our American mental health care system lusting for quick and impersonal magic pill fixes of complex neurological and psychological problems.

It also shows the inordinate power of Big Pharma’s influence in 3 ways: its undue influence on the clinical trials system, its heavy handed marketing to prescribers, and its strong if subtle influence on media consciousness.

More power to holistic mental heath care, especially to talk therapy and peer self-help! Now let’s get Medicaid to pay proper rates for these.

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