Enforced Treatment vs. Prison for Acute Mental Patients and Updates, by Mary Neal
The unfortunate girl in this video is obviously disturbed, just as the caption says. People like this child illustrate the reason for my advocacy for the 1.25 million mentally disabled PRISONERS in America who should have better options for inpatient care, and mandates for continuous outpatient treatment upon release from hospitals. Across America, mental hospitals are closing. This child does not belong in jail, but that is probably where she is now or soon will be, because homelessness, jail, and death are this country's current answers to mental illness.
Many schizophrenic and bi-polar persons, as well as people suffering post traumatic stress disorder and other mental dysfunctions, may experience intense psychotic episodes if not receiving treatment. Sometimes, their psychosis results in self-inflicted injuries and suicides and murders of innocent people. Most often, however, the mentally ill do not actually harm anyone, but imagine the trauma to these people -- the anguish they must feel!
It takes no special training in psychiatry or psychology to see that the child in this video suffers from extreme paranoia. She feels threatened by a fellow passenger on the train, an elderly woman. Later, the girl accused another passenger of being someone who raped her. Perhaps the child really has been raped by someone in her past -- some people take advantage of the mentally ill, many of whom wander in our society vulnerable and unprotected. See http://wrongfuldeathoflarryneal.com
Why does America keep closing its mental institutions? This trend has resulted in our current overcrowded prison conditions and put a tremendous and unnecessary burden on our criminal justice system. Do you believe the child in this video needs rehabilitation, or treatment? Do you believe that if someone asks her if she would like to accept mental health treatment that she would agree to same? From years of visiting the mental asylum where my schizophrenic brother was, I can assure you of one fact: Many, if not most, acutely mentally ill persons do not acknowledge, believe, or accept that they are sick, especially not during a psychotic episode.
Could it be that mental institutions closing and the barriers to mental health treatment are allowed in order to deliberately increase prison populations for the sake of owners and stockholders of private prisons? Certainly, this would be too cruel to imagine. Consider the article by Dr. Posner, link below:
Original Content at
September 9, 2007
Your Children and Friends are Dying in Prison--here's why
by Moss David Posner, M.D. -- I was a physician with the California Department of Corrections for almost five years, before I was forced out. I’m putting my burden down now. I’m out of the picture, but I want to say a few things to you.
I believe it is UNFAIR to ask a person who is obviously delusional if she WANTS mental health services. This decision should not be hers to make. I believe it is unfair to punish a person in this mental state for anything she does wrong - she would obviously be not guilty for reason of insanity. If police had stormed the train, would they have thought the paper in the girl's hand was a knife and possibly shot her? Suppose the child also has a heart condition. If she is ever Tasered for erratic behavior, would that kill her? How often are taxpayers asked to bear the burden of lawsuits for wrongful death of mentally ill persons who died in restraint chairs, by Taser, or as a result of possible excessive force by police officers? Would it not be much more reasonable to increase the availability of mental health services -- inpatient and outpatient -- and to relax the barriers to mental health care for those who may not recognize their own need for treatment?
Many law officers would like to get back to fighting crime and cease from being the nation's psychiatric caretakers. Let us please join together to see that we offer better than homelessness, jail, and death to our mentally disable citizens
SURVEY: PRISONS OR HOSPITALS?
http://www.surveymo nkey.com/ s.aspx?sm= eBWphMwXQnxAi6m_ 2bLKqUEw_ 3d_3d
People who are currently imprisoned for exhibiting such behavior are convicted for breaking laws such as the girl in the video may have committed: disturbing the peace, public nuisance, perhaps assault on the elderly commuter. So mental health organizations that object to enforced hospitalization unless someone has proven to be a danger to himself or others (meaning smoking guns and dripping knives) should have NOTHING TO SAY when mentally ill prisoners, who have already forfeited their right to freedom and self-determination, are hospitalized instead of serving prison terms that can do nothing to rehabilitate them. Neither can sick people be punished into a state of mental health.
Below is a link to a HealthTalk interview with William B. Lawson, M.D., Ph.D., Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Howard University College of Medicine. Research shows African-Americans are more likely than other groups to feel stigmatized by mental illness. Listen as Dr. Lawson answers questions posed by mental health experts and African-American community leaders as they examine how to promote change.
African-Americans and the Stigma of Mental Illness
Listen to the replay
UPDATE 5/13/08 -- DISTURBED YOUNG WOMAN IN VIDEO PLACED UNDER ARREST FOR HAVING BI-POLAR CRISIS ON ATLANTA TRAINI first wrote a week ago about a young lady who appeared to be in the grips of a psychotic episode, which was captured on film. The video was moved to You Tube, where it was very widely viewed. Many of the people commenting on the video on You Tube were very critical of the young woman, who her family reports is bi-polar and off her medications. Even acutely mentally ill persons now have the right to decide whether or not to accept treatment for their conditions, and unfortunately, the young lady is like many persons who are too ill to make wise decisions in this area. Therefore, she has now joined the 1.25 million mental patients in our criminal justice system.
Rather than enforcing treatment, which makes sense to me, the State now has the duty to incarcerate Nafiza Ziyad, provide her an attorney (if she cannot afford an attorney and requests one), hold expensive court hearings and/or a trial, and perhaps then incarcerate her for the length of her sentence. The expense her arrest creates for taxpayers, Nafiza's trauma during incarceration, and much stress to her family could and should have been avoided IF ONLY we had sensible laws in our country giving families the right to dictate psychiatric treatment for mentally ill family members BEFORE mental patients prove themselves to be a danger to self and others.
Nafiza has now joined the 1.25 million mentally ill people who are already imprisoned in our great country, which fights for human rights around the world. Please pray with me that she does not come to harm. Each year, mental patients are Tasered or placed in Restraint Chairs in jails and prisons across our country, killing some. When prisoners die under these circumstances, taxpayers are often required to bear the additional burden of paying lawsuits brought by families who were essentially denied the opportunity to save their loved ones by enforcing psychiatric treatment.
If I could afford it, I would like to track Nafiza's as she progresses through the legal system and record the emotional and mental stress she undergoes as a mental patient criminalized for her disability. I would like to be able to report to you how long it takes for her to be assessed for her mental condition and prescribed any medications she may need. (Some mental patients are kept behind bars for months without psychiatric assessment and treatment, although this may not happen to Nafiza, especially since we are sharing the information.) For the sake of those who have little or no consideration for Nafiza and her family who are very worried and suffering tonight, I would also like to track the expense that Nafiza's criminalization causes taxpayers in Georgia for her arrest, incarceration pending trial, attorney fees, hearing(s), trial, and further incarceration, if she is sentenced to serve time. It would be interesting to compare the expense of this exercise (criminalizing Nafiza's mental illness) to the possible expense that her enforced psychiatric treatment would have entailed.
People like Nafiza do not usually vote, so please take the survey above and register your opinion about criminalizing mental illness. Participants' identities are protected by the survey company, and even I will not have contact data for you unless you choose to enter it onto one of the fields in the survey. Also, consider working together with me to fund Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill ("AIMI") so that we can be better prepared to gather and report data to bring an end to such injustice and unnecessary expenditure of taxpayer dollars.
It appears to me that the only people who really stand to gain by the continuation of withholding treatment to our nation's mental patients unless/until they prove to be a danger to selves and others are possibly those who invest in private prisons.
Here is a link to the news story regarding Nafiza’s arrest: http://www.ajc.com/news/content/metro/dekalb/stories/2008/05/13/marta_0514.html
YouTube video leads to MARTA arrest
Young woman shown pitching a fit, threatening elderly woman on train
By Ariel Hart
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
MARTA officials said they have arrested Nafiza Ziyad, 25, as the result of an online video in which a young woman appears to be threatening an elderly woman on a MARTA train. The video, posted on YouTube two weeks ago, has drawn more than 7,000 comments on the site and been viewed 600,000 times.
UPDATE 5-14-08 -- TELEVISED INTERVIEW with Nafiza Ziyad's mother. Mom said her daughter suffers extreme depression and bi-polar disorder, but will not take her meds because she does not want to acknowedge her mental health problems. See link below:
UPDATE 7-17-08~~~Nafiza Ziyad was released from DeKalb County Jail on May 30, which was 22 days following her arrest. Nafiza now lives in a personal care home for the mentally ill. Her court-appointed attorney, Derek Gage, said Ziyad will be monitored in the care home to ensure that she stays on her medication. This is good news.
Nafiza’s Brother apologized on You Tube for his sister’s outburst on the MARTA train. More than 90,000 people have viewed the video below wherein Nafiza’s brother issued a sincere apology to the elderly passenger his sister verbally assaulted during her bi-polar crisis, and he explained Nafiza’s condition to the public. He asked the public to refrain from making fun of his sister and holding her accountable for her disability. He requested prayers for Nafiza and his family. Select the link below to see his video:
Unfortunately, millions of people actually found amusement in Nafiza’s bi-polar disorder, and they responded by making music videos depicting her loss of control. In fact, You Tube has been inundated with video submissions presenting musical re‑mixes of Nafiza’s bi‑polar episode. The public has dubbed Nafiza “Soulja Girl” and proceeded to re-enact her train crisis in one-woman plays; mini musicals with dancing train passengers; and cartoons, including Bart Simpson presentations. The original video of Nafiza’s crisis has been viewed almost 3 million times. Several of the reenactments have received over 200,000 hits, which illustrates the public’s willingness to be entertained by mental illness. Below is one such video, a despicable, yet very popular, presentation wherein Nafiza’s crisis was set to music:
When it comes to mental illness, not only do many people find it socially acceptable to ridicule the victims of the disorder and their families, but violence toward the mentally ill is also apparently permissible. After MARTA officials were made aware of Nafiza’s bi‑polar crisis, she was immediately tracked down and arrested for her public display of bi-polar disorder. But apparently, the man who physically assaulted Nafiza on the train was not held accountable for his violent reaction to her illness. Even some police officers participate in and excuse violence against people who are considered mentally ill or otherwise socially deviant. See a videotape of police abuse against a detainee who fails to meet society standards of “normal” at the link below.
Many physically disabled or disfigured people know what it is like to be the brunt of jokes and other acts of cruelty. This happens especially to disabled or disfigured children, whose peers may not yet grasp the pain they inflict on their less fortunate classmates with physical impairments. By the time most children grow up, however, they no longer find hilarity in another person’s limp or facial scar. No rational adult laughs when she sees a person in a wheelchair. Regarding mental illness, however, it is apparently considered socially acceptable to ridicule persons like Nafiza.
Surprisingly, many people are willing to blame the mentally ill for being sick in the first place, perhaps including Nafiza’s attorney. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Mr. Gage said of Nafiza, "She's doing very well. She's obviously extremely embarrassed about the fact that this video was so widely seen by so many people. But I think it's also kind of become a stimulus for her to take a little more responsibility in her life.”
It would appear that Mr. Gage is saying that the humiliation that Nafiza and her family presently endure with millions of people witnessing and laughing about her illness has been good for Nafiza. What would make anyone believe that someone who is already mentally disturbed is actually helped by undergoing the kind of negative notoriety that Nafiza has to endure? That notion is ridiculous in the extreme.
The public’s attitude appears to be that Nafiza got what she deserved for daring to have a bi‑polar crisis in public. I protest the erroneous presumption that if mentally ill people like Nafiza and my brother were sufficiently punished for their conditions, they would improve themselves. This dangerous notion is likely why my brother is dead today, and is behind the deaths of many other mental patients who perished in restraint chairs, by Taser guns, or are presently locked away in our nation’s prisons. Mentally ill people do not need self-improvement lessons – they need and deserve our care and protection. I would like for Mr. Gage and others who share his opinion to know that mentally ill people like his client are not to blame for their disabilities, but rather, blame the mental health laws that withhold treatment from patients who are too sick to recognize they need psychiatric care.
NEWSFLASH: It’s the SYSTEM that is crazy. No one enforced Nafiza’s psychiatric treatment until now, and the enforced treatment is likely to end as soon as she leaves the personal care home where she was ordered instead of prison. Fortunately, it was rolled paper in Nafiza’s hand and not a knife that could be used to stab the elderly commuter. If this had occurred, the District Attorney’s office might not be willing to forego pursuing maximum charges against Nafiza for her crime. Maximum sentencing for mentally ill persons is quite the norm in America. Thank God the system is showing signs of improvement.
Fortunately, with the U.S. Senate voting overwhelmingly in favor of the Medicare Mental Health Parity Bill (H.R. 6331) on July 9, it would appear that some of the barriers to treatment are beginning to crumble. Another exciting development is USA Today’s report that the number of accused felons found incompetent to stand trial has increased by 50% within the past year in 10 of America's largest states. With judges refusing to hold mentally ill citizens criminally responsible for their actions, states are forced to find feasible alternatives to using jails and prisons to warehouse mentally ill citizens. Additionally, some state legislatures have relaxed involuntary commitment standards somewhat, allowing easier access to psychiatric treatment for those who need it but will not willingly submit to same. There is still much work to be done to decriminalize mental illness, remove barriers to treatment, and destroy the stigma attached to disorders of the mind. However, much progress is being made by our judiciary and our elected officials.
The problem is that judges and elected officials can only change the laws and release necessary funding to treat the mentally ill. They cannot legislate public attitude. There is such a negative stigma attached to mental illness, particularly among African Americans, that everyone should understand why many acute mental patients deny their illness.
Remember when it was taboo to discuss domestic violence issues or admit to being a victim of child abuse, incest, or spousal abuse? After many people came forward and began to publicly disclose these occurrences, much of the stigma attached thereto was removed, and victims of abuse more often seek legal recourse and assistance following these crimes than their counterparts did two decades ago. Hopefully, the stigma attached to mental illness will similarly decline as more families emulate Nafiza Ziyad’s family. They came forward and publicly declared their love and support for her, despite the fact that the families of severely mentally ill persons are usually stigmatized right along with their sick relatives. More families need to stand up and insist on fair, humane treatment for their loved ones. Positive change often requires sacrifice.
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18
Pssssssssssss -- Do something! Help the least of these, His brethren! Across the country mental hospitals are closing. Families have trouble getting help for loved ones who are in psychiatric need. As a result, more people who should be inpatients or living in their communities under mandated treatment provisions are suffering in jail. Show your concern for human rights by taking the survey and supporting AIMI.
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill
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Stone Mountain, Georgia, United States