2. My mentally ill brother is scheduled for trial

Chapter 2 in a series on mental illness.

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[Note: this article includes excerpts of Tony Allard's writing about his own mental illness.]

Today, in court, Tony was deemed competent to stand trial. So, even though he was delusional when he took a woman’s purse, threw it to the ground and walked off without out taking anything or harming anyone, next Tuesday, August 23, 2009, he goes on trial on a charge of felony robbery. He faces a sentence of up to 17 years in prison, since he has one strike on his record for a prior conviction of stalking. In short, although what my brother and society needs, is for him to be treated for a mental illness, he may end up serving time in prison.

Tony, who was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic twenty three years ago, refused to agree that he was mentally ill for the first twenty of those years.  In recent years he was able to gain explicit “insight” (as it is called) into his condition.  Yet, when he goes off his medications, he seems to lapse into a state of delusion and resents me for using those words to describe his condition.  And I can’t say that I blame him.  Although he has a condition that makes him different than “normal” people, it also causes him to be more bluntly honest about the world and what he sees as wrong in the world than most normal people ever dare to be.  I have learned much from his blunt honesty in those periods.

When Tony is on his meds, he seems as normal as you and I. Many of his friends think he is one of the most brilliant people they know. They find his presence enjoyable. He is insightful, writes and speaks articulately and insightfully, and is fun to be around. He is a good video editor and has produced very creative works. He has worked in Hollywood as a machinist for our brother Eric, who does special effects. Yet Eric will no longer hire him in recent years since Tony becomes paranoid and does not fit in at the work place.

Because Tony goes off his meds, his condition prevents him from fitting into society or maintaining a steady job in spite of his ardent desire to be normal and have a job and be part of what normal people do.  It is a contradiction.  His condition is not “normal” and his behavior becomes obnoxious. He comes to believe he is well and goes off his medications. Yet his desire to be normal is prevented by his going off his medication.

He has never hurt anyone physically but he is six foot four, weighs 230 pounds, and goes into raging tirades so can be very intimidating. He has targeted many individuals, including some very well known personalities (including Blase Bonpane, Michael Miner, Susan Block, and Steven Spielberg’s mother) and numerous other people, including me, our 91 year old mother’s care givers, and some of his friends.  He has delusions about people that he expresses in writing or in phone calls to the point that people take out restraining order against him.  In one case, he made so many harassing phone calls to a certain personality’s office that they filed charges of stalking which resulted in a felony conviction.  Tony ended up spending nearly two years at Atascadero State Mental Hospital.  That hospital stay helped him.  Upon leaving the hospital he was very stable, very rational, and appeared to many as if he had been “cured”.  Were you to meet him you would think he was a totally normal highly intelligent person and quite likable.  His release was some three years ago.

Unfortunately, his “cure” was short lived.  Twice since his release he went off his meds and ended up being kicked out of his living place.  First time from a one bedroom apartment where he was living on his own in Korea town, then the next time from an apartment where his roommates ended up having to lock him out to retain their own sanity.  It was after this most recent eviction that he became homeless and committed the alleged crime for which he will go on trial next week.

I have been attending the pre-trial hearings.  In a way, I, his brother, have become his case manager.  I will report here on the trial when it happens next week.  In the meantime, I had wanted to provide a letter to the judge in the trial, Teri Schwartz. However, I learned from the public defender, Jose Colon, that the judge will not accept information from sources outside the context of the trail, i.e. not from either the public defender or the district attorney.  The purpose of my letter is to present the point of view that Tony had a mental illness and that the charge of robbery and a subsequent incarceration is not a good substitute for the medical treatment he requires.  Since it was not possible to provide the letter to the court at this time, I am choosing to publish it here in a public forum.  I will let it speak for itself.

Re: Case GA07600501

Honorable Teri Schwartz
Pasadena Superior Court
Pasadena, CA

Dear Judge Schwartz:

I am the brother of George Anthony Allard, Tony to his friends, who has a mental illness yet is in your court on a charge of felony robbery for an act that any normal person would not describe as robbery. While delusional, he snatched an old ladies purse, threw it to the ground and walked away. For this act he is facing up to 17 years in prison.

Tony was first diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia in 1985. Since you are the presiding judge in his case on a felony charge of robbery, I write to bring to your attention facts and history that should bear upon the case and for which I am in the best position to provide relevant details, since I have been acting as his de facto case manager in recent years.

Whatever the letter of the law, the interest of justice is surely served by bringing facts and positions to light that would otherwise remain unknown. I have been witness to legal proceedings involving my brother for many years. So, although I am aware, as a lay person, that a system of prosecution and defense exists to convey information to the court, I feel compelled to provide information and a point of view often not adequately considered in trials where mental illness is, or should be, a predominant factor.


My brother Tony faces a second strike felony conviction of robbery. Yet at the time of the alleged crime he was delusional. Tony had gone off his meds four months prior to the alleged robbery, resulting in a number of 5150s and a 5250 stay at Harbor UCLA Psychiatric ward. I had been discussing Tony’s condition in detail with social worker Matt Wells and Dr. Walker of Harbor UCLA and exploring the idea of placing Tony under a state controlled conservatorship. The preliminary steps toward a conservatorship were starting to fall into place. Then, on February 13, 2009, Judge Melissa Widdifield of the Los Angeles Mental Health Court found “for” Tony and denied a request by the psychiatrists and social workers at Harbor UCLA to keep him for further observation. Tony was, ipso facto, released, i.e. put back out on the street. He was quite delusional at the time. He had told me a few days before that he was, indeed, an agent working for the FBI. Upon his release to “freedom”, he immediately proceeded to Hollywood Park race track where he gambled away whatever money he had and remained homeless. The alleged robbery in Glendale occurred nine days later, on February 22.

There are times when Tony is taking his meds and is highly functional. There are times where he is just recently back on them or a new medicine and is able to “present well”, which was the case before the Mental Health Court and very possibly before your court. And there are times where he is off his meds and is completely delusional. When in a functional state, he has written about his own condition and history.

The following excerpts from my brother Tony Allard’s writings are illuminating…

I thought that I was world famous, and that everybody in the hospital, doctors, nurses, and patients alike, were all talking about me all of the time. This was and is not unusual for me, at that time, and even to some extent to this day, for when I am or have been at work or at play on the outside, I have and have had similar delusions. Everybody, wherever I go, is or was preoccupied with me. Glorious me. Oh the delusion. It is hard for me to even think about those days anymore, when the delusions where as concrete as a freeway overpass, but now that I have been stabilized on meds for several years it is not the same. However, the delusions are never that far from my consciousness. Even to this day, whether I’m on the bus or in a restaurant, in a crowded theater or in traffic driving on the street, I often have delusions that people nearby are talking about me in a tangential way. I don’t think I’ll ever really get beyond it, it’s so deeply ingrained in my consciousness, but I can hope, and I can and must and do just ignore those thoughts. What else can I do, after all, because I cannot just stop my thinking processes. I have a constant inner dialogue, like everybody else, only mine is skewed with some elements of fantasy that make it scary sometimes to just be me. Because intermingled with those delusions that people are talking about me, I sometimes also think that they are saying that I will be killed by so and so, an old friend of mine or someone else, or that I will end up committing suicide. These thoughts are not my own and they are not somebody else’s. I don’t know where they are from, but I do know that the medication that I am on now, Risperdal, make such thoughts much less prevalent in my thinking. But they are always there. I guess it’s probably like someone who has been raped or has been through a war zone and has Post Traumatic Stress syndrome. I don’t know, but I don’t like it, and I only know that I have to live with it for now, and hope that some day these thoughts just fade away and stop coming back. But after more than 20 years, I doubt that they will ever go away completely. It is probably a lot like an insomniac who, despite his best efforts and the best medications, every night must face the same dilemma of going to sleep. Only in my case, it’s not sleep that won’t come, it’s just simple peace of mind.

o o o

I would have constant delusions while working or off of work about people “talking about me” and I would just have to ignore my ears. Sometimes, I just resorted to wearing foam ear plugs so that I couldn’t hear conversations near me second hand and suffer the fears that resulted from my psychotic misinterpretations of what people were saying. .I don’t know how common it is for bi-polar patients to have such delusions, but I had them. I was diagnosed at that point as Psychotic Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified). That had come after years of a Paranoid Schizophrenic diagnosis, but I believe that my Psychiatrist, Thomas Carter, thought that I was too high functioning to be considered truly Schizophrenic. Whatever it was, it wasn’t fun. My social life was still somewhat active, and I would, as I’ve said, just ignore my aberrant thoughts and pretend that everything was fine. Many people, from that time of my life, have told me that I must be a very good liar, because it was never apparent to those friends and acquaintances that I was having constant delusions during that period. Of course you learn to lie when you are mentally ill, because if you don’t, you cannot function in a “normal” life.

o o o

At some point around New Years Day, 2004, I decided again to stop taking my meds. As I rationalized it, I was not drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana, or taking any other drugs, and besides, as is common among mentally ill people, I was feeling fine because I was on Risperdal and consequently deluded myself into believing that I was no longer mentally ill. (If I were to say the one biggest problems, for me at least, and I know for many other if not most of the mentally ill, is coming to terms with the fact that your illness is permanent and requires lifelong treatment with psychotropic medication.) Consequently, my mental condition started to deteriorate rapidly. I started to suspect people were “talking about me” again and had several persistent delusions relating to some old acquaintances and my belief that I was a Special Agent for the FBI. My brother Dennis, who had seen me deteriorate in a similar manner several times in the past, noticed my deterioration, but I lied to him and assured him that I was still taking my meds.

 

The above excerpts indicate not only an ability on the part of my brother to be rational and write coherently, in sharp contrast to much of his writings and poems in a large opus of documents I have compiled (and can make available to the court), they also constitute an admission by Tony that he lies to hide his illness or being off his meds.

Tony may be “competent to stand trial”. But beware. The mental illness he is afflicted with is, to use an analogy, like a computer virus that takes over a computer. Except in this case, it is a form of consciousness that takes over a host human being’s psychology and thought processes. The behavior of the host victim may seem on the surface to be normal and rational at some standard of competency. Yet, since the virus is not my brother, it follows the standard cannot apply. There is no jurisprudence of which I am aware that applies. If that is true, that leaves the court in a bit of a bind. It is like a body snatcher in the movie “Invasion of the body snatchers”. There is no sense that the pronouns “he” or “him” or even the name “Tony” refers to my brother at the those times that the body snatcher has control. Worse, the virus acts in a way to defend its existence, duping its host victim into experiencing things that are not happening (delusions) and causing the host to claim to be sane, duping his friends, relatives, his lawyers, and the entire judicial system including you yourself, your honor, with all due respect.

I’ve seen this happen before and it is happening again. It is the pitiable state of affairs whereby the police, judicial, and prison system in California are acting in lieu of medical treatment for a medical condition and engaging in a charade following a script of rules that do not or should not apply.

Recommendation:

What can be done to better the situation in a just manner? In my opinion, a just solution would involve imposing (not “offering”) a supervised treatment program and living situation on my brother, a kind of probation with parole, that provides him with the ability to seek employment while further imposing the condition that if he violates various conditions of his parole, such as going off his meds or committing unlawful acts, he would be subject to incarceration at a secure institution such as Atascadero State Hospital. I believe that my brother would be responsive to such a solution even if he is not capable of agreeing to such treatment voluntarily. The result would be just, practical, cost effective, and in some cases ultimately rehabilitating. I urge the court to consider this course of action if at all legally possible.

Dennis G. Allard
Santa Monica, CA
August 14, 2009

[ story continued: http://oceanpark.com/blog/2009/08/not-guilty-so-now-what/ ]

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40 Responses to 2. My mentally ill brother is scheduled for trial

  1. carole says:

    Although you cannot present your letter during the trial, perhaps you can share this information during the sentencing.

  2. My intention had been to submit the letter prior to sentencing.

    However, that became moot when the verdict was not guilty on the main charge of robbery. And there was no time to submit the letter prior to sentencing on the lesser charges since the sentences were issued forthwith immediately after the verdict.

    I plan to send a version of the letter to the judge in any case to inform her what happened subsequent to the trial.

  3. Rachel says:

    Dear Dennis:
    I hope your brother is doing better & thanks for sharing this experience! I am in a similar situation with my brother. He was also charged with a felony & the mental illiness history is quite similar. After almost 2 yrs of mental rehabilitation at prison state hospital to gain competency, his public defender is looking to settle for a guilty plea; which does not make sense to me….. Any way, thanks for sharing this & best of luck to you and your brother.

  4. SDH says:

    Hello,

    I know next to nothing about law, but can’t believe a lawyer wouldn’t use 20+ years of documented evidence for your brother’s MI. And I guess since your brother was deemed competent for trial, he would have to be the one to request a different lawyer? Maybe if you gathered the documentation to prove the length and severity of your brother’s illness you could be placed over him so that you could fire the next lawyer?

    It is a shame that people within the legal system(especially judges) aren’t required to become educated about serious mental illnesses, as they seem to believe people w/schizophrenia must hallucinate or be delusional 24/7.

  5. His lawyer, Jose Colon, told me introducing Tony’s history of mental illness would have lead to bringing in his entire case history, including his past conviction on a charge of stalking. Mr. Colon told me that might have swayed the jury more toward a guilty verdict on the robbery charge. Realize that the judge and the jury, along with the rest of society, are ignorant about mental illness. Why else in cases such as Virginia Tech or Fort Hood do we hear the question “why did this happen?”, as if reason has anything to do with it. When mental illness is involved, reason goes out the window. Yet, many in society continue to impute rationality on persons suffering from the illness.

    You are correct that my brother would have to ask for a different lawyer. Most often my brother does not want a lawyer but the judge does not permit him to represent himself. In this case he liked his lawyer. My brother often states that he is not mentally ill. I think at some conscious level he realizes his condition but denies it, although denial is not really the operative term here so I use it loosely. In a sense, this trial went the way my brother “wanted” it to go, to the extent I can refer to what is happening in my brother as being the desires of my brother.

    I think the judges and lawyers are partly victims of the broken system, while being perpetrators of it at the same time. In a true, sense, the body of jurisprudence simply is inapplicable to mental illness, yet I see no effort to change the situation.

  6. SDH says:

    I wish your brother much luck. I read that you were trying to gain conservatorship after I had posted above.

    From the little I have studied about schizophrenia, it is possible that there are times your brother could have insight that he is ill, and at other times lose insight as a delusion becomes fullblown.

    I recently presented a paper (grad student) and wish I had found this blog beforehand, but I did cover some of the more common myths about the disorder. Situations like your brother’s make it obvious that there is a need for public awareness/education.

  7. returncc says:

    sorry to hear about your bros situation. It sounds to me the problem is financial, schizophrenia and poverty are co-existing symptoms. If financial hardship was not part of your brothers life, perhaps he could organize to avoid the triggers of the illness, as the information illness is corrupted by the pressures of the environment, and poverty and fear, exacerbate the condition over time. Perhaps a pschologist, or anger management, might be a better choice than forcible confinement or anti-liberty bargaining positions over time. Good luck with the judge.

  8. patty says:

    my son has been found incompitant to stand trial by 3 doctors while a 4th (jail) dr. says he’s lying his lawyer has now after 9 months of rule 11 hearings has now decided its too costly & jail time would be longer top keep gouing with rule 11 so he has bound my mentally ill son of 6 yrs. back to criminal court where he is getting no help from his lawyer or any one else what do i do????????????? please help

  9. Valerie Hale says:

    Dennis, I read this case with great interest. I found you because I am teaching a graduate class in adult psychopathology and found your interview of your brother on youtube. This is a heartbreaking situation and I am so sorry for the problems Tony faces because of a pervasive lack of understanding about mental illness.

    Thank you for posting the interview on youtube. Hopefully, one student at a time, we can help defeat prejudice and misunderstanding about mental illness.

    What happened with Tony?

    Sincerely,
    Valerie Hale PhD

  10. E.S says:

    MY GRANDSON IS INCARCERATED. HE IS NOT A CRIMINAL. HE DOES NOT GET UP IN THE MORNING AND SAY TODAY I WILL COMMIT A CRIME. HE IS GUILTY OF NOTHING, SITUATIONS THAT YOU OR I WOULD GET A SLAP ON THE HAND FOR. BECAUSE HE HAS PRIORS EACH LITTLE EPISODE BECOMES BLOWN OUT OF PROPORTION. THE POLICE ESCALATE INCIDENTS THAT ARE NOTHING. THEY HAVE TO MUCH POWER, AND ARE SUBJECT TO THEIR OWN RREJUDICES.
    THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN. POOR GUYS DON’T HAVE A CHANCE. THE PROSECUTORS ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN CONVICTIONS TO HELP THEIR CAREERS, AND PUBLIC DEFENDERS ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN CLEARING THEIR
    CALANDERS. IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD A LAYWER YOU ARE SCREWED.
    THERE IS NO HELP FOR THOSE WITH MENTAL ILLNES, THEY ARE THOWRN IN WITH HARDEN CRIMINALS AND ARE FUTHER ABUSED BY THE SYSTEM.

  11. Paige Price says:

    my best friend has been in an Anger Management class for 2 months now, he improved a lot when dealing with anger.;-,

  12. Anger Management does not apply in my brother’s case because when he goes off his meds he is not rational and does not think logically or reason about things in a way that leads to dealing with the real issue. This is a disease that affects his ability to think.

  13. Benjamin Weaver says:

    You told your brother in the video that you were going to show it to him in a week. Did he, in fact, see it at some later time, possibly in a different state of mind? If so, I’m curious as to what his thoughts were about it.

  14. He has not seen it to my knowledge. He has been incarcerated for much of the time since it was made and, when in liberty, has been delusional. Currently (July 2010) he is in a hospital and stable but does not wish to talk with me.

  15. RE says:

    Thank you for this very direct view into living with schizophrenia. My aunt suffered with this for years and my mother began showing severe symptoms 2 years ago. Actually, she’s been unusual longer than that, but my family wouldn’t listen to my concerns. I hear the frustration in your voice during the video – I’ve lived it these last two years. I know it’s not the right thing to do as she doesn’t live a reality that is real to me. My father is very sympathetic to her to a point of being destructive and excusing possibly threatening behaviors when he should be acknowledging them.

    I know that we should be sensitive, I know that we should try to support these people, but how do you support someone that doesn’t seek help and continue to be a part of a situation you can do nothing about. If it were up to me, she would have been institutionalized by now, but I am reminded by my father every time she has an “episode” the most recent involving threatening contractors at her home with a pistol, that he is the only one that can take the next step into doing anything. I suppose that will have to be when she shoots someone or injures herself, something none of us wish to happen. I’ve found few resources for family members living through this nightmare.

  16. Brandon says:

    I know exactly what you’re going through more or less. Your brother has this internal dialogue and world view that screws with his causal analysis to certain degrees that make him have grand delusions and see “connections” when there aren’t connections. He acts some what normal a lot of time for certain people to not draw unwanted attention to him, because he knows, despite what he “actually knows,” people don’t agree with him and it’s usually best to not say “too much” so people won’t get suspicious of him. My mom has been a paranoid schizophrenic for about 16 years now and she’s never acknowledged her condition or agreed to get help. She doesn’t see or hear imaginary things exactly, like voices or imaginary people I think. She just has paranoid delusions and bouts of episodes triggered by many things. She’s not a direct threat to herself or others so the police or the state can’t do much. She’s been out of work for at least 12 years and she’ll most likely never go back since she also has chronic pain for fibromyalgia, which may be complicating her mental condition. She’s pretty smart and mentally active, she’ll read and write like crazy. She’s incredibly hard to talk to most of the time, you can never get a really coherent answer from her concerning questions about her life or what she thinks about social matters. Parts of her personality have changed drastically, while others have staid the same. However intense some of her episodes can be, she is probably the nicest and sweetest and most caring person I’ve ever met. She misinterprets a lot of people’s behavior as malicious or threatening and includes such behavior into bizarre theories or delusions that have no rational explanations or reasoning behind them. She’s consumed with reading legal code and keeps up a lot with Congressional affairs. Her delusions seem to be changing on a constant basis. Some used to be centered around Steven Spielberg and certain governmental officials like President Bush and Dick Cheney. They got very complex at times, but I stopped asking because trying to understand something which is incoherent is just insane itself so I mostly stopped. It’s just tiring to try, she’s so resistant to questioning that really the only way you can learn something is by her just telling you at random times, or when she’s triggered by something she’s heard or seen. Most of her delusions just revolve around the government spying on her and torturing her. The things she’s told me are so disturbing they could probably make Stephen King shit his pants. She believes the government is constantly watching her through wiretaps and other means. I can’t go to her house without her telling me the government broke her nose or something else. I don’t even want to get started on the sexual abuse she’s reported, even though it’s absurd to hear it breaks my heart to tell her nothing’s happened to her, because it has in a sense. I can’t deny her delusions anymore, I just don’t respond to them and try to enjoy what normal conversation there is left. And she would tell me this at a young age, like as young as 8 years old. I had to live with my dad but I still wanted to see her weekly, because I love her very much and I know that I’m pretty much one of the few people she has any meaningful contact with along with my brother and sister. She’s practically disowned my uncle, grandma, and grandpa because they tried to help her by trying to get her on Social Security and other governmental aid programs, but with her being so non-compliant it just become a huge shit storm and they got screwed over by Social Security, leaving them with all the financial burden of supporting her. That’s the thing with her and many schizophrenics, it’s not like other diseases, it works against the them and stops them from getting help, usually they deny having it. Cancer patients would never fight their family to avoid getting treatment would they? It’s a self-defeating and vicious cycle, where trying to help them actually can make their condition worse. It’s almost a blessing if they become an obvious harm to themselves or others because then getting them help becomes much more easier in a legal sense. Unfortunately, my mother has not passed that point, however I’m not exactly praying for it either. It’s a cluster fuck no matter what happens. You try to help them, you get screwed, you don’t help them they get screwed. I just wish our court system had a better way of dealing with the mentally ill who are essentially harmless to society, but are also non-complaint and wish not to seek proper help. The families pretty much have to wait and watch their loved ones slowly and painfully sink mentally and physically until they reach a point where they can legally intervene. My grandma has been screwed over by the state of California and social security trying to get conservatorship over my mom and trying to get her proper benefits. The courts only rule mentally ill people mentally ill when it’s convenient for them to do so. When the state actually has to address the problem and try to help the mentally ill, they dodge it whenever possible. They’d rather throw them in jail or let them rot than spend a few dollars trying to treat them respectfully and intelligently in a way that works best for the family and the actual victims of this bullshit disease. The courts in San Diego have said she’s both incompetent and sane so many times I don’t even know what they hell is going on. They make the families jump through so many hoops it’s just painful to watch. I hope your brother can find a way to get stable again, stay on his meds, and most importantly, have a decent functioning life that makes him happy and you happy. I wish I could even get my mom to try meds. It would mean the world to me to see her somewhat normal again, it’s been so long since I could remember her being happy. Although my sister is about to get her doctors degree in psychology and is trying to get my mom on meds, I’ve been researching cannabinoids myself as a hopeful way to treat her. Since there’s practically no way for her accept meds for her mental condition, I’m thinking about about getting her to try a high CBD strain of cannabis for her chronic pain. Cannabidiol (CBD) has shown a lot of promise in relieving schizophrenic symptoms, since its main properties reduce anxiety and stress, help improve sleep, reduce pain, helps stop habitual behavior, and is also a neuroprotectant, which helps stop cognitive digression. Her schizophrenia and chronic pain all cause these symptoms so I’m hoping that I can get her to try it a couple of times and see what happens. She has no problem taking medication for pain, but she will not even discuss taking meds for her mental condition. She’s warming up to the idea of using cannabis, but is concerned about the legal status, even though it’s legal in California. It looks like the only promising thing I can do at the moment. Although Tetrahydrocannabinol is known to increase paranoia, CBD counteracts the effects of THC and almost works as an opposing active pharmacological compound. It’s very promising though, and she’s getting more open to the idea all the time. I hope you can find a way to better your relations with your brother, you must have an absurd amount of patience and love for your brother to keep trying to help him after so many years.

  17. Nick says:

    Brandon, I think you may have some mother-child relationship issues which may be clouding the issue. The use of cannabis is theoretically a potential benefit, according to your research but I think the issue here is your mother’s determination to do what she wants – against your advice – and how bringing cannabis into this might have drastic consequences later on, due to the peculiarities of the drug. The cannabis will relieve lots of stress and anxiety issues, particularly any interpersonal issues relating to you, family and those close to her. This lines her up for abusing the drug and just using it for interpersonal problems and I think this would encourage her to “score” weed off the streets at a later date; different types of weed that aren’t the type you refer to and offer no benefit and in many cases are full of THC, which is well documented in triggering psychotic illnesses in the first place. I’m not a doctor but I have a lot of experience with cannabis, cannabis users and psychotic people who use/used cannabis. I think you’re being too liberal and idealistic. You do not want to be tied into a close relationship with someone (i.e. in your case your mother) who has cannabis or any other drug abuse problems. I know someone who took cannabis for pain (supposedly) and now just uses it like an alcoholic uses alcohol and has had a lot of psychosis and delusions because of this.

  18. Nick says:

    Also, I am aware of no positive long term effects of cannabis so anything you say about positive effects is news to me.

  19. Roshon says:

    My son is getting for trial he too has a mental illness schizophrenic. He has been diagnosed since the age of five, now when he is not on medication hearing voices he has a second charge this time robbery. The hired attorney quit and left the family to seek a public defender. He just turned 21 and the old case happened before he was an adult. The court indicted him and want 20 to life. My heart goes out to any family going through the justice system having a love one with a mental illness. I will keep you in prayers and request you do the same for ours.

    Respectfully,
    Roshon B

  20. DJH says:

    Hi there….your brother is really quite ill isn’t he, and it must be very hard work for you trying to get him the right help. If it’s any consolation, the same happens here in the UK where sick people are shuttled round the prison system, mental health institutions, outreach in the community care programs..it can be soul destroying for you as his carer. I know you know he needs residential mental health care where they make him take his meds, and try to give him an ‘insight’ into the fact that he is ill, with therapy. The longer he stays in a place like this, the better he will get. In the mean time keep yourself safe emotionally and I wish you success with his future. ps- I have had 20 years of schizophrenia, and it does get better IF you treat it properly. I live a ‘normal’ life now, whatever that is!

  21. DJH, you provide a concise summary of the problems that exist in both the US and the UK as to how mental illness is treated (or, more accurately, not treated).

    The burden often falls upon family and friends of those needing help to attempt to provide that help. Yet that is often an impossible task.

    I am not my brother’s care giver. I have (tried to) help him. But I have had to draw a line over which I will not let him cross so I can have my own life to the point of having placed a restraining order on him at times so that when he goes completely nuts I have been able to force the police to arrest him so that he is no longer on the street going completely bananas. At those times the police themselves sometimes do not arrest him and leave him on the street.

    My efforts have also included an attempt to provide information to people who should be able to help him. But they themselves are thwarted by idiotic laws and jurisprudence. In once case where he had, while delusional, briefly snatched a lady’s purse, he was arrested. I attempted to provide information to the court. Not allowed. You can’t just walk in to a court and give information to the judge. I’ve tried and was once thrown out of the court house by a small-minded baliff for having daigned to open my mouth in court. No, you are at the mercy of the Public Defender or the District Attorney. In this case I mention, a one year process involving my brother’s incarceration, a full jury trial, and conviction on charges reduced from felony assault to misdemenor battery took place. At NO TIME during this entire farcical use of tax payer money was my brother’s history of mental illness brought up in court testimony. As far as the jury knew, he was just another homeless person who did something bad.

  22. Jodi Westreich says:

    omg i just finished watching your video about your brother and I feel like I am in the exact same situation as you, only my situation is with my sister. What a horrible desease our family members are stuck with. My family has been dealing with this for over 35 years, my sister is now 54. Now that my father is gone its up to me and my mom. My sister does not believe she is sick and refuses to take meds, She has been hospitalized about 15 times in the last 3 years. She is forced to take meds in the hospital and when she leaves she stops. No follow up care with doctors. I live in another state and have called the crisis hot line many times. She will not give my name to anyone so when she does get hospitalized we cannot get any information because if the HIPA law. Now she is facing eviction from the boarding home she now lives in and will end up homeless. We got involved with NAMI and know all about the laws. Any knowledge that you have would be greatly appreciated, I have no one else to turn to.

  23. Hi Jodi.

    Isn’t it amazing that the HIPA laws prevent you from obtaining information about your own sister?

    The HIPA laws, however well intentioned, are sometimes counter productive. They are simply wrong in cases such as yours when they bestow rights to a mental illness that has taken over the thinking processes of the actual person who is in need of help. There are even infamous extreme cases where the public and the press, in all their ignorance, think the problem is one of gun control when, in fact, it was a problem of giving rights to a mental illness that needed treatment.

    For my brother, I obtained a restraining order to keep him away. When he came to my place, I could then have him arrested. At least, in that way, it was possible to get him under a roof with food and some treatment. I was able to obain the restraining order since my brother had made threats to our late mother’s care givers. It is not always easy to obtain a restraining order so that may not apply in your case.

    In California, one can ask the state to place someone in a conservatorship. In that way the conservator (which can be appointed by the state) can make legal decisions including having the incapacitated person placed into treatment. I was trying to make that process happen the last time my brother went bonkers but then he got himself arrested on a vandalism charge and that prevented the conservatorship process from going forward. But it’s something to look into.

    Our society (in the United States) has failed to provide the necessary and correct treatment needed by many people suffering from schizophrenia.

    In other words, Jodi, there is no good answer to your question because the system is broken. In my case, I have had to take the “tough love” approach of realizing I cannot help my brother so he has to hit bottom. When that has happened in the past, he ends up in a psychiatric hospital for a while and then in jail where, at least, he has food and shelter.

    He is now incarcerated and will be out late next year (2013). He calls me on the phone and sounds very rational how. He is on meds. When he gets out will he keep taking his meds? I don’t know. He is a good writer and good videographer. I hope he will write his story and keep focused in a creative way. I can only hope but will have to continue the tough love approach if he goes off his meds again.

    My heart goes out to you. Please stay in touch with your contacts at NAMI. Ask the boarding home if they can help obtain a conservatorship for your sister.

  24. angel says:

    Dear Dennis, I feel like an “Angel” led me to you. My sister, a very highly functional grad student, mother of three (two of which are autistic), has let postpardum depression turn into paranoid schizophrenia. A year ago, she cut us completely out of her life, but had been displaying signs of stress, depression, for three years. On Thanksgiving supposedly she shot her husband while he and the kids slept. She is incarcerated and doesn’t remember anything, yet is denying treatment for mental illness or depression. The jail staff, and everyone else seems to think she’s normal. She talks normal and then slips in and out of reality. We have journals of hers (large trashbags full of them documenting her depression and mental illness back to 2004 when her 2nd child was born. Her husband is a government official but I think he is suffering from mental illness too. They isolated themselves, lived in a bubble for the last three years. He has filed restraining orders and claims she’s highly functional even though he said she heard voices at night, and wrestled with him over a gun at night. How he managed to allow her to sleep with a gun in her state of mind with small autistic children in the house is beyond me. I contacted the emergency services/crisis facility in that area and was going to send them to knock on her door. You are right about HIPAA, (health insurance portability and accountability act), because of it we cannot discuss a sibling or any relative without their permission, which is hard if you are a trigger, an enemy in their delusional mind. They told me that there was nothing they could do but document all of the details in case she showed up on their radar again. This was one year from Thanksgiving weekend, and I feel like I failed her. My instincts told me to try to involuntarily have her committed to a mental hospital since her husband seemed to act oblivious to her illness, but my mom begged me to drop the call in fear of her losing her kids. Well now we have this expensive lawyer, whom my sister will not cooperate with, and is very pissed at her, and has threatened to drop the case. I am at a loss because I work in mental health and I know that until a psychiatrist deems her incompetent and diagnoses and medicates her, then the lawyer will not be able to help her because she says she’d rather rot in jail then say “she’s crazy”. We have to keep telling everyone to remember that she is mentally ill because she seems normal, and knows how to manipulate and control conversations, which can be costly on the jail phones because she talks, talks, talks, and you can’t get a word in (her mind doesn’t stop, she scribbles and writes on anything) My mom is one step from losing her sanity too, and it’s all so heartbreaking to see someone who graduated no. 7 in her class with honors, has an IT degree, was starting her own business, was June Cleaver/Martha Stewart all in one, and now is just a shell of herself, a pawn on the chessboard controlled by the voices in her head. How can we help her? Especially in VA, a Commonwealth state. They are going to throw the book at her, handling it like a domestic violence case, female against male, and the lawyer is fed up. To change lawyers after all of this, would break us. My mom doesn’t want to stop trying to help her, but if she is control of her own mental health then she’s gonna do just what she said, rot in jail. I am so frustrated right now. I have been in this field for 15 years and each area is different, each state is different, if she were here I could call on my contacts and they would help me, but she is an area where no one seems to care about her mental illness, they just want to close cases quickly. Thank God for my co-workers, they have been there to help me tell my mom what each stage of this will be like, but unfortunately where the legal comes in is a grey area for them. If we can get past this, and get her medicated, and stay medicated maybe we can save some form of a life for her, but that’s wishful thinking.

  25. I am sorry to hear about your situation. Perhaps you should try to contact your local newspaper or a large newspaper in the largest city in your state and see if a journalist would be interested in covering your story. That might help kick some sense into the judges and police and other people who are in charge and might be able to do something.

  26. Kris says:

    nice commentary about your brother. I have one too and am caught in the same bullshit system. i often wonder why the medical profession does not view the head as part of the body and how they can sleep at night. if mental illness is not going to be treated they why even pretend that there is a profession called psychiatry? total fail. we need a revolution…..

  27. gotama buddha says:

    I watched the video with your brother and besides some eccentricities in his manner of speaking, I did not see or hear anything too unusual. What if he so-called delusions are true and you [and others] are just incapable of picking up on it? Then the majority rules and deems him crazy just because you can’t understand it. I find it very interesting that all the medication for schizophrenics really just dulls their thought process. One could formulate a theory that this medication is to help everyone but the schizophrenic, by way of normalizing their thought process in such a way that they are forced to fit into the societal conditioning rather than expressing their own unique views. In other cultures these so-called schizophrenics are often viewed in an entirely different context and given respect for their unique qualities. In our work slave society such people are a nuisance, exposing the fraudulent system. What would you prefer the so-called schizophrenics do, get jobs and waste their entire lives working?

    “You’re just schizophrenic too.”
    beat you to the punch

  28. Hannah says:

    My heart goes out to you. I think I documenting all of this, and making the video, you are doing yourself and your brother a great service. I am intrigued by the idea of video recording someone with this affliction and playing it back to them. I truly wonder what he will think and how he will react. However unfortunate, your brother is in the unique position to make a difference and so are you. Obviously the laws need to be changed. And you’re right! This is societies problem!

  29. Sean says:

    Well, I read a lot of these comments and I have to disagree with the overall opinion. Mental illness is just that: an illness. It is CURABLE. Drug therapy maybe beneficial for short term but definitely not long term. Again, indefinite drug treatment is not the answer. Reintegration into the community, counseling, spiritual awakening and schooling/jobs/career are what will restore a person to sanity. I’m sorry to say this but most of your people’s stories upset me because you and your loved ones seem to be looking for our government to babysit the mentally ill. You wouldn’t believe how many people are in our state mental hospitals who come out “crazier” than when they went in and you also wouldn’t believe how much of an industry it is to deem people insane to make money off of them through pill mills and the pharmaceutical industry. But I’m not going to go on a rant here. I wish you all the best of luck, and I am only saying this because I experienced the wrath of mental illness and drug addiction myself. Stop making excuses for your loved ones and yourselves and get to work. God Bless and get well.

  30. If you were able to resolve your issues without the use of drug treatments, that is good. But that has, so far, not been the case for my brother and for many others who have left their testimony in comments here and elsewhere.

    It is not responsible for you to claim that “Mental illness is curable”, as if that is a truth applicable to all cases.

    – Dennis Allard, July 2013

  31. Broken says:

    I saw your video on youtube and came to the blog. My daughter’s father hears voices and sees things that are not there. He kind of has his own weird fake realities that he is in. It’s really terrible. I had to call the police so many times because he was terrorizing me and our baby. Adding paranoia and violent episodes with hard drug use and a criminal mind and you get a bad situation. Luckily right now he is incarcerated and will be for awhile before he is deported. It’s hard to understand a person who is suffering with schizophrenia. My daughters father somehow hid it from his family for the most part (they refused to accept that anything was wrong with him). He slipped through the hands of the law so many times and was a danger to anyone in his path. It is scary that people like my daughters father could even be out on the streets. I lived in fear for my life and my family members lives for years until I finally was able to have him arrested. He had been involuntarily committed other times for setting himself on fire because of the “demons in his clothes” among other things, but he was let out because he was good at manipulating people and pretending to be normal.
    I wish you and your brother luck and peace. I know it is hard for you and it is hard for him too. I noticed your brother remembers details. He ties those details into his paranoia. When he was asking why you were scratching I can relate. That was something my daughters father would say to me. He would accuse me of communicating with some kind of imaginary people if I barely rubbed my face or scratched an itch. I know it’s frustrating and it’s hard. Bless you both.

  32. emily says:

    omg!!!!! i thought we were the only ones goimg thru this kust the fact to know myobrothers in jail hurts so bad he needs help npt time in jail they accused him pf battery and they want to sentance him for a year please help me what should i do they ate evaluating him hes been there a month !!! he didnt even hurt anybpdy we had to call the cops so they can take him to the hospital and they disnt they ended up taking him to jail :(

  33. margie says:

    Hi Dennis
    Is your brother OK now? Is he in jail ? Is he writing??

  34. My brother in now housed at Atascadero State Hospital. Officially he is on parole but will be retained at ASH until he is deemed no longer a threat to others. I am able to talk at length with him by phone. He is quite stable now. I hope he will be able to return to society within a year although if he is just thrown back to the street without some kind of court mandated supervision, it is unclear he would not relapse.

  35. Julie says:

    Oh Dennis I am crying as I read all this. This is my sons story. His illness has distorted not only his life but the intire family. He is in the hospital at this time. He has been there about three weeks as fare as we know. But we really have know idea what the truth is. He says he is getting out tomorrow. He is my child. A part of me. I love him more than life it’s self and I am scared to death. When we talk on the phone he is so medicated he can hardly speak. They will put him on 5 or 6 antipsychotic meds at once. When he gets here there is no treatment at all. We go to work and he lays on the couch. He owes the courts tens of thousands of dollars for tickets that he gets for begging for money. He will become overwhelmed very quickly and be off his meds again. Most of the time he doesn’t believe we are his parents. He thinks we are holding his parents hostage in the walls. He has tried many times to commit suiside. We don’t know what to do. He has no place to go and we want to help him get better but I’m afraid it will be at our expense. If this was any other disease there would be help for us. Guess I just needed to vent. Because By now I know there is no help for my son or your brother. I will keep your family in my prayers

  36. Diane says:

    My heart goes out to you for your brother, for I know first hand about the justice system, there is no justice if you are black and have no money. My son, mildly mentally retarted, noted since he was 8 years old, has spent the last 11 1/2 years in prison and on Death Row for a crime he didn’t do. Now one might say I’m saying that he didn’t do it because I am his mother. No, I am not. In fact, his new lawyers flew me down where he is a month ago and told me they spoke to the co-defendant and he has admitted that he committed the crime but he knows that there is nothing that can be done because of double Jeopardy. Basically they flew me down to help convenice my son to sign a letter stating that he did the crime and he will not ever do anything to fight, and they will take him off death row and give him life without parole. This has been, to say the least, horrific. It appears that I can’t get any help from any organizations for one reason or another. Nonetheless, I am aware of the injustice and I hope and pray things work out for your brother very soon.

    God Bless,

    Diane

  37. Melissa says:

    Dennis, I understand everything that you are going thru believe me you are not alone I will be praying for your family and brother. Same story,same crime, and a broken system. Wow, I always felt alone dealing with my brothers illness. My Brother has been sick with mental illness for about 12 years he is now 29 and my God If you have a mental ill relative its the most horrible feeling of hopelessness. What can we do? How can you help? So many questions so little answers. My Brother was homeless not because he didn’t have a place to live but because he did not want to take his meds. I guess one day he was so hungry and had been asking people for money he stoled a lady’s purse. Why he did it I don’t know. Every night I would go to the streets and look for him and take him dinner. and ask him to come home. I would tell my self how can I eat and sleep if I don’t know if he is ok.I was mentally tired and I honestly asked God if he gets arrested at least I know were he is and i know they will feed him. But now he is facing prison accused of second degree robbery. He does not realize how serious his crime is. I want him to get help and I Know he has to pay for his crime. but Prison is not the answer for him. A mental hospital? yes I can live with that. Therapy and meds can give me a little of my brother back. Any advice it is truly appreciated. Please help me pray for my brother We have court December 8 2014. Staying Strong and Positive in Jesus name.

  38. Stella Blue says:

    Dennis,

    Just like many others who have posted here, I was so relieved to find your video and your blog today. My brother-in-law is schizophrenic. Watching your brother speak, his aversion to questions, his high level of intelligence, his ability to convolute the answers to even the simplest of questions, his belief in wild conspiracies that involve him, is EXACTLY what my brother-in-law sounds like. He, too, is being thrown through the system instead of receiving proper treatment. He, too, is a very intelligent, talented, wonderful man until he goes off his medication. His father died recently and he has been in a downward spiral ever since. He had these episodes of on again off again with the medications prior to that, but they have progressively gotten much much worse. He has been arrested twice this year. Once for stripping naked and running down the road in another city close to where we live. Again for going into a maniacal fit of laughter in a restaurant, to the point where he was basically screaming laughter and disturbing everyone around him. He believes he has created our governments economy, he believes he has written famous works that were stolen from him and he is owed millions of dollars, and he believes he is being constantly filmed and monitored. He hears voices as well. He believes the meds are his family’s way of suppressing or controlling him. It seems like every time he goes back on the meds then goes off he is a little worse than the last time. He often hitchhikes out of town. About a year and a half ago he was missing for two months and was found living in the woods half way across the country with no shoes, no glasses, nothing. Just the clothes on his back. He believes my husband and their mother are stealing from him and constantly plotting against him, and they are the ONLY people in his life who care about him and are trying to help him. He constantly battles with alcoholism and drug addiction (specifically heroin).
    The two hospitals we have locally have basically stopped treating him. Now every time he goes to the ER (which has been at least 6 times in the past 5 months), they ship him to a state psychiatric hospital who only keeps him a day or so then sends him back home. My mother-in-law is afraid of trying to claim guardianship over him for several reasons. Primarily she is also caring for her elderly mother. In addition, she can’t control him not even a little bit. He lies, runs away to another town, drinks, and she is just not capable of controlling him. Let alone getting him to take his medication. We are beyond the point of trying to keep him out of jail. At this point, either jail or a hospital is better than him living on his own. We fear for his life and even more so that he will end up hurting someone else.

    To the poster who earlier said it is not the governments job to babysit these people, what exactly do you recommend to families like Dennis’ and mine who are dealing with someone like this? We know how ill he is. How is it that the doctors who keep releasing him can’t see past his manipulation? Isn’t that what they are TRAINED to do!?! Why must the court system and all these hospitals keep sending him home? Unfortunately we are in the position of just waiting until he commits a crime bad enough to be sent away?!? Who knows what that crime will be or who will be hurt when it happens. I am fully aware of how horrible this sounds, but we are at the point where we are looking forward to it (just hoping no one including himself gets hurt), so that the legal system can step in and force him into some sort of treatment. He was diagnosed when he was about 18 years old. His entire treatment process has been as an adult. We cannot force him to take pills, see a doctor, or tell the truth to them when he does see them. The few times we have been able to convince him to go to a hospital, they keep him 3-4 days then just spit him back out. Gotta empty those beds, after all. What is it going to take before someone steps up and makes him get help?!?

    I apologize for the disorganized rant. My family and I are so far beyond frustrated its just unreal. How old was your brother when he was diagnosed? Has he been going through the legal system ever since? What medications have you noticed have done the most good? any advice you can offer myself and my family will be a blessing. Thank you so very much for your time.

  39. Nora says:

    Hi Dennis, While it has been a while since you’ve written on the situation with your brother it all rings to current for myself. I never thought I’d be in any situation remotely like this. While the one thing I consider more desperate in your situation is that this is a family member. My loved one was my soul mate, he was everything I wished for. Incredibly sarcastic, brilliant, wonderful mouth dropping guitarist, brilliant, an eye to the world around us similar to my own, brilliant, and then did I mention so very brilliant? His mind seemed intimidating to me as he thought above and beyond. He came into my world at a weaker time for me and he swept me off my feet as we shared similar hobbies and opinions. He moved out of his state and into my state to be closer to me after a whirlwind of love. Then a while after moving in together I began to have extreme stress in my daily life and family life. This is when he was so introverted almost as if living life through my daily affairs that I felt at the time I broke him so to say. I felt like my stress had become overwhelming for him that he started to have severe dellusions, odd thoughts, hallucinations, you name it. Now I know that all was the start of his schizophrenia. He was fast and furiously moving foward and could I see it now in someone else I’d immediately recognize it. The start causing a rebellious teen or a introverted loved one, he was so very brilliant. I once recalled him saying of how he went to a gathering with friends but left early thinking people in particular one person was pointing at him and laughing out loud. He became so taken back he left an became way more hermit like. Now that is what I wonder on, if it even happened. This guy was so technology advanced he taught me how to do things on the computer most average users have no knowledge about. He taught my son starting at three how to build, yes build, a computer system and about what a heat sink was and its place in the computer. Then all of a sudden things escalate and he is ripping down posters and thinking of people spying on him. His parents were his next of kin, the issue being he told his father I was cheating on him. His delusions convinced him of this. Upon my telling his parents of his illness they denied that and laughed me away. For them mental illness doesn’t exist in their world why would it when its rubbish. I reacted for my safety and my children’s. I sent him home he refused medication so he took a bus home leaving all behind he wanted nothing. He didn’t make it fully home before his mom was calling upset and frustrated asking what medication the physician tried to put him on. She asked my help in getting him home. He had been kicked off the bus for being disruptive to the other guests. This could turn out good I thought finally they’ll get him help as his dad drove hours to get him. I would call him and convince him his dad was really his dad. He remained home as I had no contact for seven months. This is when his father called and said they’d moved and he wanted to return home. I said sure that wasn’t a issue but what was the issue was the inability to take medication. Little did I know he was worst then ever. His father dropped him off and didn’t look back. This is when things escalated and his lack of insight was a real big hampering issue with him getting the medication needed to be able to live with this illness. This is when his world and my world changed as he took off one day only to be known the next day through every city newspaper and through the country as the naked intruder. I was devistated as he became the laughing stock of this place when he was mentally ill. This was a horrible dream and my kids were heartbroken as was his family who could no longer deny his illness. This did help him get into a program for severely mentally ill, an outpatient program that he remains with currently when out of jail that is. He has since then proceeded tries on so many medication still no help for his dellusions, hallucinations, or anything of the sort. He has had tactile hallucinations, he has daily visual ones, he has seen false things, heard false things, tasted, smelled, and felt false things. Then he has been through the treatment resistant medication and a huge trial of this medication. Aside from that medicene he has taken at least twenty more. This just furthers his idea that this remains a real thing and his brain is linked to a master computer. I try not to even go into the details of his dellusions but he becomes very lost within that world becoming upset if approached to talk to real people. He is someone I mourn the loss of as he was convicted and given probation. He was able to lie his way through the court saying that he knew he was ill a insight he has never truely known. He has names he feel really reside in our town and at times will call police on these fake names. He has become emotionally blunt and the person I knew who was so very strong often appears juvinile or insulting to me. He is right now in jail without the ability to make a simple daily call because of a change in medication causing him to act out badly. He is more aggressive now and had even for the first time opted to not speak to me. Now he called from jail instructing me on what I must do. Now is when I am tired and sadly need the break. Though I know he doesn’t belong in there there is a fine line between illness and rudeness. I must find that line and not allow myself to be walked on ever. I am very tired of playing caregiver of the year as I have dedicated more then most ever would. I feel he may be to lost for medication to touch base on. He has told me things that have broken my heart and there is no reason for such things. He is almost little glimpses of himself and then he becomes very upset and protective of me where he makes up words and feels that these people are out to wipe my memory as they trail through the home as “ghost doubles”. Now he remains in the hospital without the want or desire to change his medication which is severely needed. I am not going to accept this behavior I refuse and he needs major intervention. I was not embarrassed of his illness as that is not something he did to himself. I feel so aged by all this and like I will eventually lose my sanity. Good luck this is a long and crazy road. All the more reason to appreciate our own mental health and try to keep it as healthy as possible because we know in a moments notice things can change. The “what if” is real.

  40. Karen says:

    Would appreciate an update, if possible, sir. I hope you all are very well.

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