Psychiatrist Exposes Violent Environment inside California’s Napa State Hospital

Dr. Stephen Seager, M.D. has written a book “Behind the Gates of Gomorrah”; which recounts his rookie year in Unit C, at Napa State Hospital.

In praise for the book Dr. Judy Melinek asks:

“What happens when the judicial system concentrates a population of criminally insane men with nothing to lose and no compunction  against murderous violence behind razor wire and steel doors? Dr. Seager reveals both the courage and the empathy demanded of the staff at this hospital without healing and a prison without guards.”

The book is available in Kindle format as well as Hardcover.

L.A. County Unable to Avert Federal Oversight of Jails

Federal officials have rejected a last-ditch effort by Los Angeles County to maintain control over its jails and will move forward with a consent decree to address longstanding problems with mental health care in the troubled facilities.

In a letter sent to the county last week, the Department of Justice said that despite some progress, it remained “concerned about the sustainability and future durability of the reforms.”

The county jails have been monitored by federal officials for the past 12 years under an agreement requiring improvements in treatment of the mentally ill. On June 4, 2014 the Department of Justice announced it would seek court oversight of the jails, citing a dramatic increase in inmate suicides.

In a June 4, 2014 letter describing “dimly lit, vermin-infested, noisy, unsanitary, cramped and crowded” living conditions that exacerbated inmates’ mental distress. After suicides more than doubled, from four in 2012 to 10 the following year, jail officials did little to address the situation, the letter said, calling many of the suicides preventable.

NAMI Los Angeles Coordinating Council has been advocating for better conditions in the jails and with the leadership of Mark Gale and Brittany Weissman NAMI L.A. County Executive Director and the LACC Advocacy Committee things seem to be moving forward.

A Schizophrenic’s Search for Logic by Aaron Samuel Wallman

A Schizophrenic’s Search for Logic is a book about one man’s experiences with schizophrenia and his search for true logic as his cure.

Local writer and former college teacher Aaron Samuel Wallman has an imaginary journey through hell and heaven along with a real journey back to Los Angeles from Tokyo, Japan which occurs at the same time as this imaginary journey.

“During these two trips as one journey, I mainly talk to Albert Einstein and the 17th philosopher, David Hume. In addition, I talk to other historical figures, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other people like my Japanese friend, Suga. In my conversations with the characters in this book, I discuss the reasoning of my schizophrenia and the reasoning of normal people and true logic or the logic of God. Also during my journey, I reveal my experiences with my schizophrenia as events and reveal my attempts to reach my goals and become cured with true logic. All in all, I leave it up to the reader to decide what is real and what is fantasy in this book.”

From The U.S. Review of Books:

Told in a series of thirty-eight short chapters, the author has charted a journey of untold mental suffering. A window into the inner world of one suffering from mental illness, the endless cycle of psychosis, hospitalization, medication, and relapse is described in painful detail. Dramatic interest is kept up by the intriguing discussions about perception, reason, and truth he has with Albert Einstein and David Hume, who seem to show up to discuss the problem of reality in the most strange situations. Matter-of-fact descriptions of his interactions with friends, women, policemen, and doctors shed light onto the stigma and shame of schizophrenia. A person of obvious intelligence, the author has managed to map his tortuous journey in starkly honest terms. This book is a testament to the will to survive—and also a riveting read. The language is simple and straightforward. The theme is human suffering, thereby approaching a universality, though its subject matter is indeed unique. (c) 2014 Gregory Reade.

Wallman and his family have been long-time members of NAMI South Bay. A Schizophrenic’s Search for Logic is published by Trafford Publishing and is available in print and as an e-book from these major online outlets:


Your Rights Under California Mental Health Parity Law

Disability Rights California (DRC) Tip of the Month Puts Focus on Parity: To reduce the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness, DRC is empowering Californians to enforce their rights under the California Mental Health Parity Law and the Federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act by providing information and trainings. This month, DRC is answering the question: What is a self-funded employer plan and do those plans have to provide mental health parity also? Follow this link to read the article HERE.

Find other tips online on DRC’s website. Contact: Margaret Jakobson-Johnson at

Have You Been Screened for Depression Today?

Every year you probably visit a dentist to make sure you don’t have any cavities or a primary care doctor to get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. But you may not think about getting screened fordepression. You might see the lack of desire to meet up with friends or increased feelings of tiredness as just passing feelings. But for nearly 7% of adult and more than 9% of children those feelings are more than just passing sensations. They can be signs of depression.

As part of Mental Illness Awareness Week, National Depression Screening Day will be held on Thursday, Oct. 9. Around the world there will be depression screening questionnaires offered free of charge to help anyone identify signals of depression. Visit Help Yourself Help Others to take a screening online or find a place near you that is holding a screening.

It’s not always easy to stand up and admit you need help—it’s more difficult than getting a cavity filled. But once you do get help, you can begin to get better. Here are some suggestions from real people about how to live well with depression.

  • Become an expert. Learn all you can about treatment options, attend local conferences and network with other people at meetings and support groups. Build a personal library of useful websites and helpful books.
  • Recognize early symptoms. Identify triggers, such as times of year or events that may aggravate your depression symptoms, so you can identify an emerging episode and get the help you need as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask the people around you for help—they can help monitor your behavior.
  • Engage in your treatment. A positive relationship with your health care providers can help improve the effectiveness of treatment. You both must develop a trust and a strong line of communication. Speak honestly about your symptoms and experiences with treatments.
  • Develop a plan. Most communities have a crisis hotline or emergency walk-in centers, so know where they are and keep them handy. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be called 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Find emotional support from others living with depression. Share your thoughts, fears and questions with other people who have the same illness. Connect with others through peer-support groups like NAMI Peer-to-Peer. You can also sign up for afree account and connect with others on our online message boards.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. These substances can disturb emotional balance and interact with medications. You may think using drugs or alcohol will help you “perk up,” but using them can block your recovery.
  • Get healthy. Eat well and exercise. To relieve stress, try low-key activities like meditation, yoga or Tai Chi.

Stopping Schizophrenia in its Tracks

By Darcy Gruttadaro, Director, NAMI Child and Adolescent Action Center

For those experiencing psychosis, early identification and intervention matter—a lot. It lessens the long-term severity and often prevents psychosis from worsening. An effective early identification and intervention program should include the following coordinated array of services and supports:

  • Supported education and employment.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Peer support.
  • Family support and education.
  • Case management.
  • Community outreach.
  • Low dose antipsychotic medication.

These services work so well because they are offered together to provide the skills and support that youth and young adults need to get better. They also take into account the context of a young person’s life and the key role that peers and families play in recovery.

FEP programs reduce costly hospitalizations and put youth and young adults with psychosis on an early path to recovery.

When you fund upstream interventions, you can prevent the tragedies associated with untreated mental illness: school failure, unemployment, hospitalizations, homelessness, jail and suicide. Investing in effective programs that intervene early produces far better outcomes for individuals, families and communities.

There are effective strategies available, so why aren’t more young people getting help? One of the main reasons is that these services and supports are simply not available in communities. However, there has been progress made recently that to help ensure the availability of these resources in more towns and cities across the U.S.

One significant event is that Congress has now required states to use 5 percent of their Mental Health Block Grant for First Episode Psychosis (FEP) programs. This means that states are obligated to set aside a certain amount of their federal funding to address the importance of early intervention.

How Is NAMI Helping

We recognize the urgency in expanding these programs. Our advocacy work and involvement in these programs is happening at all levels of the organization.

NAMI NYC Metro is partnering with OnTrackNY, an FEP program, in providing support groups and peer support for youth and young adults experiencing early psychosis. NAMI Connecticut is offering peer-run young adult support groups located close to FEP programs to make it easy for young adults to join. NAMI Minnesota has partnered with an FEP program and is creating education and support programs for youth experiencing early psychosis and their families.

Oregon was an early adopter of these services and supports, having witnessed the success of these programs in Australia. Tamara Sale, the director of the Early Assessment and Support Alliance (EASA) in Oregon and a former long-time NAMI Oregon board member, shared how their program works successfully with youth and young adults experiencing early psychosis.

The EASA program recognizes that it can be difficult to engage youth and young adults experiencing early psychosis, so it uses strategic community approaches that meet young people where they are with messages of hope and relevance to their lives. They are flexible and persistent, even with youth and young adults that seem entirely uninterested in mental health care.

What You Can Do

FEP programs exist in a handful of communities and more must be done to spread these programs across the country. Here is how you can make sure that happens.

  • Learn more about FEP programs. Understand why these programs are pivotal in creating better outcomes.
  • Email or Tweet your Congressional members to thank them and to ask for their continued support of FEP programs.
  • Connect with your NAMI Affiliate in advocating at the state and federal levels for FEP programs so that youth and young adults experiencing early psychosis can access effective services and supports.

We can and must change the trajectory of people’s lives by intervening early with recovery-oriented and effective services. We simply cannot afford to wait.

Implementation of Assembly Bill (AB) 720 – Suspension of Medi-Cal Benefits for all Inmates and Other Requirements

FROM NAMI CALIFORNIA ACTION ALERT: The purpose of this alert from the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) is to provide counties with information about AB 720, Statutes of 2013, Chapter 646, which added Penal Code sectio n 4011.11, and amended Welfare and Institutions (W & I) Code section 14011.10. AB 720 took effect January 1, 2014.

This legislation:

  • Requires counties to suspend rather than terminate Medi-Cal benefits for all inmates, regardless of age, who were Medi-Cal beneficiaries at the time they became inmates of a public institution.
  • Authorizes county Boards of Supervisors (BOS), in consultation with the county sheriff, to designate an entity or entities to assist county jail inmates with their applications for a health insurance affordability program; and to act on behalf of county jail inmates for purposes of applying for Medi-Cal coverage for acute inpatient hospital services provided to inmates off the grounds of the correctional facility.
  • Clarifies that “The fact that an applicant is an inmate shall not, in and of itself, preclude a county human services agency from processing an application for the Medi-Cal program submitted to it by, or on behalf of, that inmate.”

Click here to see the Full Implementation Document

Thank you for your dedication to mental health advocacy!