What Your Patients are Hearing

Seniors in long-term care face higher suicide risks


 

An exhibit now running at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., is intended to put a human face on mental illness. The 99 Faces Project: Portraits Without Labels by Boston-area artist Lynda Michaud Cutrell presents photos of people with serious mental illnesses and those who love them, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported. Portraits were taken with the help of three photographers nationwide. The long list was trimmed to 99 that mirror the ethnic makeup of the U.S. population. The roster of individuals includes 33 with schizophrenia and 33 with bipolar disorder. The remaining 33 are “chronically normal” according to Ms. Cutrell. The viewer can’t tell the difference between the mentally affected individuals and those who are not; they look like people one encounters every day. And that’s the point. Marianne Barthel, director of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Arts Program, hopes the exhibit leads to conversations that help “normalize mental health in our society, to recognize that the people you’re looking at in these images could be you or your family member,” the article said. Ms. Barthel also hopes that the exhibit, which runs until September, will help reduce the stigma around mental illness by showing that “there are people who are living successful lives with these illnesses.” One of the 99 faces is that of actress Glenn Close, who cofounded the organization Bring Change To Mind in 2010 after her sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and her nephew with schizoaffective disorder. New Hampshire Union Leader.

Deliberation about the use of the death penalty for a prisoner in Kansas has implications for those with mental illness who commit crimes. As the Topeka Capital-Journal reported, James Kahler was convicted of murdering his estranged wife, her grandmother, and his two teenage daughters in 2009. Two years later, he was sentenced to death, and several years later, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld that conviction. His guilt is not in question. What is at issue is his impairment. His lawyers had earlier argued that severe depression had made his grip on reality tenuous and that he could not be executed. Now comes the news that the U.S. Supreme Court will rule whether the decision by the state of Kansas to abolish insanity as a defense was constitutional under the 8th and 14th amendments. The high court’s ruling will have profound implications for people with mental illness. In addition to those in Kansas, under state laws in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Utah, “a traditional insanity defense in which a person must understand the difference between right and wrong before being found guilty of a crime isn’t allowed,” the report said. An accused can cite “mental disease or defect” as a partial defense. However, in such cases, it must be proven that the person had no intention of committing a crime. In their petition to the Supreme Court, his attorneys argued that he knew he was shooting people, but that he was so disturbed at the time that he could not stop himself. “A favorable decision would make it clear that the Constitution requires that a defendant be able to understand the difference between right and wrong before being found guilty, and, in cases like Mr. Kahler’s, put to death,” his defense attorney, Meryle Carver-Allmond, told the Capital-Journal. “We’re hopeful that, in taking Mr. Kahler’s case, the United States Supreme Court has indicated a desire to find that the Constitution requires better of us in our treatment of mentally ill defendants.” The Topeka Capital-Journal.

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