News and Notes for October 7, 2016

The calendar has turned to October, and that means Halloween is coming around again. For most people that means jack-o’ lanterns and free candy, but for people in the mental health community, it also means another round of costumes, attractions, and entertainment that rely on the clichéd depictions of violent “crazy people” and spooky “insane asylums.” Despite the fact that mental health is an issue that has come to be discussed more openly and thoughtfully in recent years, Halloween seems to provide an occasion for regression to the old, damaging stereotypes linking mental health to violence, chaos and danger.

Fortunately, mental health advocates have recently made some headway in helping the general public to better understand how hurtful and offensive Halloween-themed depictions of people with mental health needs can be. In a recent post on Mad in America that you can read here, Susan Rogers, Director of the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse, describes advocacy efforts that forced changes to attractions at Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks. The Cedar Fair attraction, called FearVR: 5150, was described in the LA Times  as “a mental hospital where a psychiatric patient with demonic powers is on the loose.” The Six Flags attractions, with names like Dark Oaks Asylum and PSYCHO-PATH Haunted Asylum, promised to bring visitorsface-to-face with the world’s worst psychiatric patients.”

As Susan recounts in the post, mental health advocates from around the country came together to educate Cedar Fair and Six Flags about why their attractions were offensive, and how they were likely to shame people with mental health needs, while conveying the message that it’s ok to objectify “mental patients.” The fact that both organizations altered their attractions is not just evidence that advocacy actually works. It also highlights the tremendous opportunity that mental health advocates have to take situations in which people with mental health needs are being objectified and derided in the name of “fun,” and use them as an occasion to talk about the reality of mental health, the painful history of institutionalization, and the very real humanity of the many people that deal with mental health every day.

So if you see something that doesn’t sit right with you this October, don’t be afraid to say something. It might be a chance to change someone’s perspective!


March for Dignity and Change for Mental Health

Speaking of defending the dignity and humanity of people with mental health needs, the March for Dignity and Change for Mental Health is planned for Monday, October 10 in Washington DC. If you’re in the area, please consider joining the chorus of people speaking out for the human rights of people with mental health needs. If you can’t be there, follow along on twitter by looking for the #MHDignityMarch tag.

Learn more about this event at


Mental Illness Is A Health Condition, Not Halloween Entertainment

This Huffington Post piece does a good job of explaining the problems with linking mental health challenges and scary Halloween entertainment.

Contraceptives May Increase the Risk of Depression

According to new research, there may be a link between birth control pills and depression among women.


Black Men Are Giving Themselves A Space To Talk About Mental Health

Rapper Kid Cudi’s public admission about his depression has spurred a conversation about mental health and the taboo surrounding the topic among African American men.


Media Coverage of Mental Illness has Increased Significantly in Recent Years

If you think you’re seeing more media attention to mental health, it’s not just your imagination. New data indicates that the issue really is drawing more buzz.


Networking Opportunity: Equity and Inclusion in Leadership for People of Color

October 14

2-3pm ET/11-12 PT

Our friends at the STAR Center are creating a leadership networking opportunity specifically for people of color. Equity and Inclusion in Leadership for People of Color is a national live streaming networking conference for people interested in increasing the number of people in organizational leadership roles who are African-American, Native American/American Indian/Alaskan Native, Latino/Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islanders.

Register at


Presidential Race Could Energize Voters with Disabilities

Although people with disabilities aren’t typically discussed as a key voting bloc, they actually comprise 16% of the electorate! As this article describes, the disability vote will be critical this November.


VOTE.  It’s Your Right:  A Guide to the Voting Rights of People with Mental Disabilities

Speaking of voting, the Bazelon Center has a guide on voting specifically for people with mental health needs. Check it out here:


When My Natural Reaction to Being Bullied Was Diagnosed as a Mental Illness

Those of us in the mental health community get the connection between trauma and poor mental health. In this story, one woman talks about how her reaction to the trauma of bullying was treated as a discrete mental health condition, leading to problematic relationship with medication and further trauma.


Webinar: An Intersection of Mental Illness and the Criminal Justice System

Wednesday, October 19

2:00pm – 3:30pm ET

This webinar will discuss what has been learned about persons with mental illnesses that come in contact with the criminal justice system, and what has and has not worked for reducing system penetration, reducing recidivism and improving outcomes. Attendees will understand the underlying causes of overrepresentation of persons with mental illness in the criminal justice system, learn from the latest research about what works to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes, and understand the value of cross system collaboration for addressing the needs of this population at different points of contact with the criminal justice system.

Register at


True @ The U

Fifteen Active Minds members at the University of Iowa have shared their stories in a video project called “True @ The U.” The students put themselves out there in order to destigmatize mental illness and assure their fellow students they are not alone.

Watch the videos on YouTube at


Funding Opportunity: Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Campus Suicide Prevention Grant

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services is accepting applications for fiscal year (FY) 2017 Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Campus Suicide Prevention grants. The purpose of this program is to facilitate a comprehensive public health approach to prevent suicide in institutions of higher education. The grant is designed to assist colleges and universities in building essential capacity and infrastructure to support expanded efforts to promote wellness and help-seeking of all students. Additionally, this grant will offer outreach to vulnerable students, including those experiencing substance abuse and mental health problems who are at greater risk for suicide and suicide attempts.

Learn more at


Webinar: Peer Support in the Criminal Justice System

Tuesday, Oct. 25

11am PST/ 1pm CT/ 2pm ET

All too often people with mental health challenges find themselves in the criminal justice system.  Connecting these individuals with trained peer specialist who have shared similar experiences greatly enhances their recovery and ability to navigate the criminal justice system.

In this webinar, Forensic Peer Specialist Educator Liz Woodley will present specific information about diversion and the use of the Sequential Intercept Model as the natural framework for communities to use when considering the interface between the criminal justice and mental health systems and effects on individuals with mental health needs, while sharing her own personal recovery journey.


Webinar: How the Better Days Approach Can Help in a Crisis

Thursday, October 13

2:00- 3:30 PM ET

This webinar will explore how the Better Days approach developed by Craig Lewis can help in crisis situations.  Better Days means honoring that you are the expert on you!  A crisis is when factors contribute to a situation that for any number of reasons results in a psychic lack of control. Often, these factors are in the form of a metaphorical minefield while we live, work, and love in blissful unawareness. When reality hits, and madness invades you so quickly that you lose yourself; you must do all you can to move forward on your life journey and live life to its fullest.


Medicating a Prophet

This New York Times piece takes a considered look at the issues that arise in trying to provide help to people that don’t necessarily want it, and the critical importance of taking the path of collaboration and empathy, instead of the path of coercion.


Police Departments Struggle To Get Cops Mental Health Training

This USA Today article notes the fact that people with mental health conditions are much more likely to be killed in confrontations with law enforcement, and examines what is being done to try to address this staggering disparity.