The challenges of mental illness
Re "Schizophrenia takes a daughter away," Column One, Dec. 29
Schizophrenia is one of the most devastating illnesses, and inadequate research funds, inadequate facilities and inadequate insurance programs -- not to mention frank discrimination against people with mental illness and those who treat them -- don't help. People need to know that hope exists, even in the most desperate cases, but supportive families and money for quality care are important if we are ever to win the war on mental illness.
Marc Graff MD
Schizophrenia is not a disease, but a complex and confusing umbrella term covering a multitude of factors and varying etiologies.
Diagnostic terminology changes rapidly, and it is often politicized. In this age, it is to the bottom-line benefit of large pharmaceutical companies and medical insurance plans to consider all emotional problems of living as a "disease" to be treated by drugs.
The very fact that this young woman was treated at 11 places in four years speaks for the worst of healthcare. Such a conflicted person needs constancy of care by a highly trained and devoted professional, not cocktails of drugs and confinement in a series of prison-like hospitals. All of this takes money, and we must be willing to pay for the skilled care required.
We are working with troubled human beings, not "diseased" ones. Your story would convey this better had the writers understood that mental disorders, however severe, are not diseases but the outcome of many conditions -- personal, family, societal and in some cases, yes, biological. How they interact is still not well understood.
The writer, a clinical psychologist and a retired professor of psychology at the Cornell University Medical College in New York, recently was a visiting professor of psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Too bad that this family has had to cope with their daughter's illness alone because there is a lack of coordinated care to assist them. It is a blot on all of us that the mentally ill are still regarded with stigma. There is so much hope, but families need support and more resources. Surely a nation that can reach the moon can research more effective treatments for a health problem that afflicts so many. There is a need for outpatient programs to assist the mentally ill to live independently, as was proposed in the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act. The funds to support this law were diverted to other uses and never replaced.
So much needs to be done. Prisons have become holding tanks for the mentally ill. The streets are riddled with the homeless mentally ill. Families are often alone to cope with this disease. Why?
The writer is a registered nurse.
I'm sitting here overwhelmed and filled with questions. Where is the communication and respect between doctors, mental health facilities, the patients and their advocates? What is a patient's responsibility in getting healthy? How do we help the patients and their advocates get information and access to effective treatments without them having to go through hell to find it?
What I don't question after reading this story is the incredible toll mental illness takes on the whole family. I have newfound respect and compassion for people who deal with it on a daily basis.
Drivers want roads
Re "How to get from here to there," Opinion, Dec. 27
Buses, rail, bicycles and monorails all have something in common -- they don't work. These suggestions contain bountiful utopian thinking, but not one good new idea.
Try improving what 95% of the commuters want -- the roads.
Re "Open to the public," Opinion, Dec. 30
To say that Pepperdine University Law School Dean Kenneth Starr is actually an open-minded person who does not have sexual hang-ups proves the point of his critics during his investigation of President Clinton as special prosecutor.
Starr operated as a political partisan who worked overtime to make a case when there was none (Whitewater) and then bullied and browbeat potential witnesses to create a case out of a private sexual encounter to make a political case against Clinton so Republicans could attempt to make some cheap political points.
I was laughing out loud until I realized Jim Newton's piece on Starr was serious. My morning was ruined. I read it again, hoping to find the irony, and at the conclusion of this moronic bit of puffery made an incredible discovery. Newton is the editor of the editorial pages. The Times is officially in the dumper.
A good example of how Starr has devoted himself to public service and the rule of law is the important pro bono work he has been doing on the death penalty.
In 2005, Starr represented Virginia death row inmate Robin Lovitt, raising serious questions about the flaws in Lovitt's conviction. Lovitt eventually was granted clemency.
In 2006, Starr sought clemency for California death row inmate Michael Morales, whose execution is currently stayed pending court review of lethal injection.
Starr, who supports capital punishment in theory, has forthrightly said that "society is not equipped to handle death penalty cases because of resources" without which the system risks being "administered with arbitrariness and caprice."
If Pepperdine University desired a dean of its law school who was ethical and would "develop and train very able and honorable lawyers of absolute integrity," it chose the wrong man.
Starr showed by example that his goal of hurting the Clintons was the predominant aim of his many years as a special prosecutor.
Further, his example of releasing the grand jury transcripts can only provide our future attorneys trained at Pepperdine with the equivalent of bottom-line commercialization, i.e., try to win at any price.
'Values' series falls short
Re " 'The blessings of liberty,' " one in a series of editorials on American values and the next president , Dec. 31
Your editorial calls for an "era of decency and mutual respect," a position we should all agree on. Unfortunately, examples of the failure to achieve this goal are everywhere (e.g. left and right talk radio).
However, I would have expected more from your editorial staff as you refer to the current administration, supporters of the current administration, and/or those who disagree with your positions as overbearing, cynical and weak, to name a few.
Perhaps you can explain how this will foster open discussion of the issues with decency and mutual respect?
John C. McKinney
The American values series of editorials held great promise as a method to summarize our country's and the world's situation as we ended 2007. But like so many of your editorial adventures, this one fell short when you could not resist the temptation to Bush bash. So many good ideas and comments interrupted by your continuing vendetta against the current president.
Why not some balanced ideas about the fact that we are safe, fighting terrorists where they live, what is basically a strong economy and the good things we enjoy, and even give just a little credit to the leadership that brought us here.
The cheapest shot was the smirking over global warning as if anyone on your editorial staff had a real clue about what is happening around us. I only hope that in the new year the new owners will provide true editorial leadership to this paper.
Re "Something old, something new as nations ring in 2008," Jan. 1
It is nice to see the fireworks going off in one country after the other celebrating the arrival of 2008. For us working for Iraq, however, it is ironic to see the millions and millions of dollars going up in the air when at the same time we are unable to raise sufficient funds to treat the Iraqi children on our waiting list.
For instance, four children awaiting bone marrow transplants are certainly going to die in 2008 as the treatment is just too expensive to finance.
Rafiq A. Tschannen
Chief of Mission
for Migration, Iraq
Slick state ride
Re "Perata is victim of carjacking," Dec. 30
According to Oakland police, the team of carjackers who took state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata's 2006 Dodge Charger was attracted by the 22-inch chrome rims and probably did not see the state of California exempt license plate.
Why does a California politician need such a flashy vehicle? Do I smell the sickly sweet aroma of hypocrisy exposed by the gunpoint theft of his tax-financed ride?
David R. Berry