Tag Archives: news

Keaton Farris; Mistreatment Bringing a Town Together

*Trigger warning; contains some detail about the mistreatment and death of a man with mental illness*

It seems like every day I hear of a new situation where someone with mental illness has been taken advantage of, abused, or killed with little repercussion. It isn’t every day, however, that I hear about this happening in the small town of Coupeville I grew up in on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

That isn’t to say it doesn’t happen there. I definitely received some spotty (at best) mental healthcare when I lived there 15 years ago, but reports from my family, friends, the community, and the local news have detailed a story much more disturbing than I could have imagined happening in my tiny, sleepy town on my own.

Keaton Ferris, a 25 year old local man who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder was in the Island County jail after not showing up for a hearing. Two weeks later, he was found dead in his cell, with the autopsy report showing he had been denied enough food and water to survive; he died of dehydration.

His parents had been asking to visit him but staff denied all of their attempts to see their son, and they were never told that he was physically unwell.

Allegedly Keaton was denied his medication in jail and quickly became psychotic, at which point the staff was unwilling to treat him properly because they were afraid of his violent behavior.

(Keep in mind, there is a hospital three blocks from the jail, and though there are hospitals in Washington state designed to house and treat people in the criminal justice system with extreme mental illness, they are often too full to take on new patients, leaving them at local hospitals or jails that are completely unequipped to manage in a professional way.)

While the staff neglected to properly feed and hydrate Keaton, they also did not check on him regularly (as policy dictates). By the time he was found deceased, the coroner has reported that he had been dead several hours without notice.

I guess this situation is hitting pretty close to home for me because I spent the first 18 years of my life in that town. Well, that and I know what being on the receiving end of discrimination because of mental illness feels like, even to the point of having staff withhold my medications and becoming very ill. I feel lucky that I have made it to this point, but as a young woman with mental illness, the writing is on the wall.

If this could happen to Keaton Ferris it could happen to me, and that is a truly terrifying notion.

My goal is not to instill fear in anyone, but just to tell stories of my experiences and the experiences of those around me who can’t speak for themselves. Equal rights, proper treatment, and the acknowledgement of our medical needs in times of mental crisis seem like the basic human rights anyone deserves, right?

So where are they?

There was recently a rally in front of the jail where community members gathered to protest the treatment Keaton received, and while I wouldn’t ever suggest that one young man’s torture and death is a positive thing, I am certain that this situation will touch the lives of every person in that town, and I expect people will begin to think differently about mental illness… begin to act differently about it… and that is how the change begins.

You probably aren’t part of this small community, but that doesn’t mean this story wont touch you, or infuriate you, or inspire you to change even one or two small things in your life that will make a difference when we put them all together.

I would encourage anyone who is interested in learning more or helping support our community’s cause of demanding equal rights and treatment for those with mental illness in the criminal justice system can find all news articles, videos, and up to date information at Keatonh2o.com

A Rare Form Of Dwarfism May Protect Against Bipolar Disorder

While researchers are on the hunt for exactly which genes are causing illnesses, research is also being done to search out genes that can protect against them.

An article in The Boston Globe’s science section recently reported that researchers have discovered that a rare, genetic form of of dwarfism called Ellis-van Creveld (a form found relatively commonly among the Old Order Amish of Pennsylvania) may actually cause a genetic mutation that prevents bipolar disorder.

Though researchers don’t want to reproduce the exact mutations, they believe it may be possible to explore new forms of treatment through this discovery.

This has been a very short summary, if you are interested in reading more check out the full article in The Boston Globe here!

An Expert’s Insight About Avoiding Mass Shootings

Hey folks! Frankly, I’m a little worn out when it comes to all the talk regarding mental health and violence, but I’ve just found a great article with information from Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine. This man is something of an expert when it comes to researching mental health and violence, and I appreciate the information he was willing to share in this article!

I feel like there have been so many theories and ideas about this subject tossed around (really this seems to be a subject everyone has an opinion about) that I find it refreshing to see a point of view from someone who is well educated, understands many aspects about mental health, and is a leader in their field.

Having experienced a mass shooting recently down the street from my apartment here in Seattle I think it is important that we (as a mental health community) are aware of what our individual states and country as a whole plan to do in response to these acts of violence. There is a good chance the changes made will impact us (via healthcare or laws, etc.) as members of the mental health community first (violent or not), and probably as citizens second. I know it can be tough to stay informed with such a raging debate going on, and that’s why I wanted to share this particular piece with you.

You can find the article here, it is worth checking out!



Psychiatric Warehousing

Last night I watched two and a half hours of news (something unheard of for me) just to see one story they kept dangling in front of my face about psychiatric warehousing.

Seattle local channel Komo 4 News ran a story about how there aren’t enough psychiatric inpatient hospital beds in the city for all of the patients that need them, with the result being that psychiatric patients are being housed on regular floors of hospitals (and thus are “warehoused”).

The story called this a “public health crisis”.

I was concerned for a minute when the story suddenly turned and nurses began speaking out about having been attacked by psychotic patients in the hospital who weren’t in the proper psychiatric facilities, but the story seemed to make a point that this warehousing of patients is not only unsafe for hospital staff and patients, but also means that people aren’t receiving the psychiatric care that they need.

Last year, they claimed 3000 people were committed in the state, and of those 2000 (2/3) had to wait for a bed in a psychiatric facility.

Personally, I’m beginning to feel very lucky. Around this time in 2011 I had a psychiatric inpatient hospitalization, and I managed to get a bed the same day (which was something like a miracle). I did, however, have the receptionist at the hospital on the phone for four hours for me in order to lock down a bed.

A quick tip? I’ve been told you are much more likely to get a bed for a psychiatric inpatient hospitalization if you are looking for one on a Friday. Apparently that is when the most discharges happen -right before the weekend.

Anyway, the story was extremely sensationalized but I feel glad that someone is trying to bring attention to how wretched it is in Seattle to try and receive psychiatric treatment.

For the whole story and a video, check it out here.