A poem for Kelly. Ron Thomas follows his muse toward justice.

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Fullerton, California to visit Kelly's Corner. The site, which is the location of the brutal murder of Kelly Thomas by Fullerton Police officers two years ago, is a sacred place for homeless and police reform activists. It has turned into a sort of shrine to Kelly Thomas. There, the local homeless population can gather basic resources like food and socks and also grab a good book of poetry for mental enrichment. A sacred place to remember an event society should never forget. 

We have BLOGGED about the gentle redheaded and schizophrenic Kelly Thomas before. As a boy Kelly's family cared for and nurtured him. But when Kelly reached adulthood he, like many people with schizophrenia, he chose to live on the streets. There are many who may lay judgement on his family. But Kelly's father tells us that judgment isn't so simple.  

In a more perfect world, there’d be more mental health outreach workers who go into the streets and steer clients back to supportive housing programs, where they can get the counseling and other help they need. Families can do only so much,
and desperately need backup.”
— Ron Thomas, father of Kelly Thomas

The truth is our mental health care system needs radical reforms. Many times that means more than just therapy and medication. Effective mental health programs often need to be especially hands on–like the approach of the Assertive Community Treatment programs.

Later this month, Ron Thomas' lawyers will present their civil case against the Fullerton police and city officials that they see as responsible for Kelly's death. Mental health and homeless advocates across the nation will be closely watching the trial. 

But this is not a BLOG about public policy nor even the civil trial. It's a BLOG about a father and his love for his son. About memory and a lasting legacy. About this incredibly powerful poem written by Ron Thomas for Kelly: 


To my son

A second trial has just begun
It's been over 4 years since I lost you my son

On that hot July night with such fright in your eyes
Those six murdering thugs beat you, until you were no longer alive

As citizens watched the horror unfold
All of them learning something--that none of us were told
The fact that those who took an oath to protect and serve
Could kill a man so brutally without any reserve

I often look back on all of the years----
We did so many things together,
And soon come my tears

So many times we played our guitars
Both of us knowing we wouldn't go far
And when we laughed so hard it hurt inside
Realizing that neither one of us could sing-----
Not knowing what July 5th, 2011 would bring

I spend every day seeking justice for you
My redheaded son with eyes of blue

I give you this promise, as your dad that is true
I will not rest a day until justice comes through

You cried out my name 31 times---
And within moments you were no longer alive

I will forever miss you, my heart always sad
Those 31 times you cried out--
Crying out for me-
Your dad

This is the only poem Ron Thomas has ever written.

Mental Health Justice for Kelly Thomas! 




Our mental health care system is a hot mess. That is so true, it is REALLY funny.

John Oliver is an Emmy-winning comedian. A British expatriate with a Midlands accent and a wry sense of humor, he uses comedy as a powerful tool of social satire. Last week, he brought up the topic of mental illness and its terrible misrepresentation by the media and politicians. Oliver spares no one of his humor and satire and covers nearly every topic related to how poorly our nation deals with mental illness. In this twelve-minute segment Oliver rants insightfully about:

I have linked to relevant sites concerning all of these issues, so you can have more information than the ranting of a really perceptive comic, but have excluded the pandering and hypocrisy of politicians and TV doctors because we all know about that (ha! ha!)

Finally, Mental Health Justice doesn't take a position on everything Oliver discusses. For instance, we have decided to refrain from entering the gun control conversation. We have made that decision because MHJ is an organization dedicated solely to advocating for needed mental reforms and against stigma and judgment, so the details of the 2nd Amendment are an issue that would distract from our non-partisan efforts.

Still, we do want to share this hilarious and more importantly insightful segment and let loose Oliver's expounding on how Cra Cra is the state of the U.S.'s mental health care system and how critical is the need for immediate reforms.

 Please enjoy John Oliver's humor.

 Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome.


It is Mental Health Awareness Week, so let us help Stop Stigma and Judgment.

It's Mental Health Awareness Week sponsored by the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI).  

Like many of you, I sometimes feel that the stigma and judgment prescribed by society to mental illness is so deep-seated that we will never overcome. Those feelings are understandable but they are wrong. We can and are overcoming stigma and judgment–we are doing so as community right here at mental health justice. Our greatest weapon against stigma and judgment is Telling Our Stories or promoting understanding through anecdote and honesty.  

To recognize Mental Health Awareness Week, we are asking all our members to take part in one of our Tell Our Stories campaigns.  There are several ways to do so:

  • Tell Your Story: You can send us a short video about your struggles with mental illness. 
  • Give Us Your Quote: You can send us a quote related to mental illness and we'll post. 
  • Send Your Poetry or Art Work: Please end us your mental health justice related poetry or art work.
  • Tell is WHY the Mental Health Justice community is making a difference in your life.

As a community, we have now surpassed 12,000 members in a bit over four months. That makes us the fastest growing Mental Health Advocacy organizations in the nation. We will continue to grow because we will continue to tell our stories. 

Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no justice. Everyone is welcome.


Her son had mental illness. He lost his struggle. Now, she is advocating. But, two Congressmen are not listening.

Laura Pogliano is on a mission. 

Last January, Laura Pogliano's son, Zac had a heart attack and died–losing his battle with schizophrenia. In large part, HIPAA* regulations, that prevented Laura from accessing critical treatment information concerning Zac, were to blame for her son's death. As Pogliano explained, "Once I lost control of my ability to monitor Zac's treatment things got bad quickly." 

Today, Laura Pogliano's on a mission. She's become an advocate and the president of Parents for Care, a mental health advocacy group concentrating on assisting parents with schizophrenic children.  And, she's staring down (figuratively, of course) two Congressmen–one Democrat and one Republican–for holding up critical and bipartisan mental health reform in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  They're Congressmen Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) and Fred Upton (R-Michigan). They are the two most powerful members of the committee. 

HR 2646 the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2015, sponsored by Representatives Tim Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) would emphasis: 

  • Promoting appropriate treatment for mentally ill individuals by treating their caregivers as personal representatives for purposes of HIPAA privacy regulations.
  • Screening and early intervention;
  • Community-based systems of care;
  • Enhancing the behavioral health workforce;
  • Innovation to develop new evidence-based programs;
  • Integration of health and behavioral health care;
  • Enforcement of parity in coverage between health and behavioral health services;
  • Incentives for Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) rather than mandates;
  • Elevation of behavioral health in the federal government, including increased coordination of services; and
  • Suicide prevention-based on the Garrett Lee Smith Act Reauthorization.

Like any piece of legislation HR 2646 isn't perfect. It doesn't deal with criminal justice or insurance parity issues. It is, however, a great start. 

I am sure you're asking how can you help. The answer is simple: call those two members and tell them to forward the bill to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health:

Congressman Frank Pallone's Office: (202) 225-4671

Congressman Fred Upton's Office: (202) 225-3761

You can also go to their respective Facebook pages and post your sentiments. 

Pallone's Facebook Page

Upton's Facebook Page

Please call as soon as humanly possible.  It's the least we could do for Zac and Laura, and everyone who suffers or cares for a person with mental illness.

Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome.



*HIPPA is the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.  A primary feature of the law is data privacy and security provisions designed to safeguard medical information.

Luigi Valdivieso Tells His Story

Luigi Valdivieso is a mental health counselor in private practice and a guidance counselor at Florida National University. He advises his clients how to create appropriate treatment plans for their mental illness.

A Peruvian immigrant, he also guides students along their path to achieving the American Dream. In this short video, he describes his process of offering treatment plans for his patients. 

Thank you Luigi for your advocacy. 

Mental Health Justice. No judgment, so stigma. Everyone is welcome. 


Is an eating disorder a mental illness?


Emily manages a wonderful Facebook Page called EMuzed. The project connects spiritual and emotional healing to the arts. 

At age thirteen, Emily started to recognize symptoms of mental illness.

Was she depressed or socially anxious? Did she begin to isolate herself from others? Well, a little of each but her main symptom was–she began to enthusiastically exercise. Having your child become obsessed with fitness is not the worst thing a parent can have happen to their thirteen-year old, right? Well, it is when the obsession is not with running a six-minute mile but rather with body type. The result? Emily was a fifty-seven pound 5' 6" walking skeleton. 

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
— The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders (ANAD)

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) there are three mental illness-related eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Related Disorders (ANAD) provides these facts: 

  • Up to 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S.
  • Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression.
  • Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. Only 35% of people that receive treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility for eating disorders.
  • Women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder. Only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.

An acute danger related to eating  disorders is that many of them manifest among individuals taking part in college level athletics. In fact, a comparison of the psychological profiles of athletes and those with anorexia found these common denominators:

  • Perfectionism.
  • High self-expectations.
  • Competitiveness.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Repetitive exercise routines.
  • Compulsiveness.
  • High level of drive. 
  • Tendency toward depression.
  • Body image distortion.
  • Pre-occupation with dieting and weight. 

I find it interesting how, as young adults, the triggers for eating disorders are the actual societal impulses that push us toward worshipping success; but in later life, the triggers that lead to more adult mental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar, PTSD etc. are often rooted in the reality that we have not achieved the successes we imagined in our youth. 

That leads us back to Emily Lasinsky.  Emily's video details her journey with the peaceful reasoning of a spiritual healer. A healer whose wisdom seems to be the wisdom of one far older than twenty-six years old. 

“No matter your title, no matter what you do, no matter what you accomplish–all that is good–but it doesn’t matter. Because no matter who you are–your character, your quirks, your personality, everything you are is enough.”
— Emily Lasinsky

Thank you Emily for Telling Your Story. You are a healer and a  powerful advocate for our community.

Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome.


A deep understand of depression. A must watch.

“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment.”
— Andrew Solomon

As part of our Mental Health in the Arts program, we offer this conversation by Andrew Solomon. Solomon is a prominent writer on culture and psychology. This discussion from TED TALKS is at the same time funny and difficult. Depression and anxiety are common to nearly all mental illness and Solomon tackles those twin dragons with extreme candor, 

At 13:15, Solomon gives a hilarious anecdote about how western mental health workers dealt with the Rwandan genocide. 

I really, really related to everything Andrew had to say. 

Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome. 


I was obsessed with suicide and death. Somehow, I survived.


Mental illness drove my obsession with suicide and death.

For years I have suffered from mental illness depression, anxiety, obsessive disorder etc.

A few years ago, I became obsessed with the idea of committing suicide. It was like a ghost that haunted my thoughts. Those thoughts were not­–what if or could I committed suicide? But when and how I would kill myself.

Because of my psychosis, I lost almost all communication and anger management skills. One day after working myself into a terrible frenzy, I got extremely upset. I barricaded myself in our bathroom. Out of desperation, my wife called the police. I was taken to a local hospital. 

First, I tried escaping. I was caught. I was then put into a room with a glass door, so the staff could observe me. I was forced into hospital gown to just sit with no human contact. 

Next to me was an IV stand. I decided this was my big chance. I lowered the IV, as far as it would go, until I hooked the back of my gown and then used my body weight to crash the unit to the ground. The next thing I remember someone shaking me screaming, "What are you trying to do?"  I figured that was obvious.

Then they forced me to lay in a hospital bed with restraints. I could see the male nurse that found me laughing at me behind the nurse's station. 

I was sent to a new hospital with a psyche ward. But the new hospital and its psyche ward could not stop my suicidal obsession. I tried to suffocate myself. I ended up under 24/7 suicide watch.  That wasn't fun and added to my anxiety.

Finally, I agreed to counseling. I was put on a drug regimen and when I was ready I was sent home. It was a terrible time but I did get better.

My wife remains terrified that one day she's going to come home to a dead body. I really can't blame her. But the truth is that I am no longer obsessed with suicide. I'm not sure why. Surely my meds have helped. I continue my counseling at a local mental health center.  

I am slowly realizing how many people in my family, especially my wife, were affected by my refusal to want or seek help. Today, I am grateful to the many mental health professionals and caregivers who gave of themselves to save me.

And most importantly, I know that if I ever feel my suicidal obsession returning–this time–I will seek help immediately and gladly.

We do get better. 

Gary Wightman, Belmont, New York



The poetry of mental illness. A project of Mental Health Justice.

A friend recommended the poem Explaining My Depression to My Mother by Sabrina Benaim. Wow! I'll leave it at that. Because anyone who has ever been depressed knows exactly what Sabrina is talking about. Powerful stuff! 

Thank you Sabrina Benaim.

We have been planning to launch a poetry of mental health project and Sabrina's poem motivated us to get the program going. If anyone has poems, written or as Spoken Word, you want to share about mental health please email them to info@mentalhealthjustice.net or go to our Sharing Page and send them from there. 

Thanks everyone. Art is such a powerful way to express truth and we are looking forward to your poems and Spoken Word. 

Mental health justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome. 


P.S. The poems that we'll be sharing will be written by everyone from amateurs to highly established writers. This is not a poetry forum but a place for everyone to share. So, please be tolerant and non-judgmental. 


We took a Stand Against Stigma. We brought the billboard down.

Kenneth Cole PR team cites Mental Health Justice Complaint for removal of inaccurate and stigmatizing billboard. 

Last week, a billboard posted by fashion designer Kenneth Cole linking gun violence and mental illness came to our attention. Mental Health Justice, along with other mental health advocates, was outraged by the insinuation that 40 million Americans with mental illness were somehow a threat to society by linking them with gun violence. 

We launched a campaign asking clothing designer Kenneth Cole to remove a billboard. We were clear that the billboard was misleading and played into stereotypes about mental illness that exacerbated stigma and judgment. Our efforts received national coverage in the mental health community. 

This weekend, Kenneth Cole's public relations team announced that the billboard would be removed.

“In hindsight, we were overly ambitious with our attempt to address two complex issues in a medium designed for brevity, and regret any confusion it has caused. The billboard on the West Side Highway will be replaced…”
— Kenneth Cole statement on billboard

The statement directly responded to a criticism that Mental Health Justice had articulated about the billboard:

(Mental Health Justice) also criticized the nature of the message — a billboard is meant to get people’s attention, fast. No matter Cole’s intent, simplifying an issue and targeting a population of people to get an emotional response is socially irresponsible.

— Mental Health Justice statement to themighty.com

Additionally, in an article in behavior.net it points out how mental health advocates were directing concerned individuals to the mental health justice BLOG post that gave instructions about how to take part in a grassroots campaign to get the billboard removed. 

The simple fact is OUR CAMPAIGN WORKED! Together, the Mental Health Justice community took a stand against stigma and judgment and we forced a very powerful person to admit he was wrong. 

I have been involved in public policy and politics for my entire professional career. It is so rare that the rich and powerful give in to the pressure of the people and admit their mistake. This is a great moment for the mental health community.  Let's give ourselves a giant hand.  

Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no Judgment. Everyone is welcome.

Thanks to everyone and congratulations. 


Thank you Zelda Williams. You inspired our community. So, we lit candles for suicide prevention and changed lives.

About nine months ago, I had an idea called "mental health justice." I didn't know exactly what it meant but I knew justice was important to the mental health community. I also knew because of societal stigma and judgment that achieving justice would not be easy. But I took my idea and made it into a mental health advocacy website mentalhealthjustice.net and an accompanying Facebook Page, Mental Health Justice.

Throughout the last many months, I have been privileged to bear witness to your stories, your lives, and those of your loved ones.  But this week has been like no other.  I am in sheer awe of the outpouring of activity to support suicide prevention. 

Our idea was born of this powerful quote shared by Zelda Williams, the daughter of the late Robin Williams. 

Her beautiful metaphor about the same yellow moon for all of us to share was inspirational.  Along with my communications team, we decided to launch a Virtual Candlelight Vigil Campaign–so, those who have experienced suicide in any way could light a candle for suicide prevention in observance of World Suicide Prevention Day. 

When we launched Virtual Candlelight Vigil Campaign, we did so believing we would have a powerful response. Boy, were we right! Our first member to send a lighted candle was Vicky Murphy of Florida. 


Thank you Vicky, you and Zelda Williams–started something special. In two days, thirty seven members lit candles and courageously told us a story in words and pictures about how suicide and mental illness has affected their lives.   

I, too, lit my candle for suicide prevention. 

I, too, lit my candle for suicide prevention. 

The swell of support and love for those stories is nothing short of breathtaking.  It seems that the news of the day accentuates what separates us as humans and people suffering in some way with mental illness.  What I learned this week is in spite of where we live, how old we are, what socioeconomic level we are at, or anything else–we are bound by a shared passion to care and help one another–to put an end to this epidemic of suicide and give hope to every single, lovely soul. 

I will end by posting this poignant video of the amazing act of compassion of a Raleigh, North Carolina police officer after saving a suicidal man from jumping off a bridge to his death. 

We are a community.  

We are Mental Health Justice.

No Stigma, no Judgment. Everyone is welcome.

Thank you.


Join the Mental Health Justice community, light your candle & help prevent suicide.

A lot of people have asked me about the picture that we often post.

I am holding a votive candle and smiling. The picture was taken earlier this year at a candlelight vigil to promote mental health awareness. The story of how I arrived at that candlelight vigil is long and a bit complicated. I talk about it in some detail in my Tell Your Story video, which I have reposted below for those of you interested. 

However, there is nothing in my story as important as the fact that on that day–mental health justice was born. I was determined to create a space where there was no judgment and no stigma. A place where everyone was open to talk about their illness, their on-going challenges and their recovery. 

I had no idea then that seven months later mentalhealthjustice.net would be one of the fastest growing mental health advocacy organizations in the nation.

On a very modest budget, we have grown our community to nearly 9,000 members. We were told by some so-called social media experts that 5,000 members was an ambitious but realistic goal for a year–if only we had twice the budget. 

I'd like to say, I proved them wrong. However, that would be wrong. It's all of us together as a mental health community that has proved them wrong. Still, we all know we're not here just to make abstract points about the size and power of our community–we are here to stop stigma, stop judgment and make a difference in people's lives. 

That's why we have launched our Virtual Candlelight Vigil Campaign in observance of World Suicide Prevention Day. The facts related to suicide are staggering.  

Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined.


According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention:

  • In 2013 (latest available data), there were 41,149 reported suicide deaths.
  • Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 15 and 64 years in the United States.
  • Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • A person dies by suicide about every 12.8 minutes in the United States.
  • Every day, approximately 112 Americans take their own life.
  • Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but three times as many females as males attempt suicide.
  • 494,169 people visited a hospital for injuries due to self-harm behavior, suggesting that approximately 12 people harm themselves (not necessarily intending to take their lives) for every reported death by suicide.

and Depression is the main cause: 

  • 25 million Americans suffer from depression each year.
  • Over 50 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression. If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent.
  • Depression affects nearly 5-8 percent of Americans ages 18 and over in a given year.
  • More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.
  • Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment, and almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms. But first, depression has to be recognized.

To do our part for World Suicide Prevention Day...

...we are asking all our members to join in our virtual candlelight vigil. Simply take a picture of yourself with a burning candle. Then:

  1. Post the picture to our Facebook Page and please include a message if you'd like. 
  2. Send us the picture at info@mentalhealthjustice.net and we will post it. 
  3. Post this suicide hotline prevention poster on your Facebook page. 
  4. Please feel free to post through Sunday, September 13th. 

Many of us have known a loved one or a friend that has committed suicide.

And almost all of us (if we're honest with ourselves) has had a thought related to suicide. When one is severely depressed the line between suicide and hope can be very thin. Often an understanding and supportive voice is what one needs to overcome their despair and continue living a purposeful life. 

Please join our Virtual Candlelight Vigil Campaign and let those suffering from the despair of suicidal thoughts know that there are many, many people who care and we are there for them.

Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome.



The Daughter of Robin William, Zelda, Reaches Out, As World Suicide Prevention Day Approaches.

Zelda Williams, the daughter of Robin Williams is speaking out about depression and offering hope for those suffering from the mental illness. Her powerful quote from her Instagram site is affirmation of her grief but also of her desire to encourage others.  

I have been diagnosed with Severe Depression, so this issue is very personal. I am living proof that one can overcome their illness and continue to live purposefully–in spite of the challenges that come with depression.

I believe awareness and openness are the mothers of recovery. That's why we are so committed to our Tell Your Story video campaign and why we regularly post insightful quotes from our mentalhealthjustice.net members. 

Dolores at mental health awareness candlelight vigil this year.

Dolores at mental health awareness candlelight vigil this year.

Join our Online Candle Light Vigil Campaign for Suicide Awareness 

To do our part for World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, 2015, we are asking all our members to join in our virtual candlelight vigil. Simply take a picture of yourself with a burning candle. Then:

  1. Post the picture to our Facebook Page and please include a message if you'd like. 
  2. Send us the picture at info@mentalhealthjustice.net and we will post it. 
  3. Post this suicide hotline prevention poster on your Facebook page. 

Thank you Zelda, you are very brave. Yes, there are enough yellow moons for all of us to share. 

Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome. 


I am disgusted with this billboard. Twisted facts lead to twisted stigma.

When it comes to the issue of gun violence in America both anti-and-pro gun lobbies have found a scapegoat–anyone with mental illness.

The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters—people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them,”
— NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre

This is obviously a disgustingly and sensationalized portrayal that plays into the stigma in a very intense way. But the pro-gun rights folks aren't the only guilty parties. Now the anti-gun folks are using mental illness to promote their cause. This billboard sponsored by apparel company Kenneth Cole and promoted by the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence is equally as disgusting and inaccurate.

Here is a very good article from The American Prospect that discusses how dangerous these stereotypes or stigmas can be. 

We all know that in some cases mentally ill people can commit violent acts. But taken as a whole, mental illness is no more of an indicator for violence than other demographic and social characteristics.  Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine discusses Myth VS. Facts in this article from the website Propublica.com

If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, that would be wonderful, but overall violence would go down by only about 4 percent.”
— Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, Duke University School of Medicine,

So, why all the bullying from the pro-and-anti gun people? As someone who has been in the public policy arena for nearly thirty years, I can say with confidence the only reason advocacy organizations publicly pick on anyone is that they see them as an easy target. In this case they're wrong!

So what can we do? 

I would say let's keep this simple and concentrate on putting pressure on Kenneth Cole and The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to remove the billboard.

Here's what we suggest:

  • Let everyone know you are a member of mentalhealthjustice.net. Being from an organization can be more powerful than protesting individually. We consider a member anyone that has liked our Facebook page. And please, no matter which option you choose, communicate in a respectful and calm manner. Together, we are strong!


  1. Contact the organization online.
  2. Email Kenneth Cole's media contact Danielle Hirschberg and the Brady Campaign's Brendan Kelly the suggested language from below:  dhirschberg@kennethcole.com and  bkelly@bradymail.orgmedia@bradymail.org
  3. I would also suggest to CC their Director of Development, Valerie Mullen Pletcher on all messages: vpletcher@bradymail.org. They need to know their misconceived attacks on us, the mental health community, can create a branding problem. 
  4. Call Kenneth Cole's Danielle Hirschberg at (212) 315-8257 and Brady Campaign's at (202) 370-8100. They probably won't forward you to them, so ask if you can leave a message and use the suggested language below to craft your message. 
  5. Go to their Facebook Pages (Kenneth Cole & Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence). For Kenneth Cole register your views on posts most recently on August 26, 2015 at 6:00 PM by fellow activist Jinnah Mohammed.  On the Brady Page scroll down to the billboard on their post dated August 28, 2015 at 2:49 PM and use the proposed language to craft a protest message. 
  6. On Twitter let's join the already established boycott movement and tweet your views at ‪#‎BoycottKennethCole‬.
  7. Finally, share your disapproval of this campaign with friends and family. This is a great teaching moment for all of us. The more people know that The Stigma and The Judgment are based on stereotypes– the more we are doing to bring them to an end. 

Dear Ms. Hirschberg and Mr. Kelly,

I am a person (or friend or family member of) who suffers with mental illness (depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, PTSD etc.).  I am a member of Mental Health Justice.

I am calling to strongly object to a recent billboard campaign sponsored by Kenneth Cole and promoted by The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. The campaign suggest that the 40 million Americans, like myself, are more prone to gun violence and therefore create a danger to society.

The truth is people with mental illness are more of a danger to themselves (30,000 suicides annually) than they are to others.

Again, please remove the billboards immediately and stop inaccurately portraying mental illness and perpetuating societal stigma against our community. 

Thank you. 

Please make your calls & send your emails today.

The faster we move the sooner they will remove the billboards.

Mental Health Justice. Working together, we can stop the stigma and the judgment. 









Your Video Saved My Life.

I don’t know Evan C. Miller.
I just know–he’s very brave!”
— Dolores Sanchez, Founder/Mental Health Justice

Mentalhealthjustice.net is a nationwide grassroots community. Because we are a young organization, we have limited resources. Nonetheless, we are thriving, and as of today, we are more than 8,000 members strong. Our members are from nearly every state in the United States and from all demographic groups–that growth has happened in less than three-months online.

We believe we are making a difference by taking on mental illness stigma and judgment head on. 

We are doing so by:

  • Posting relevant mental health information on our BLOG several times a week.  
  • Steering those who reach out for help to the proper mental health organizations.
  • Having our members "Tell Their Stories" in the form of a video narrative.
  • Having our members "Share Their Quotes" or insights about their mental health experience. We, in turn, share those quotes on our Facebook Page. 
  • Having mental health advocates and professionals write a guest BLOG. 

We aspire to grow and expand. That growth will include:

  • A member "Share Your Poetry" program. 
  • A member "Share Your Artwork" program.
  • Introducing our mentalhealthjustice.net advisory team to our membership.
  • Adding some mentalhealthjustice.net members to our advisory team. 

Those are just a few of the programs we will be adding to our site for the benefit of the mental health community.


...if, we never post one more article or inspirational quote, if no one ever Likes our Page again, if tomorrow Facebook and Twitter cancel our accounts– the fact that Evan C. Miller got on our site, viewed Lori Bernstein's powerful "Share Your Story" video (posted on August 26, 2015), and it had the impact it did on him–makes the mentalhealthjustice.net project a resounding success! 

Evan C. Miller, you are brave beyond words, Lori Bernstein, your story of recovery and hope are incredible and inspirational, and you both represent what Mental Health Justice truly means! 




"Share Your Quote" campaign kicks off.

Many times, we read quotes concerning mental illness and mental health from celebrities or historical figures and we are inspired.

However, at mentalhealthjustice.net, we believe it's everyday people who are struggling to recover from mental illness who have the greatest insight. 

To make sure everyone can contribute their wisdom, we have started a "Share Your Quote" campaign to accompany our "Share Your Story" video campaign. 

We start our campaign with this wonderful and insightful quote from Mental Health Justice member Kimberly Fernandez.

Get On The Road To Living Well

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is one of the largest mental health organization in the nation. They provide well-researched and user friendly-information.

I was really impressed with these posters they produced for their series "On the road to living well" aimed at young people dealing with mental health issue for the first time. Please share them with any young person you believe is manifesting symptoms of mental illness. 

Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome. 


Was Kelly Thomas Beaten to Death Because He Was A Man With Schizophrenia?

In a more perfect world, there’d be more mental health outreach workers who go into the streets and steer clients back to supportive housing programs, where they can get the counseling and other help they need. Families can do only so much,
and desperately need backup.”
— Ron Thomas, father of Kelly Thomas

In a perfect world, Kelly Thomas would still be with us today. Perhaps, the amicable redhead would have overcome years of battling schizophrenia, taking the right meds and nudging toward recovery. Maybe he'd be walking the streets of Fullerton, California–with his friend and advocate Leigh White–to offer mental health and safety advice to the local homeless population? Or maybe Kelly would still be wandering the streets, playing his guitar, wearing his signature cowboy hat, and sleeping at local parks–still struggling–but very much alive? 

But, we do not live in a perfect world. On a warm July evening in downtown Fullerton, local police responding to a false report of a vagrant breaking into cars–arrived quickly, subdued Thomas forcibly, and proceeded to beat him to death. The assault was savage. So much so, Kelly's friends and family simply could not recognize his swollen, bloodied and pummeled face as he lie dying in his hospital bed. 

The stories of what happened that night and who was culpable for Kelly's death vary greatly from version-to-version. Everyone seems to have their own truth: the police, eyewitnesses allegedly covering up, eyewitnesses said to be whistleblowing, Kelly's family and friends and local homeless advocates. 

To tell the whistleblowers, family and advocates version, Ron Thomas, a former police officer, member of the military, and father of Kelly Thomas has produced a documentary titled, "Murder in Fullerton, the Kelly Thomas Story." 

Written, Produced and Directed by Ron Thomas and Del Weston

Written, Produced and Directed by Ron Thomas and Del Weston

It's obvious that Kelly's family and local homeless advocates, like Leigh White, believe Kelly was murdered at the hands of three Fullerton Police officers. And, when an outside observer looks st the facts, it also seems obvious. However, each of the officers involved was acquitted. Two by a jury and one had charges of excessive force dropped. A manager at a local bar who allegedly called police and misreported that Thomas was breaking into cars was never prosecuted. So yes, the question of whether Kelly Thomas was murdered because he was a man with schizophrenia is as relevant today as ever? Let's dig deeper. 

Did mental illness stigma kill Kelly Thomas? 

Usually when we think about the stigma attached to mental illness–we think about a family member or work associate giving you that "You're just crazy look" or a movie stereotyping a mentally ill person as completely irrational and flying over the cuckoo's nest.

Because it's complicated, we only sometimes think about the "trickle down effect" mental illness stigma has on society as a whole, especially as related to public safety and social safety nets. To be sure, our institutions–from law enforcement to local public health agencies– all have a profound impact on the day-to-day reality of the many suffering from mental illness, especially in how the mentally ill are treated in crisis situations. 

All of those questions have widespread consequences for the mental health community. Clearly, the need for reforms is acute. As much as I'd like to begin to enumerate the long list of necessary reforms, I think exploring the reforms that have arisen since Thomas' death is more appropriate. After all, we all desperately want to believe Kelly's death had some transcendent meaning. When we look at the ways law enforcement is changing the means, by which, it deals with calls related to mental illness–we can be encouraged that perhaps our hopes are becoming reality:


A fundamental change in attitude. 

“That means if we’ve got to take somebody to jail, we’ll take them to jail,” Scott said. “But when we need to be empathetic and we need to be human, we’ve got to do that too.”
— LAPD, Deputy Chief Bill Scott

This article from the Los Angeles Times articulates a fundamental shift in how law enforcement is being trained to deal with communities. Arising from forward looking departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department, is a pedagogy that preaches the gospel of police as community guardians and not soldiers in a war zone. This attitude is critical to de-escalating any mental health crisis.    

LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck discusses more humane and effective ways to diffuse crisis situations.  

LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck discusses more humane and effective ways to diffuse crisis situations.  


The will to keep the mentally ill out of the CRIMINAL JUSTICE system is growing. 

There is just such a profound need for alternative ways to deal with individuals who come into the criminal justice system with mental health issues.”
— Montgomery County State’s Attorney, John McCarthy

In Montgomery County, Maryland prosecutors are looking into the possibility of opening a stand alone mental health court. Their reasoning is sound. They believe rates of recidivism among the mentally ill are just too high and that a mental health court that steers folks toward treatment, housing and job placement services is a more effective approach than a turnstile of incarceration. 


Implementing 'The Memphis Model." An intelligent, humane approach to dealing with the mentally ill.

More than one million people with schizophrenia and manic-depressive illness are not being treated on any given day. These individuals are more likely to experience homelessness, suicide, incarceration, victimization, and violence.
— www.citinternational.org

I worked as a legislative advocate (I always hated the term lobbyist, too much stigma. ha ha!) for teachers and classified educational workers for more than twenty-five years. In that time, I saw a lot of reforms come and go. The first thing you notice when a reform really takes root it that it gets a nickname–Three-Strikes, Obamacare, Standardized Testing etc. So, I was excited when I first saw the term 'The Memphis Model' pop us in several articles about mental illness and criminal justice reform.

The 'Memphis Model' is based on the idea of diversion. In other words, instead of arresting, booking and prosecuting individuals with mental illness they are 'diverted' to treatment programs where they can get the help they need. This approach has been cost effective– as it saves taxpayers the high cost of incarcerating individuals–and of course, it has improved public safety in the areas where it is being implemented. 


 From the shadow of scandal to light of reform, from the shame of abuse to the glory of dignity. 

It presents an opportunity to close the book on challenges of the past and be able to write a new chapter in the treatment of those suffering from mental illness,”
— Los Angeles County Sheriff, Jim McDonnell

A year ago, The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department was mired in scandal. The list of ethical offenses is long but the biggest indictment–of the now retired LA County Sheriff Lee Baca's Department– was their treatment of the mentally ill in the county's jail system. Fast forward a year and to newly elected Sheriff Jim McDonnell and change is emerging from the shadowy cocoon of scandal like a monarch butterfly.

Of course, many of these beautiful butterflies of change are being forced on the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department by the Department of Justice. Motivation and intent aside, these changes are indeed substantive.

They include:

  • Additional steps to recognize, assess and treat prisoners with mental illness, from intake to discharge
  • Significant new training on crisis intervention and interacting with prisoners with mental illness for new and existing custody staff
  • Improved documentation in prisoners’ medical and mental health records to ensure continuity of care.
  • Improved communication between custody and mental health staff and increased supervision of mentally ill and suicidal prisoners.
  • Steps to mitigate suicide risks within the jails.
  • Increased access to out-of-cell time for mentally ill prisoners.
  • Improved investigation and critical self-analysis of suicides, suicide attempts and other critical events.

Listen to NPR story of mental health reforms in LA County Jails.

It's not just LA County that is changing–across the United States law enforcement is beginning to deal with crisis encounters with the mentally ill with greater intelligence and deeper compassion. 

Saint Louis County is more than 1,700 miles from Eugene, Oregon yet the 'Memphis Model' of dealing with the mentally ill is being implemented in both localities. 

Click the picture above to read about how Eugene,OR police are changing their approach to dealing with a mental health crisis. 

Click the picture above to read about how Eugene,OR police are changing their approach to dealing with a mental health crisis. 

Click on story above to link to a TV news story covering Saint Louis County Police mental health reforms. 

Click on story above to link to a TV news story covering Saint Louis County Police mental health reforms. 

I find it interesting how the Saint Louis TV news reporter opens her segment by using words like "stigma" and phrases like "we don't talk about it too much." 


The legacy of Kelly Thomas 

Since, I do not know Ron Thomas personally it's hard for me to make the judgment if all of these reforms provide him any solace. I tend to think answer is probably yes. But how can Mr. Thomas not help but think?– "If only mental health reforms were implemented in Fullerton before July, 2011. If only, my son would still be alive."

This all begs answering the tough question "Was Kelly Thomas beaten to death because he was homeless and had schizophrenia–if the answer is 'YES" then who is to blame?

To me, there are many people and institutions to blame for Kelly's death–the police officers who beat him, their commanding officers that failed to train them properly, those who tried to cover up the facts, Orange County's Adult Mental Health Services who failed to train local police departments, the Orange County Board of Supervisors, the Fullerton City Council, the list goes on and on. So much so one can easily modify the words of the old Rolling Stones song and sing, "Shouted Out. Who killed Kelly Thomas? When after all it was you, me and society's stigma."

The only non-guilty parties in the death of Kelly Thomas are, of course, his family and friends, like homeless advocate, poet and artist, Leigh White. We wish them blessings in finding justice for Kelly by educating all of us to the facts of the horrible injustice against their son and friend. 

We would like them to know what when we talk about Mental Health Justice– we absolutely mean justice for your gentle, redheaded, and mentally ill son and friend, Kelly Thomas. RIP. 

“Dad! Dad!”
— The last words of Kelly Thomas. A video recording of the event captured him screaming the words, as he was being tasered five times by Fullerton Police Officers. The officers had already inflicted the beating from which he would eventually die.

Getting fundaMENTALLY Prepared for Another School Year, Campus Advocates Reach Out.



Georgetown University mental health advocates launch national student advocacy campaign. 

for more information visit www.collegefundamental.com

for more information visit www.collegefundamental.com

Back to School can be challenging—it’s the end of beaches, campfires, and filling your time with exactly what you want to be doing. It’s time to get your head back into the academic game—ready or not.

What many students and parents don’t consider while picking out new pencils and folders at a local chain store is the tremendous toll that Back to School can also take on a student's mental health. Crowded living spaces, social pressures, hours of studying in the library, test stress—it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.


Mental health concerns in college populations have been on the rise in past years. This year, in 2015, anxiety surpassed depression as the top mental illness found on campuses nationwide. According to data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four college students will deal with a diagnosable mental health problem during their time away at school.

This said, DON’T let mental health control your path for the next four years! Here are some tips for creating a good campus environment for both your body and your mind.

For new college students:

  1. Fake it ‘Til You Make It: While a cliché, this simple mantra has the power to entirely change how you approach your new school’s social scene. When meeting your peers for the first time, project the best version of yourself. It’s a lesson learned from personal experience that if you assume that no one will like you, then you will act as if no one likes you, and then (guess what?) others won’t want to be around you. Instead, even if you are shy as can be, spend your first semester putting yourself out there. Invite a floor mate to lunch! Ask the guy next to you in class to study with you. You might not find your “people” immediately—chances are you might not find them for a while—but campus starts to feel a lot less intimidating with a bunch of friendly faces!
  2. Follow the Map: Getting comfortable with different locations on campus early on will save you A LOT of stress down the road. In particular, figure out where to find your school’s Mental Health Center, as well as how it works. College FundaMENTAL has begun to collect information on various campus Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPs) around the country—so far, our resource should give you a good sense of just how varied these services can be. Specifics for your college are also available on the school website, so make sure to take a look. Often, you won’t realize how much you need this knowledge until you do.

For returning students:

  1.  Learn the Balancing Act: Find a happy medium between socializing and studying. There is nothing worse for your mental health than spending hour after hour alone in your room, listening to the sounds of other students all around you. Conversely, procrastinating all day with activities and conversation will leave you stressed and anxious when it comes time to get down to business. Figure out a schedule that works for you—one that includes dinner with friends after a couple of hours quietly working in the library—and embrace your routine!
  2. Put Down That Cell Phone: Technology might make a lot of things easier, but concentration is not one of them. Constantly checking your phone for messages increases both your anxiety and the amount of time it takes you to finish a task. Facebook and Instagram, while great ways to keep up with friends, can also fuel depressing thoughts and feelings of loneliness. It isn’t necessary to avoid your cell all together, but PLEASE limit your clicks per minute. You will feel so much better when you do!

For parents:

  1. Be an At-Home Counselor: Although you should encourage your young adult to head to the counseling center if something seems very wrong, you yourself are also an essential resource. Make sure that your child feels comfortable calling home when things get tough. College students need parents to be people that they can trust not to judge or ignore them—it takes a lot of trust to open up to someone about what is going on inside your head. Be someone who will LISTEN and CARE.
  2. Become a Student of Mental Health:  Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you’re done learning. Take some time to read about the most common mental health disorders on college campuses—anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc.—so that you can be a ready resource for your college student. Understanding the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses is so important for helping your loved ones, as is having the RIGHT information to build an educated understanding. There are so many wonderful resources out there for mental health, so no excuses!

Good luck to everyone in the coming academic year!

College fundaMental

College FundaMENTAL is looking to help students share their stories of struggle and triumph with mental health while allowing them to explore a collection of experiences similar to their own. What you choose to share with us is up to you–We understand how difficult it can be to tell your story and that each person tells his or hers in a different way. CFM also want to start a conversation about the current state of college counseling centers: what works, what doesn’t, and how the system can be improved. Come #GetMental with us at collegefundamental.com

Hall of Fame defensive end✓,moody teammate✓,bipolar✓, in recovery✓!

For every San Francisco Forty Niners fan, the day Hall of Fame defensive end, Charles Haley, was traded to the Dallas Cowboys was a dark one. If you were a Cowboy fan–that day was nothing but sunshine. After all, Charles Haley was one of the greatest pass rushers in NFL history. As proof, he was a large cog in the wheel of five Super Bowl championship teams–two with the 49ers and two with the Cowboys. 

Still, Haley was never the most popular personality in the locker room. He was most often described as either very jubilant, to the point of being obnoxious, or very somber to the point of being dour.  Sound familiar? 

What Charles Haley didn't know about himself was that he was suffering from bipolar disorder. A disease he was most likely afflicted with from a very young age. After his career and marriage were over, Charles got the therapy and medication he so desperately need.

He talks about his experiences with bipolar disorder starting at 3:18 in the following video from his courageous and humorous, Hall of Fame speech. 

Thank you Charles Haley for sharing.

Mental Health Justice. No stigma, no judgment. Everyone is welcome.