Why We Need Better Mental Health Intervention: Korryn Gaines

As previously stated in part one, 1 in 4 people killed by the hands of an officer will have some case of a serious mental illness…The same is true in the case of Korryn Gaines. Korryn Gaines was a 23 year old mother of two who was murdered by Baltimore SWAT, IN FRONT of her five year old son.korryn-kodi The incident leading up to her death, began when three Baltimore police officers arrived at Korryn’s home to serve both her and her live in boyfriend warrants. When Korryn refused to  open the door, police obtained a key from the landlord and entered the home. What they saw upon entering was a Korryn holding her 5 year old child, as well as a shotgun and her phone.

Korryn FB Live Video

Now, the first thought that most officers would have in this situation is probably fear for their own safety – as was the case with Baltimore PD. They claimed that Korryn pointed the shotgun and made threats to officers, which eventually transpired into an almost 6 hours of negotiations, and ultimately the ending of the young mothers life…But here’s my question: Being that she was clearly in some state of distress and possibly suffering mental issues as well, why wasn’t there anyone who was brought in who was specially trained to speak and negotiate with mentally ill suspects? Reports claim that during the stand off with SWAT, Korryn would have moments of speaking calm and clearly, then the next moment she would be screaming and speaking irratically. On the surface, this could appear to be the affects of adrenaline and high emotions given the situation. But someone with more training and awareness could have identified her as a person with mental illness in distress.

Korryn Gaines – Instagram
Korryn Gaines had a long history of mental health issues, which is believed to have stemmed from lead poising earlier in her life. In 2012, Korryn filed a lawsuit against her former landlord, claiming that “a sea of lead” made her sick. The doctor who examined her found that Korryn displayed signs of neurocognitive impairment, as well as a significant loss of IQ points due to that exposure. (washingtonpost.com) Also important to mention, is the testimony given by Korryn’s pediatrician. She stated that Korryn had a history of anger and impulsive behavior, which resulted in many visits with the school counselor. She also revealed that Korryn also had difficulty with concentration, and was forced to drop out of college because it became to be too much for her. (baltimoresun.com) Additionally, according to Korryn’s boyfriend Kareem, she was prescribed medication for her mood, but had not been taking her medications for quite some time.

Korryn Gaines – Instagram
So back to my question – Why wasn’t a more suitable team of responders called to try and deescalate the situation, given Korryn’s mental status?

Korryn’s mother, Rhonda Dormeus was called to the scene with SWAT, but she wasn’t allowed to speak to her daughter. She stated that “..I don’t feel like they (Baltimore PD) exhausted all the means of negotiation.” There are currently over 2700 CIT (Crisis Intervention Teams) across the US, that’s main function is to elieviate difficult situations when people are experiencing mental distress. Those that have interactions with a CIT trained officer, are set up to receive counseling, medication services, as well as other means of treatment. (nami.org) All services that could have greatly benefited both Korryn Gaines her children, but instead she was forced to deal with her mental crisis alone, which ultimately cost her life.

– Jasmine JeNay ✨

Why We Need Better Mental Health Intervention: Laquan McDonald

Perhaps the reason why many people don’t seek help for their mental illnesses, is simply because they don’t realize that they have any. 84% of the time between the first symptoms of mental illness and the first time seeking any treatment, is spent not recognizing the signs. The other 16% of time is actually spent getting help. Maybe if money was utilized to implement more early intervention programs in schools across the nation, the government wouldn’t have to waste over $30,000 in a year on incarcerations. Also important to note, is that police shot and killed 124 people dealing with some sort of mental health crisis in the first 6 months of 2015. (washingtonpost.com) 1 in 4 people killed by the hands of an officer will have some case of a serious mental illness. So what do these alarming statistics mean? Simply put, it means that law enforcement has become the first responders to those needing some sort of mental health intervention…and they clearly don’t know what they’re doing.

Source: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.com

 

Now I don’t know about you, but when I think of police shootings – especially those that end murder – the first city that comes to mind is my own: Chicago. Many people have heard the story of 17 year old Laquan McDonald, and even may have seen the video of him being slain by Chicago PD on October 20, 2014. What many people don’t know however, was that Laquan was a young man who was trying to navigate though life with a handful of mental illnesses for which he didn’t have much support. He was diagnosed with having learning disabilities, episodic mood disorder, bipolar disorder, and also post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD by the time he was 11 years old. (www.chicagosuntimes.com) Common symptoms of PTSD include: Heightened reactivity to stimuli, anxiety, depression, agitation, irritability, hostility, self-destructive behavior, emotional detachment, and on and on. Records from Child Protective Services show that Laquan also faced malnourishment, physical and sexual abuse while in foster care – all before the age of 7.

Laquan McDonald

Laquan had been prescribed medication for his mental illnesses, but he refused to take them because he grew up with the notion that medication was for “slow people”. A common misconception in the African American community. Having gotten his schooling from the Chicago Public School system, there wasn’t much support for him in dealing with his complex mental issues or even resources for him to educate himself more about what he was experiencing. Thus, on that gloomy October night that would show to be his last, Laquan was found walking in the middle of a busy street, acting and speaking irraticlly with a knife in his hand. It is very well possible that he was experiencing a mental or psychotic break, due to evidence from a report by Child Welfare Services that stated he had been having a difficult time dealing with a recent family dispute. The officer that arrived on scene and eventually look Laquan’s life was 37 year old Jason Van Dyke.

Van Dyke gave Laquan SIXTEEN bullets, and attempted to justify his actions by falsifying his report to say that he feared for his life as Laquan lunged toward him with a knife…but the dash cam showed different. The video showed Laquan walking away from officers, while still receiving the fatal rounds. Why didn’t anyone try to talk to the apparently distraught Laquan and try to deescalate the situation? Was it simply easier to take the teens life, in opposed to calling in more qualified back up that had the training to deal with mental health patients? Chicago PD participates is one of the 2700 Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) in the nation. CIT was created in 1988 in an effort to educate law enforcement and first responders on how to handle calls that involve people with mental health issues appropriately. (www.nami.org) Although there are CIT programs that exist, the criteria for participating is very laxed: Training only requires 40 hours to complete, and is not a requirement for officers. In other words, only those that want to participate sign up, there is no law or requirement currently in place making it madetory….

Next Case: Korryn Gaines

Jasmine JeNay ✨

What’s Up With The Stigma Around Mental Illness?

Stigma –  [stig-muh] noun:

  1. a mark of disgrace or infamy; a stain or reproach, as on one’s reputation.
  2. a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease.

Nearly 1 in 5 adults in the United States suffer from some form of mental illness in their lifetime – that’s roughly 49 million people…49 MILLION. So that means there’s a pretty good chance you know a person or two who’s dealing with some form of mental illness right now.

Mental illness is particularly pertinent to people of color, although many refuse to believe that brown people can suffer from such ailments. Be that as it may, 18.9% of African Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, and Hispanics are close behind at 16.3%. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that only .25% of African Americans actively seek mental health care, compared to a whopping 40% of Caucasians who seek help when needed.

Source: mentalhealthamerica.net

 

When someone feels as if they can’t ask for help due to this irrational fear of humiliation, not only do they choose not to seek care from a medical professional, but the individual is not practicing the best self care. Without a doubt, the perception of minorities being exempt from mental illness comes from a lack of education on the topic. Not to mention, the unspoken rule that Black people (especially men) have to remain strong, fearless and independent at all times. We can’t show any sign of weakness – lest you want to run the risk of being judged and sometimes even ridiculed by family, friends, coworkers, even church members…

Allow me to address and then clarify a few common misconceptions that further the stigma of mental illness – many of which I’ve personally faced, and often times still do:

  1. The thought that someone who is depressed is just being lazy.
  2. People with mental illnesses simply aren’t trying hard enough to feel better.
  3. Having a more positive outlook on life will make your symptoms go away.
  4. People who suffer from anxiety disorders are “flakey” or not dependable.
  5. Praying or putting your issues in the hands of God or a higher power will make them go away.

These stigmas couldn’t be farther from the  truth! For most people, their mental illness is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain that  doesn’t allow their neurotransmitters to communicate appropriately in processing emotion and behavior.

My Daily Med Regimen

So if someone you know says they’re depressed and they have little to no energy to complete tasks or even get out of bed – believe them. Trust me, no one wants to sit around all day feeling hopeless and unmotivated to do anything. You certainly can’t wish away mental illness, or try harder not to have it, just like you can’t wish away the flu or tell yourself to stop feeling like crap: It is a real illness that requires medication, therapy, and a good self care routine. The same is true for having a positive outlook on life. Looking on the bright side” isn’t always enough when you’re dealing with mental illness. Now, I’ve been called a flake my whole life: I used to cancel plans with friends and often isolate myself instead of going out and socializing with people I care about. Not because I’m a bad friend or a loner, but rather because I have both social and generalized anxiety disorders. Sometimes I just need to be alone, and that’s okay too! This last point REALLY gets under my skin, because I love my Lord & Savior – but as I said before about wishing problems away, the same is true for praying. Without getting too deep, I believe that prayer and spirituality does play a part in any type of healing, but you can’t get help if you don’t try and help yourself as well…

With that being said, let’s stop with all the stigma and judging around mental illness. Take the time to educate yourself, so you can be a better friend, parent, child, partner or whatever else to that person in your life struggling with mental illness. And for my fellow Dreamers, let’s continue to show the world that we’re mentally strong, and perfectly imperfect just the way we are.


– Jasmine JeNay ✨

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My Stay At A Partial Hospitalization Program…

*Please be aware that this post has content about self harm, and may be sensitive to in nature to read. 

So – As you may or may not know, I’ve been clinically diagnosed with Major Depressive Mood Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (Predominantly Inattentive Type), Social Anxiety Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and most recently – Bipolar Depression II.

….dang.  

That was a mouthful.

Now, I had always felt that I was different ever since I was a little girl. Little did I know, was that a gumbo of mental illness was stewing in me, that would later show to be the reason for my irrational fear of being around a crowd of unfamiliar faces. Or literally being completely content one minute, to crying uncontrollably the next. I had no doubt been experiencing depression as early as 10 years old, but I didn’t quite understand the whirlwind of intense emotions or what to do about it – so I did the only thing I thought I had control over, which was inflicting pain unto myself until I had enough. This spiral of depression and self harm continued on and off throughout my life, but the latter had been under control for the better part of 4 years, or so I thought…

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My 8 year old tattoo I got in an attempt to cover up the scars

Fast forward to November 9th when I went to an appointment with a new psychiatrist, and she immediately intervened and recommended that I go to the partial hospitalization program (PHP). Her concern was due to fact that I was sitting in her office with bloody wrists, tears in my eyes, sadness in my heart, and confusion in my mind. In short: I was a hot mess and in desperate need of help. My doctor informed me that the program would teach me coping mechanisms, much better than the destructive ones I was currently using. The only “catch” was that the program was structured in that of a group therapy program. So that meant I had to interact with complete strangers about my emotions, and personal issues. Not to mention my mental issues…”I don’t know about this doc”.

Structure of the PHP groups…therapist included!

The program would involve both CBT and DBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectal Behavior Therapy. CBT is learning how our thoughts about an experience or an event affects our emotional, behavioral and physical responses, and how to respond accordingly. During these sessions, the therapist would lead the group in various exercises that slowly taught us how to identify and change the way we feel, by first learning how to change the way we think. Sounds simple enough if you have any common sense, right? But when you suffer from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, you often time have to deal with various thought distortions, which can make it difficult to respond to situations appropriately. CBT also taught me how to be more mindful and in the moment, instead of focusing and ultimately stressing over things that haven’t even came to pass yet. Mindfulness was practiced in PHP with yoga, meditation and other exercises.

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Meditating at a pop up yoga event

DBT focuses on strengthening ones’ ability to handle distress without acting destructively or losing control. These groups were led by practicing vital skills such as distress tolerance, interpersonal skills and emotion regulation. All things needed to have effective and constructive relationships in the world. In essence – I was relearning how to assess my emotions, and develop healthy habits and communication skills. After the intense 5 week program came to an end, I can honestly say that I checked out stronger, wiser and definitely more confidant than I’d ever felt in my LIFE. During my stay at the program, I would also meet with my psychiatrist about twice a week to adjust my various meds as I was starting to feel better. Everything was so organized and detailed, the staff provided a safe haven for broken people looking pick up the pieces and start again. The PHP gave me the tools needed to better understand my mental illnesses, and how to cope appropriately when I feel trapped inside my own mind. The road to recovery for me starts now.


– Jasmine JeNay ✨

Why Hasn’t Anyone Asked Kanye If He Was Okay Years Ago?

Kanye West can’t seem to keep his name out of everyone’s mouth these days – which is nothing new – but with his recent hospital admission and cancellation of his “Life of Pablo” Tour, people don’t know what to think of Yeezy these days. While most if not all sources are reporting that Kanye’s recent hospitalization is due to a “psychotic episode”, none of them seem to scratch the surface of the bigger picture: Kanye West suffers from depression, and has been since 2007.

…That’s right. Kanye West has been dealing with depression for nearly a decade now, but why is everyone only interested in his mental health status now? It’s quite apparent that this deep depression arose following the death of his mother and best friend,

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A young Kanye posing with mom Donda.

Donda West. Donda passed away on November 10, 2007 due to complications from an elective breast reduction surgery. While Ye has never gone out of his way to speak about the passing of his mother, he did express to Q Magazine back in June of this year that he felt responsible for her death by saying “If I had never moved to L.A. she’d be alive…”.

So back to my question – Why wasn’t it obvious before that the Louis Vuitton Don was crying out for help? Perhaps because of the awful stigma that Black men can’t suffer from mental illness – especially depression? Or maybe it’s due to the fact that he didn’t outwardly speak on his personal life to the media – like the passing of his mother, or his breakup after 6 years with fiancé Alexis Phifer…Thus, his fourth studio album 808s & Heartbreak was released a year later on November 24, 2008. Although the album sold almost a half million records it’s first week, it wasn’t well received by fans or the hip-hop community. RollingStone.com called the album “a mournful song-suite that swings violently between self-pity and self-loathing”. That so called self pity and loathing was really Kanye West expressing his spiraling depression and sense of hopelessness on record.

808s-heartbreak

It seems most thought Ye was either trying too hard to capitalize on the auto tune era reboot, or he was simply being the overly dramatic and over confidant rapper they’d all come to know and love…I on the other hand knew better. I saw this beautifully sad work of art for what it was. I related to his pain and cried along with his lyrics over and over. I was newly 18 and trying to navigate my life as an official adult in college for the first time, and failed miserably. I was hopelessly in love with a man who would never grow to love me back, and mouring the death of my own best friend and mother figure at the same time – my grandmother. I got the message loud and clear: Life was hard. His content resonated deep inside me and I loved every word…So thank you Kanye, from one depressed individual to another, for allowing yourself to be so vulnerable and transparent about our battle. I pray you get the help you so desperately need to begin your journey back to happiness – It’s possible.

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– Jasmine JeNay ✨

Hey Y’all, and Welcome!

Thanks so much for checking out jenaythedreamer.com! Let me start with a brief introduction of myself, and what you can expect to discover here on the site:

So first things first –  My name is Jasmine and I’m a twenty-something year old mother of two AMAZING little boys: Dexter (6) & Gabriel (1)

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…so dang cute, right?

Also important to note, I suffer from a plethora of mental illnesses such as Bipolar II Disorder, ADHD, and Social Anxiety just to name a few… So expect the majority of the content on here to be about mental health awareness and stigma prevention – ESPECIALLY when it comes to educating my fellow people of color. We gotta do better y’all!

That’s really what a bulk of the website’s focus will be, as mental health is something that everyone encounters at some point in life whether dealing with their own diagnosis, or that of a loved one.

…Other than that, you can expect to find content from me on a range of things including: My personal poetry and essays, social injustice and inequality, amateur photography shot by yours truly, being a working brown woman in corporate America, and everything else that makes us perfectly imperfect! Enjoy ❤️

– Jasmine JeNay ✨