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When you’re in a crisis situation, knowing what to do and having the tools at your disposal to solve the crisis is essential!

Best example, you’re driving down the highway and you blowout a tire. Your crisis situation now begins. You gain control of your vehicle and drive it into the breakdown lane. You are now safely out of some danger being in the breakdown lane. You have multiple options in this crisis situation.

Option number one: you can get out of the car and change the tire yourself possibly using a donut or spare tire, and be on your way.

Option number two: if you have AAA or a vehicle service program, a quick phone call can send a tow truck.

Option number three: you can call a friend who can then help you maybe with a ride to buy a spare tire.And/or:

Option number four: if you are like me and sometimes and don’t have spare, or a phone, or friend to call, start walking.

We all have options, tools that power that option. Continuing with the analogy of changing a car tire, I would not be able to change it if I did not have a tire iron. I would not be able to get a hold AAA if I did not have a phone and without that phone, I couldn’t call a friend either. Options and tools get you through crises.

Same holds true when you’re dealing with mental health high risk situation crisis. We need the proper tools individually to handle the situation with the proper response. You don’t crack an egg, so some situations, when it comes to mental health crisis, require a delicate response. While other types of crisis warrant an immediate reply.

Someone like myself who has dealt with suicidal ideation since the onset of my “symptoms” when I was a teenager may not…not require the same due diligence as someone without any previous history of suicidal ideation or verbalization and/or suicidal behavior.  In other words, I have a past history of “morbid thoughts” and that of itself does not mean, in my particular case, I am planning to commit suicide. What it does mean, is that by the numbers, statistically speaking, I have a chance of following through… IF I DO NOT RECOGNIZE my symptoms as such.  If I do not have the tools to handle such ideation and/or morbid thoughts and ideas…and dwell on the fascination of death: then that could be a problem.

One tool that has helped me in dealing with suicidal ideation and thinking in the past has been writing poetry. Some call it dark poetry – or just honestly putting down my feelings into words as I feel. I have found over the years, that when I write down in poetic form my feelings of ideation or suicidal behavior, I can close the book on that symptom.  It’s as if I’ve written down my feeling, got it out of my head, and now I can forget about it and move on.

It’s funny, I use poetry when I’m depressed to write out my feelings of emotional distress but when I’m happy I draw cartoons about mental health humor… And it gets a bit strange. So, If you get a poem from me…kindly suggest I go to CSU.

Consumer Ambassador
Chato Stewart



Mental Health Crisis in Florida

Thursday, March 27, 2014 @ 03:03 PM
Author: Chato Stewart

It’s a sad fact that millions if not billions are suffering in some way globally.

Close to home, here in Florida, about:

1 out of every 2 children and 2 out every 5 adults–in Florida living in poverty do not receive the mental health services they need.

Florida ranks 49th in the country for per-capita spending on mental health care, and 35th in substance abuse care. ~According to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors.

Did You know? 1 in 2 Floridians, according a 2012 Report prepared for the State Department of Children and Families, will experience some form of mental illness in his/her lifetime. A huge lack in funding leaves many without any help or hope.

If You caught the front page of Charlotte Sun recently reading about the: Mental Health Crisis here in Florida has me concerned about my own treatment for my mental well-being and also about the kind of treatment available for my peers. According to the Sun article:

Last year, the crisis stabilization unit admitted 1, 272 patients. Of those, 315 were children–some as young as 4.

How THANKFUL I am for the CBHC and their timely services for our communities of Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda!

As a peer, friend, community member and/or parent how are you caring for your mental health? Are you availing yourself of the services that are provided locally? We may have limits and limitations on available care, but something is a lot better than nothing. We should appreciate all the caring individuals who do work very hard in our local communities to help those of us in need.

Life is interdependent and interconnected on so many levels. We all play a part or role in the mental-health and well-being of our respective communities. How are you personally contributing to the peace and wellness of your family, neighborhood, community, state, country and globe.

As a global-citizen of the human race, how can you help your fellow members attain the mental health care they desperately need?!

We can all help each other out in simple ways. One way is by being kind to whomever crossing our path and whenever. We just don’t know what anyone may be bearing up under that may be causing undue stress and mental anguish. A kind and helpful attitude can go a long way in helping one another press forward positively despite any negative obstacles or setbacks in life.

Life can be beautiful and it can be hard. We can each help us carry our load of lemons, by encouraging each other to get the help we need. CBHC …

1422-MentalHealthHumor-Spring Equinox Balance Eggs-Psychological-Disorders-Cartoons-Chato-Stewart

Originally posted on Psych Central by Chato Stewart

In recognition of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, individuals in the Charlotte County community will be raising awareness of mental health and fighting stigma as we walk in the Healthy Minds. Will you Join us?

Healthy Community Mental Health Awareness Walk
May 3rd at 7:30 am at Gilchrist Park in Punta Gorda.

Managing Emotions Effectively (Part 2)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 @ 12:03 PM
Author: Chato Stewart

Managing Emotions is difficult for all of us, never mind if you suffer from a mood disorder or a mental illness. Don’t we all feel slightly grumpy when we’re sick?

When we are tired, stressed, over-worked or sick, it’s harder to stay calm and keep our cool.

(For related context please see: Managing Emotions Effectively Part 1.)

Anger is an emotion that can potentially bring us much harm and hurt. All of us want less harm and less hurt in life, right? Usually, we all want more happiness and less pain. Learning to navigate beyond fleeting impulses to act on our anger or to out negatively because of our anger is essential to wellness.

Uncontrolled anger is damaging to the body. Check out these warnings: helpful to both genders.

“Acting on anger leads to even more aggression,” The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). According to research, men who manifest anger “are more likely to be dead by age 50 than those who do not.”

The American Heart Association similarly states: “Men who experience outbursts of anger have twice the risk of stroke as men who control their tempers.”

We all need motivation for change. Do you like change? Change can be tough. Change is necessary for growth and progress and recovery from illness. Yet, how do we identify areas of necessary change that will bring us closer to wellness and recovery?

Self-examining questions can help:

Why am I angry?

What makes me angry?

How do I personally choose to manage my anger without hurting myself and/or anyone else?

Here are some helpful suggestions and information (I’ve read)…that may broaden your understanding about this touchy topic of anger and what to do about it:

Dr. Redford B. Williams states in JAMA: “The simplistic advice, ‘when angry, let it out,’ is unlikely . . . to be of much help. Far more important is to learn how to evaluate your anger and then to manage it.” He suggests asking yourself: “(1) Is this situation important to me? (2) Are my thoughts and feelings appropriate to the objective facts? (3) Is this situation modifiable, so that I don’t have to have this anger?”

  Frank Donovan, in his book Dealing With Anger—Self-Help Solutions for Men, recommends: “Escaping anger—or, more specifically, escaping the scene and other people in your angry episode—is a strategy which has special importance and value at the higher levels of anger.”

Bertram Rothschild, writing in journal The Humanist, states: “Anger . . . is primarily one’s personal responsibility. The reasons to become angry exist in our heads. . . . The few times anger worked for you pale in comparison to the multitude of times it made things worse. It is far better not to produce the anger than to experience it.”

Boiling Point—Problem Anger and What We Can Do About It describes “problem anger” as “any dysfunctional way of relating to and managing anger that persistently causes significant difficulties in a person’s life including their thinking, feeling, behaviour and relationships.”

Ronald Potter-Efron: “The two are quite different in several ways. First, anger is goal directed. By that I mean that an angry person wants something specific. Rage is threat-directed. The individual believes he or she is threatened and is trying to relieve the threat. Second, rage is a Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde experience. The person having it feels like the rage is happening without his or her consent. There’s a sense of disbelief, a what-is-happening-here-to-me event. Third, people struggling with rage sometimes lose conscious awareness of their activity. They have rage blackouts that last from seconds to hours. This doesn’t happen with anger. Fourth, ragers often lose control of themselves in amazing ways.” Interview excerpt of Ronald Potter-Efron, Anger Expert and Author of Rage

Pavel G. Somov, Phd: “I see anger as essentially a form of fear. And I see anger management as essentially a form of fear management. There are true tigers and there are paper tigers, true threats and symbolic/conditioned threats. Nobody needs to be taught how to fear a real tiger: that’s hard-wired and taken care of. Yet many of us—particularly those struggling with anger—do require help with learning how not to fear paper tigers (symbolic/conditioned threats). And all of us need to learn how not to fear fear itself, in which case, anger management goes beyond fear management and becomes tantamount to mind management.” ~Pavel G. Somov, Phd Author of Anger Management Jumpstart


Managing Emotions Effectively (Part 1)

Friday, March 21, 2014 @ 04:03 PM
Author: Chato Stewart

Managing emotions is challenging! Especially negative ones that potentially can harm us like anger. Anger and its causes are complex.

The media bombards us with vivid-daily-real and imaginary examples of an angry world. Examples teach us. We are surrounded by examples everywhere we look.

James P. Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, says: “A generation that’s been repeatedly exposed to intense, realistic violence grows up with more acceptance of aggression, less resistance to brutality, and less compassion.”

Anger and frustration and fear can cause us to act in ways that endanger ourselves and others. Let’s face it, not all of us have had the so-called “perfect” parental examples worthy of imitation. Dear Mom and Pop did try their best, however. We all try our best.

Psychologist Harry L. Mills explains: “From a very early age, people learn to express anger by copying the angry behavior they see modeled around them.”

Sometimes, anger is a product of despair. Sometimes, it’s a product of sickness.  Don’t we all feel grumpy when we are sick?! Sometimes due to mood disorders and other illnesses, we have trouble effectively managing emotions including anger.

A 2010 joint report by the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) states: “Over 210 million people across the globe are estimated to be unemployed.”

Other forms of injustice besides unemployment such as prejudice or stigma against the mentally ill and others makes us mad!

How do we know if our anger is normal or we have a serious issue that needs addressing by a professional?

Here are some basic points to consider regarding your personal anger triggers based on information from

  • You frequently argue with co-workers and relatives
  • It’s difficult for you to forgive those who offend you
  • You lose control over you emotions frequently
  • You have trouble sleeping at night due to brooding over what upset you during the day
  • Your episodes of anger are following by feelings of shame and regret

We all face stressful situations at home and at work. Learning to minimize stress and maximize peace involves managing anger in healthy non-violent ways. If we are parents, we may want to examine how our anger affects our children? How do our anger expressions affect our co-workers? Are our interactions with our neighbors friendly and peaceful? Are we letting media and the entertainment industry shape our views of anger and aggression?

Please join me for part 2 as we explore this touchy topic of anger and tools we can learn to better manage this challenging emotion.


We want to move from being a victim of mental illness, away from the “why me?” mentality. It takes time. We are healing the mind, body, and the spirit. All three seem broken at times when you’re dealing with the storms of crisis after crisis to the point of psychosis. Sometimes you experience just total loss of reality. Putting back the pieces of our lives is like a jigsaw puzzle. It takes effort and patience.

Just today, I got an email from a friend. She is a mental health hero. She is a mental health champion, I have seen her personally empower groups of people into recovery. She also lives with mental illness. What happens to us when our heroes, when we become mentally unstable, when our world we so fervently put back together unravels, what do we do?

A life with mental illness is a life of battles – at times, we take two steps forward, get three steps backward, but we are always going to get back up to take our four steps forward. My friend, who gives her life to advocacy work, has had a bad year. I’ve reached out to her in the past. She finally emailed me back, balanced enough to feel guilty, shameful, and that she wants to apologize.

That’s where the victimization of mental illness gets a lot of us. The shame, the guilt we carry with us. It’s not because we are mentally ill, but because what are illness might cause… I assured my friend that our friendship’s still intact. I’m happy for her wellness and I look forward to talking to her soon about her recovery.

We have to move away from the thinking that we can reach our recovery alone! There are many people in our community that suffer in silence. Maybe they’ll see the doctor once, twice or three, four times a year to get some med management, but what happens in between then? What kind of support do you receive between the doctors’ visits?

Being a champion over a victim of mental illness – first, we own it! That starts with education. The doctor tells you you’re bipolar, then we research everything we can find about bipolar disorder. Research the best treatment. If we are going to go the route of medications, we do our research on the medication. We learn about the medication and we ask questions about the types of side-effects to expect. Common side-effects that could be considered normal side-effects such as cottonmouth, upset stomach, maybe a little constipation or diarrhea. Some side-effects require you to stop taking the medication such as a rash, dizziness, fainting, seizures.

A mental health hero champions his or her mind, body and spirit so as to ask questions, take notes and never be afraid to stand up for his or her wellness!

In the last 50 years Mental Health Patients/Clients or as we are usually called today, consumers, have fought defiance of tyranny of state run hospitals/asylums/ psych wards.It is estimated over Ten Thousand patients had the Transorbital Lobotomies. With another 50,000 lobotomies using a drill in the procedure were performed until it was outlawed as a barbaric procedure.  Most notably, Freeman and his neurosurgeon partner Dr. James Watts performed Transorbital lobotomy on President Kennedy’s older sister *Rosemary Kennedy in 1941. She was a “vegetable” after the procedure and needed constant care at 22 years old. It didn’t help her and made her situation 1000 times worse.

In past years we had a spike in Psychedelic lobotomy – or use of medication to effectively lobotomized some patients. While this practice of just taking care of the daily needs of patients by locking them up and drugging them to the point where they don’t know what day or even year it is took place in the late 50s and 60s. The early 70s was the onset of the Recovery model/treatment era. In the belief that with treatment recovery is possible. Now we live in a time of scientific discovery, a time of wonderment, a time of technology, a time that still isn’t good if you can’t get any services!

We started off this blog post series talking about mental health services being provided within the Mental Health and the jail systems and of being taxed and overwhelmed. When it comes to mental health services – some is better than none, a little can go a long way!


A day at our CSU costs $391 per patient. If that same patient with a mental illness that does not get treatment visits the ER, the cost is $2,887. If the patient then goes to a state prison, the cost increases to $52,117. From there if that same patient with an untreated mental illness goes to a State Mental Hospital, the amount soars to $112,000. Treatment for mental health in our community is necessary and it works.

I know there is no money. I know there are many cutbacks. I also know there’s a lot of red tape and there are a lot of people in our community suffering needlessly, silently with depression, bipolar disorder schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, many anxiety disorders. Some don’t know what to do, others are afraid to talk, others believe they cannot afford the high cost of services. Charlotte Behavioral Health Care does not turn people away. This week five years ago, I was in crisis. They did not turn me away when I needed help. For this I will be forever grateful!

Consumer Ambassador
Chato Stewart

*Ever wonder why Rosemary Kennedy had to get out of Lobotomy? Look for a future blog post coming soon.

Can we not learn from history? I was saddened that it seemed like part two of Charlotte Sun Roundtable on Mental Illness was focusing mostly on G. Pierce Wood’s Memorial Hospital/Asylum.  To me, as a mental health advocate, it felt like a wrong turn towards, a backwards idea being presented almost as a solution.  As if bringing back state run hospitals and locking us away, people living with a mental health diagnosis, was going to be the solution and way of handling the demand on the mental health system.

I guess when you think about it, it worked in the past right?…all those mental health asylums hiding insane lunatics away from public eye, locking us behind cellar doors – keeping us out of sight and out of mind.  Sure that worked in the past, right?  That’s kind of what I was feeling the article was going to suggest. Although in one aspect it is, since it’s talking about the jails and mental health issues not being met.

But I digress; let me first get back to G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital.  If you are not from Port Charlotte or Punta Gorda Florida or did not need or started receiving/seeking services for mental health treatment after February 2002, you enter the G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital era. As a Mental Health Advocate, YOU can count yourself lucky to have Charlotte Behavioral Health Care!

GPW was the premier state mental health treatment facility in the area and while the largest in the state opening its doors in 1947 (History note: GPW opened its doors 1 year after Dr. Walter Freeman developed the Transorbital Lobotomy, using a device similar to an ice-pick for outpatient “office procedure”) and closed under scrutiny 12 years ago on February 28, 2002.

In the end GPW riddled with controversy, allegations of financial corruption, patient abuse, lack of funding all leading/contributing to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling with federal and state legislation, G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital — along with many other large state mental/ Asylum hospitals around the country were to be closed.

When I talked to a former DCF employee source who followed the Federal lawsuit closely and observed the Federal Court Testimony in Tampa his take on the article:

The real issue is that the case was settled for less funding that was needed in the community for the future. The court monitors wanted $3 to $1 spent to operate the hospital. The hospital would close, but the “money would follow the person” in the community, plus funds for others in need. Yes Florida is 49 out of 50 in per capital funding for mental health. The GP Wood budget was approximately $33 – 36 Million at the time. Therefore, additional funding was needed for diversion programs (from jails) and permanent supportive housing and employment…Funding has not kept up with demand. – anonymous former DCF employee source

Also see Jay Glynns article Jails Pay The Price For State’s Poor Mental Health Policy OUR VIEW: Mental health care in Florida is a disgrace.

Florida has closed all but three of its state mental hospitals in the past decade — a knee-jerk decision made after a costly lawsuit involving a patient at the now-shuttered G. Pierce Wood mental health facility in DeSoto County. The state, citing budget concerns among other excuses, planned to treat those needing mental health care with certified teams doing outpatient care in each community. It hasn’t worked.  Until this year, when funding remained stable, the state has cut money invested in mental health care in every budget since the move to eliminate mental hospitals began. Florida ranks a shameful 49th in mental health care*spending per capita in the United States. The result has been a nightmare for local law enforcement and a burden on county jails.

Consumer Ambassador
Chato Stewart

*In my next post I will Google at G Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital and see what I can learn.

Suicide Prevention-I Walked Away Alive (Part 2)

Thursday, February 27, 2014 @ 01:02 PM
Author: Chato Stewart

My Suicide – My Life

Yes, on 6/24/2004 in Sarasota I attempted to kill myself.  I know the exact day because I branded and burned it into my arm.  1 week earlier I called to get 911 to get help, I was not in danger, or a danger and I was lucid enough to make the call. I REJECTED – turned away because I was not an “immediate threat to myself or others.”  This is when my wife and I made a safety plan, during my moment of clarity we set up the plan that would protect her and the kids if I ever “LOSE IT.”  A plan where she would take the kids to an undisclosed safe place and call for help.

A week later that plan went into full effect, I was dragged in the CSU in handcuffs “voluntarily” in Sarasota. My wife and kids fled for their lives… Well, you know it’s a common mental health story.  This story ended with me getting help and saved my marriage.  Yet, my suicidal thinking, and daily ideations still ran wild. Some meds help, some exasperated the issues.  In 2008 I had a “relapse” that led me to Charlotte Behavior Health Care.

I was off my meds for two years- the time my wife Joan Winifred refers to as two years of hell on earth. I was out of control, mood swings and rapid cycling, acute mania and hearing a solid single voice in my head – repeating the same mantra over and over: “your worthless, disgusting– kill yourself – die, die, die (I’m paraphrasing of course – what we really in my head was 1000x worse).”

It was here at Charlotte Behavior Health Care that I first learned that one of my most influential coping tools to deal with suicidal idea and suicidal behavior: art therapy. It was here where I started drawing the Mental Health Humor cartoons. It was here where I found hope.

It was here I stared from with a ZERO Suicide record.

It’s been 5 years next month since I was in the CSU at CBHC. I still have a zero suicide record!  I’m saying the term ZERO Suicide for a reason and in my next post I’ll explain it all.

Revolving Jail Door Charlotte Sun Sunday Feb 23 2014 cover 500

Photo by Chato Stewart – Reading the Sun Paper

As I pick up my daily paper in my driveway, I notice the sub-title first “JAILS FACE BURDEN OF CARING FOR MENTALLY ILL INMATES“…

I knew this would be one Sunday page to blog about! I took my meds (willing I may add) and started reading, and reading and reading the facts. The facts about our jail systems and the percentages of mentally ill make you sick. With about 700 in the Charlotte County Jail almost 289 have a diagnosed mental illness!

“At any time, we’re looking at approximately a third of our inmate population as… diagnosed with a mental illness”

“Jail is not where these people need to be, We’re not treatment providers.”

Says Maj. Earl Goodwyne Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Detention Commander.

I agree “these people,” people living/suffering with mental illnesses are in need of compassion and understanding, education and treatment. Not just pills and bars.  Yet, “those people” as sad as this may sound are in the mental health system. It’s a dwindling system with many people on the outside never getting help and suffer in silence. It’s only the “squeaky wheels” the public nuance types that end up in the jails that are revolving doors.

Capt. Melissa Turney Charlotte Assistant Jail Commander states “Jail is a very short-term solution.

How True Captain Turney is. If we all understand how the jail system is set-up, do you know the difference between jail and prison?

What’s The Difference Between  Jail & Prison?

First by its nature, ALL jails are a “Revolving Door” since they are set up to house and operate on a short-term basis. Here’s what The Broward Sheriff’s Office which has 10th largest local jail system in the United States says:

Jails are most often run by sheriffs and/or local governments and are designed to hold individuals awaiting trial or are serving short sentences (in Florida, inmates serving 364 days or less serve their time in jail).
Prisons are operated by state governments and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and are designed to hold individuals convicted of crimes.
Jails operate work release programs, boot camps, and other specialized services. They try to address educational needs, substance abuse needs, and vocational needs while managing inmate behavior. Inmate idleness contributes to management problems. – The Broward Sheriff’s Office

IN A PERFECT WORLD – Jails are set up to help the inmate educational needs, substance abuse needs, and vocational needs while managing inmate behavior…mental health needs. In this first part by ADAM KREGER the Roundtable article (Part Two is due out on Monday February 24th) paints a bleak story of the mentally ill in the jail system. You read how stretched thin many budgets really are and why the term Revolving Jail Door for the mentally ill who are diagnosed really fits the description.

Local Needs  – Charlotte Behavioral Health Care 

“State funding is shrinking. … The problem we have now is going to get worse.”

Says Jay Glynn, Charlotte Behavioral Health Care CEO.

Revolving Jail Door Charlotte Sun Sunday Feb 23 2014 imageWhere can you go for help? There are places for mentally ill outside of jail. There are programs but as Assistant State Attorney and Charlotte County court chief Ronald C. Smith says they are stretched thin!

“We do have a Drug Court and a Mental Health Court, (Anyone can refer a person to those courts), But it takes a lot of things to get in there, because it’s almost a competitive situation…There aren’t enough openings…(between 20 and 30 people on probation or sentenced in the Mental Health Court at any one time). They are monitored, assisted and treated by Charlotte Behavioral Health Care – People that get that help for their condition won’t go back and commit more crimes.”

Charlotte Sun Newspaper

The following is a direct quote from: The Charlotte Sun Newspaper Sunday, February 23, 2014 Our Town Pg 11.

However Charlotte Behavioral Health Care — a mental health and substance abuse treatment facility in Punta Gorda — has lost more than $1 million in state funding over the past five years, according to CEO Jay Glynn.

“The recidivism rate (for Mental Health Court) is very good,” he said. “It’s a very successful program. The problem is, we don’t have enough beds for it. State funding keeps shrinking.”  Glynn pointed out Florida ranks 49th of 50 states in terms of mental health funding. And even that allotted money is about to be cut.

“The problem we have now is going to get worse,” Glynn said. “Florida is now going to managed care statewide. Our area is going to get hit with this starting June 1. Why this is going to make things worse is because our Medicaid contracts are the only contracts we have that we’re making a profit on. Those are all going to be taken over by (health maintenance organizations) next year.”

He said his agency has calculated its estimated additional losses to be around $650,000. Glynn said surrounding counties will suffer too.

Unless things change, jails will continue to face the burden of caring for — or trying to care for— the mentally ill.