January 3, 2010 archive

The Mental Illness Stigma Takes a Sexist Dimension

As I myself struggle with a chronic disease of the brain best known as mental illness, I am constantly aware of discriminatory practices towards those who suffer with the same disability as I do. To make a long story short, some years back I befriended a woman who attended the same support group as I did.  She and I have maintained close contact ever since then and I frequently serve as a sympathetic ear when she needs someone to talk to about how her illness complicates her daily life and complicates her understandable desire to be the best mother that she can to her kids.  At times she is deeply reluctant to share with me the issues most pressing and more distressing, but today she opened up and talked at length about a matter that had been troubling her for quite some time.

My friend deals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression, two conditions I struggle with myself. For many reasons, money being one of them, she’s been off her meds for the past several months and is unwilling to seek further treatment. Since she has recently separated from her soon-to-be ex-husband, she is reluctant to go to a psychiatrist and be prescribed new meds because she fears losing custody of her three children.  I believed her worry to be justified, but it wasn’t until I did some research to bolster my argument that I realized just how commonplace a problem this is.  The below passage spells out the matter in detail.

Some state laws cite mental illness as a condition that can lead to loss of custody or parental rights. Thus, parents with mental illness often avoid seeking mental health services for fear of losing custody of their children. Custody loss rates for parents with mental illness range as high as 70-80 percent, and a higher proportion of parents with serious mental illnesses lose custody of their children than parents without mental illness. Studies that have investigated this issue report that:


     Only one-third of children with a parent who has a serious mental illness are being raised by that parent.


     In New York, 16 percent of the families involved in the foster care system and 21 percent of those receiving family preservation services include a parent with a mental illness.


     Grandparents and other relatives are the most frequent caretakers if a parent is psychiatrically hospitalized, however other possible placements include voluntary or involuntary placement in foster care.[1]

The major reason states take away custody from parents with mental illness is the severity of the illness, and the absence of other competent adults in the home.[2] Although mental disability alone is insufficient to establish parental unfitness, some symptoms of mental illness, such as disorientation and adverse side effects from psychiatric medications, may demonstrate parental unfitness. A research study found that nearly 25 percent of caseworkers had filed reports of suspected child abuse or neglect concerning their clients.[3]

The loss of custody can be traumatic for a parent and can exacerbate their illness, making it more difficult for them to regain custody. If mental illness prevents a parent from protecting their child from harmful situations, the likelihood of losing custody is drastically increased.

Having mental illness is bad enough, but for women with mental illness, the repercussions are far more severe.  A lethal combination of sexism and Paternalism is to blame.  Recent history records the most extreme cases, instances which were blown out of proportion and sensationalized to such a degree that they tainted our understanding of brain disorders, particularly regarding women with children.  The image in most peoples’ minds likely flashes back to the negative publicity surrounding the Andrea Yates case, in which a mother suffering from post-partum depression and psychosis drowned her children.  A second example is Dena Schlosser, who, suffering from postpartum psychosis, killed her eleven-month-old daughter believing she was sacrificing her to God.  A less well known example is that of Assia Wevill, Ted Hughes’ second wife, a depressive, who killed herself and her four-year-old daughter in a murder/suicide.  Extreme cases like these have led many to believe that children must be uprooted and taken away from mothers who suffer from any degree of mental illness, no matter how minor.  If only it were that simple.  Yet again, women are deemed not responsible enough to handle their personal lives, the state (and we, by proxy), jump the gun and assume that keeping children safe is more important than understanding the crucial nuances of the situation.

I severely dislike the term “mental illness” because the phrasing makes it seem as though all brain disorders are similar.  Mental illness is an umbrella term, but it is not a precise diagnosis.  Brain disorders vary in severity and in their physical manifestation.  Many assume that mentally ill means psychotic or schizophrenic, when those are merely the most severe forms of a vast spectrum of related, but not identical disorders. I cannot emphasize enough that many people who are treated properly with medications lead otherwise normal lives with the need for a few modest changes in lifestyle here and then as the case may be.  This goes for mothers in the same way as for fathers.  In being so draconian about custody rights, government overreaches, assuming a child must be protected from a parent who is likely to abuse her child.  

I wish we would learn that policies implemented out of a fear of bad publicity and a resulting media firestorm have many times created major problems often more severe than the ones they’ve sought to address.  To be fair, while specific legislation has been passed to address this matter, laws are only as effective as those who follow them and those who enforce them properly.  The letter of the law does not address the stigma which exists in the minds of those who do not understand the peculiarities and particulars of a still very misunderstood and still taboo subject.  To best address this travesty of justice, it will take more exposure and more visibility to bring an end to this.

Man Utd 0 – 1 Leeds United

Original article, by Chris Bevan, via the BBC:

Jermaine Beckford’s winner gave League One leaders Leeds a famous FA Cup victory over their fierce rivals Manchester United in a thrilling tie at Old Trafford.

Open Heart


The Grim State of the States: Public Education Under Attack

Crossposted from Antemedius

Economist James Heintz is Associate Director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst.

Heintz has written on a wide range of economic policy issues, including job creation, global labor standards, egalitarian macroeconomic strategies, and investment behavior. He has worked as an international consultant on projects in Ghana and South Africa, sponsored by the International Labor Organization and the United Nations Development Program, that focus on employment-oriented development policy.

In 2000 Heintz co-authored with The Center for Popular Economics and Nancy Folbre The Ultimate Field Guide to the U.S. Economy: A Compact and Irreverent Guide to Economic Life in America, and is also author of a variety of other books and papers on employment and economics over the past decade or so.

His current work focuses on global labor standards, employment income, and poverty; employment policies for low- and middle-income countries; and the links between macroeconomic policies and distributive outcomes.

Heintz is recently the author of a new research paper: “The Grim State of the States: The Fiscal  Crisis Facing State and Local Governments.” (.PDF), which opens with:

The collateral damage of the global financial crisis is extensive-record job losses, falling incomes, and increasing uncertainty that paralyzes workers, consumers, and investors alike. State and local governments have joined the list of casualties. They are facing the worst budget crisis in decades and the situation will likely get worse before it gets better. If not enough is done, the fiscal crunch will have far-reaching implications for the severity of the crisis and the well-being of the American people.

A sample of the current budget situation from the 50 states shows that the fiscal crisis has spread nationwide.

At the time of this writing, Arizona is projecting a $1.6 billion shortfall at the state level for the 2009 fiscal year, and this is expected to expand to $3 billion for fiscal year 2010.1 Georgia State University has recently forecast that Georgia’s revenues will drop by 6 percent in fiscal year 2009, opening up a $2.5 billion gap. Minnesota must accommodate a $426 million deficit in the current fiscal year which is projected to grow to $4.8 billion in 2010-2011.3 New York is anticipating a $1.6 billion current-year shortfall and this is expected to climb to an unprecedented $13.8 billion gap in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

The list of states facing severe financial  problems goes on and on. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based research institute, as of January 2009 at least 46 states have reported facing budget shortfalls for the current and/or the next fiscal year, totaling an estimated $99 billion.

These are just the initial estimates of the impact that the economic crisis will have on state revenues and budgets. The severity of the budget crisis ultimately depends on how long and how deep the downturn becomes and the degree of ongoing state support that the federal government ultimately provides over the next several years.

Depending on the trajectory of the crisis, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities forecasts that the combined state-level budget shortfalls may add up to over $350 billion by 2011.

Here Heintz talks about that new paper with Paul Jay of The Real News in the first of a multi-part interview, and concludes from his research that 900,000 state workers, many in education, across the US could lose their jobs as state deficits explode:

Real News Network – January 3, 2010

The grim state of the states, Pt.1

James Heintz: 900,000 state workers across the US could lose jobs as state deficits explode

You Got Gold

Quantity vs Quality — is one metric “Better” than the Other?

Quantity vs Quality is one metric “Better” than the Other?

Back in the day, during my “formative college years”, I was given an assignment, that definitely changed the way I looked at the world ever since.

The lessons I learned in that Creative Writing class, I still carry with me, to this very day.

The assignment:  Read the American Classic:

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig

And then, Write an Essay on “What does it means to write a Quality Essay?”

(ie. Why is one Essay, better than another? … How can you tell?)

Is it the count of the words that matters … or their depth, when taken as a whole?

Remember Chemical Ali…….


Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as Chemical Ali, will give evidence at the inquiry into the Iraq War

THREE of Saddam Hussein’s most hated henchmen have volunteered to give evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War.

A lawyer acting for Saddam’s former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, his ex-interior minister Ali Hassan al-Majid, also known as Chemical Ali ,and his private secretary Humad Humadi wrote to Sir John Chilcot last week.

Giovanni di Stefano said his clients were all prepared to testify and be cross-examined via video link from their prison cells in Iraq….>>>>>

Docudharma Times Sunday January 3

Sunday’s Headlines:

Al-Qaeda benefits from a decade of missteps to become a threat in Yemen

Afghans love to get their goat in national sport of buzkashi

Mortgage foreclosures still swamping federal efforts to help

Hollywood vs the iPhone

Catalonia votes to ban bullfighting

London gallery snaps up Marc Chagall painting for just £26,000

Taliban must join security forces, says Brit general

U.S. troops rely on Afghan police while trying to train them

US General Petraeus in Yemen talks on tackling al-Qaeda

Kenya slum electrician puts his life on the line

MDC minister accused of treason says Mugabe will never break him

Peru’s mountain people face fight for survival in a bitter winter

thoughts on banning

yeah, here I am again. I wasn’t going to come back here anymore, but I still care too much.

I started writing this as a response to Nada Lemming. Then I realized it was turning into an essay.

I appreciate it that you have not banned me. More over the jump. It starts out one way and it is turning into another way. I’ll leave my text right stream of consciousness, as is. I think it’s more honest that way.

On Making It Work, Or, An Open Letter To Network TV

After a decade-long slide into semi-irrelevance, it’s now being announced that the major television broadcast networks are considering leaving behind the “free TV/advertiser supported” business model in order to turn themselves into something more closely resembling a cable operation; the idea being that they could create a second revenue stream from the same “subscriber fees” that are paid by cable and satellite operators to all the other channels those operators carry.

This has become necessary, according to the networks, partly because the market has become so fragmented…which, naturally, is cable’s fault-and presumably the fault of the disloyal viewer, as well.

Another reason driving the change is related to the desire of the networks to have a source of revenue that’s more reliable in times of economic downturn, when advertisers often try to husband scarce resources by cutting back on all their expenses, particularly advertising dollars.

Will this new change in the business model reverse the fortunes of the networks?

Is it possible that the networks are simply poor business managers?

And what about…Krystal Carey?

Tune in for the rest of the story-and we’ll find out.

Late Night Karaoke

Open Thread

Late Night Noshing

Nosh on this


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