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Old 04-17-2010, 01:33 PM
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Firebrand Firebrand is offline
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Default Helping The Mentally Ill In The Texas Prison System

For many of you who have loved ones that suffer from mental illness or behavioral disorders I know that you have a heart felt desire to see to it that they are cared for while theyíre away. What I say, I say from experience. Iíve been there. Not just in your shoes, but in their shoes. There is help for them and they can benefit from the mental health services that are provided by the University of Texas Medical Branch and University of Texas Tech Medical Branch. Help is available and there are some things that you as a loved one or friend on the outside can do to make a difference. The greatest amount of help will be found by what they do in searching it out and utilizing it.

If your loved one took medication before they entered the prison system it is a good idea to obtain a statement from the psychiatrist who prescribed their medication in the Free World and send a copy of it to the inmate his or herself to give to the Mental Health Department or you can send it yourself. Iím sure you could have the Psychiatrist send it, as well. This ensures that where ever they go they have documentation in their medical file which addresses their needs. This is probably the single most important thing you can do for them to keep them from being denied their medication. The recommendation of a Free World psychiatrist is taken very seriously and can be used as grounds for legal action in the event they are denied access to medication.

Itís important to realize that different people have different needs. I took Zoloft at one point and then Prozac later on from 1995-2003 due to anxiety and anger management issues and made enough progress in dealing with my problems to where I stopped taking medication in March of 03í and Iíve never looked back. Many of us who suffer from behavioral disorders have the potential to regain or attain a degree of mental health and stability that calls for action, not just psyche meds, but there has to be a willingness to face our fears and look within. The help of a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, and group therapy sessions are all tools that were made available to me and which I benefited from.

I am a devout Christian and active member of the Episcopal Church here in the Free World and truly believe that oneís relationship with a higher power is the key to success in overcoming any problem, but I will say this of the Mental Health community. They are better suited in many situations to address the needs of someone who is mentally ill. Many of us have issues with trust and misinterpretations of what we perceive the truth in our lives to be or what we view as reality. A secular environment with the help of a mental health care professional provides an opportunity
to get many of these issues out into the open on a level playing field that may not ever happen in a chaplains office or inside of a church. There are faith based programs throughout the prison system that provide a world of good and I have been a big part of them. At the same time, not everyone can take their problems to the throne in a manner of speaking. Not everyone has the same beliefs or convictions and often times among inmates who are mentally ill they feel awkward in a faith based environment and regress rather than progress in dealing with their troubles.

The problem that many who are mentally ill in the Texas Prison system often times face is that they are not sincere in wanting help to deal with their problems. They go to mental health to get moved to another cell or dorm, moved from a top bed to a bottom bed, they have trouble getting along with other inmates or the prison administration and want to be shipped, or want medication solely for the purpose of selling it on the black market and making a profit off of it. Many people who are not mentally ill will buy psychiatric medication and take it. Iíve seen men find a way to buy syringes from the infirmary for the purpose of breaking down the medications and shooting them up or injecting them intravenously. Some people donít really want help, they just want to get high or use the mental health services for some other motive that doesnít have anything to do with mental health.

As a loved one or friend on the outside one thing that you can do that could make a difference is mention or remind them of the good things theyíve done in the past in your letters or at visitation. Help them to remember and recognize some of the positive thing theyíve done in yesteryear. It takes the focus off of the negatives that can crop up in prison and it reminds them of the fact that they are more than just a tdc # or some nameless face among a multitude of other prisoners.

A lot of us read in prison. Itís a good pass time, but sometimes we spend too much time reading novels of the James Patterson, Stephen King, Dean Koonzt, and Anne Rice variety. For those of us who want to make progress spiritually or from a mental health vantage we waste time and donít take seriously the content which we read or the effect it can have on us. Iíve always wanted to become fluent in Spanish. There for a 4 year stretch thatís all I read or studied while in prison. Sometimes for as long as 8 hours a day. Today I can hold a conversation with anyone who speaks Spanish. I can write in Spanish and read in Spanish. I have about a 5th or 6th grade comprehension level as a result of my efforts and thatís pretty good for someone who could only speak in bits and broken phrases at one time. My loved ones and friends on the outside were a big part of that happening. The majority of the text books, dictionaries, and study materials I used were the ones they sent me. The point being that itís good to open your mind to constructive ideas and pursuits that focus upon positive gains. Meditation, drawing, how to become an author, learning new languages, yoga, exercise, learning how to write poetry. These are examples of what a person can practice or spend doing in their quiet time that will occupy their mind in a constructive and positive way. You might plant a seed by mentioning it to them or finding out what theyíre interested in doing. Maybe before they got locked up they were involved in something they that took hold and did some good that you can send them in the mail where books and such are concerned. A lot of times you can go to a 2nd hand book store and find these items at a lesser cost. They have to be mailed from the book store the items were purchased at which involves shipping and handling fees, but itís not always a matter of a lot money being dished out.

Itís also useful to find people throughout history who we remember or whose names are recognized that overcame their mental illnesses and went on to become successful. Abraham Lincoln, Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, Patty Duke and a number of sports celebrities have written biographies about their lives. You might google a name off of the internet and just send something as simple as a 1 page article on someone famous who suffered from a mental illness or disorder to your loved one just to keep their self esteem up.

Attempting to contact or discuss problems situations with mental health staff members at the prison where your loved one is assigned does not always yield the results we hope they will. Sometimes there are circumstances that we need to let take their course. We need to let the people who are hired to address their mental health needs do their job without any added friction. And its not always easy to know when that time is. If they have documentation that medication is needed and the mental health dept. is involved with addressing their needs in many instances we need to exercise some patience and have a little faith.

All of us know that prison is not the easiest of places to exist, but there is some real good that can be done to help our loved ones and friends who suffer. I walked out of prison a better person because of what was afforded to me and if I can do it then itís there for anyone whoís willing to make the effort.
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Old 04-30-2010, 08:41 PM
kimshei kimshei is offline
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Cool Acknowledging mental illness

Oh how refreshing it was to read your posting, thank you! I am just a letter "friend", supporting an older gentleman(now) in his final days before his execution. ) :

I suffer from mental illness. I haven't been in jail (not on that side of the plexi glass!).I know I couldn't survive. I barely survive on my own, in the "real" (??) world. Barely any support and never the support I need for my particular illness. (that I'm always instructed to keep hush hush.)
) :

Mental illness needs to be addressed and acknowledged.
It's not going away.

Not sure if I made much sence? I rarely post anything? -blush-
Thanks for your time. Hope to read more posts from you
Love + respect ..............................+ stamps!
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Old 09-06-2012, 07:20 PM
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Nieves915 Nieves915 is offline

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thank you Firebrand, I needed to read this tonight. My husband could be going to TDC and I need to make sure that he and I are prepared, I have the forms that talk of the medication that he needs, and i pray he does his part as well. thank you for being a strong voice to educate us to what the other side of those walls are like.

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Old 09-09-2012, 10:05 AM
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Firebrand Firebrand is offline
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You're welcome, Nieves. I know that this has been a hard road for the both of you to travel thus far. One day it will end and until then there is good to be seen & done for a better tomorrow. Keep the faith and keep your chin up.
We're All In This Together
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