The costs of our broken US mental health care laws and systems are barbarous and huge, both for those who suffer chronically severe and confusing states of mind from mental illness, and for society as a whole. If you trace other social problems to their roots you often find our collective failure to protect, shelter, and care well for the hardest cases among the roughly 1.5 percent of adults who are living with schizophrenia, bipolar, or other severe organic brain conditions that alter their moods, beliefs, and thought processes.

In this post from Treatment Advocacy Center, we see one of the most stark: at least one fourth of the people killed by police in the United States have mental illnesses. They need treatment, and we send our enforcers — people  armed and trained to get bad guys — at them.

The costs are visible in the homelessness crisis: at least one quarter of the homeless population on any given night suffers severe mental illnesses and among the chronically homeless, the figure likely rises, possibly to more than half. In a way, then, it’s not even right to call it a homelessness crisis: it is a crisis of untreated mental illness, and one of its manifestations is homelessness.

Our prisons fill with victims of mental illnesses: in the United States, there are ten times more people with severe mental illnesses in jail or prison as are in residential psychiatric care facilities.

Our hospital emergency rooms are, in some cases, bottled up with people suffering acute episodes of mental illnesses for whom no in-patient psychiatric care is available.

The tragedy added atop this tragedy is that we know how to solve these problems. We know what programs work, what medications work, what interventions are effective. We know how to build and operate humane and effective residential treatment centers that are unlike the asylums of old but in fact give those living the nightmares of a malfunctioning brain a true asylum — a safe haven for recovery. We just need to focus our moral, political, financial, and legal attention on them and act as if severe mental illness were among our most vexing and solvable problems, which it is.

For all these reasons, I am filled with gratitude that the Washington state legislature this week passed a capital budget that includes millions of dollars of investments in mental health care for the Evergreen State. This state has been among the worst in the nation at taking responsibility for mental health care. And this week, Washington made a big down payment on a better future.

The Washington state legislature also made progress on democracy reform: same-day registration, which will especially help those who move frequently such as students and young voters. And state senate passage at long last of the state voting rights act, which allows localities with patterns of under-representation of voters of color to create majority-minority districts or adopt alternative electoral systems such as proportional representation. Huge thanks to the senators and advocates who have worked long and hard for this passage.



At Slog, Katie Herzog calls out call-out culture. It’s a fantastic piece, but in many ways it’s really more about the toxic effects of social media that I’ve been going on about.

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  • Over the last several months I’ve been citing evidence that social media is awful for our mental health. But you know what research says is good for us? Nature.

    Could part of the answer to smart phone addiction be a worse phone? At the NYT, Nellie Bowles makes the case for a grayscale phone.

    At Sports Illustrated, Charles Pierce has the best take I’ve yet read on the real-life nightmare behind the Larry Nassar conviction:

    Burn it all down. That is the calm and reasoned conclusion to which I have come as one horror story after another unspooled in the courtroom. Nobody employed in the upper echelons at USA Gymnastics, or at the United States Olympic Committee, or at Michigan State University should still have a job. If accessorial or conspiracy charges plausibly can be lodged against those people, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Those people should come out of civil courts wearing barrels. Their descendants should be answering motions in the 22nd Century. In fact, I can argue convincingly that none of those three institutions should continue to exist in its current form. USA Gymnastics and the USOC should lose their non-profit status forthwith. Michigan State should lose its status within the NCAA for at least five years. American gymnastics is no longer a sport. It’s a conspiracy of pedophiles and their enablers.

    The point, in case it’s not clear, is that this isn’t really about Nassar. It’s about huge numbers of adults perfectly willing to sacrifice the bodies of little girls and young women in order to advance their own agendas. It’s another Penn State, but dollars to doughnuts it won’t be the last.


    If you are Native American or live on unceded First Nations territory—which you likely do if you are in the US or Canada (if you don’t know, link to this map to see which ones)—you should read Peace Weavers, a meticulously-researched history by Candace Wellman that challenges the typical ethnocentric, white- and male-centric history-book version of early settlement and “pioneers” in the North American west. Wellman brings into focus the lives of Native women who married white settler men and who played a role throughout the mid-1800s in shaping upper Puget Sound history. She calls them peace weavers because of their (literal) weaving traditions, because in the Salish language the words woman and weaver share the same root, and because of her theory that Coast Salish families forged strategic alliances by arranging cross-cultural marriages and spared this little corner of the country from tragic conflicts.

    Full disclosure: When I was a kid, my mom was a lead archivist at the Northwest Regional Branch of the Washington State Archives, in Bellingham. I remember her talking about Candy, a long-time Archives volunteer, who was busy tracking clues about interracial marriages in the early settler days of Whatcom County—that was Candace Wellman. Candy started with those beautiful leather-bound tomes full of hand-scrawled marriage, land title, birth and death records and followed leads to diaries, newspaper articles, and, eventually to the passed down family stories and attic troves of far-flung descendants. Beyond the primary sources, she gained trust enough to glean family lore within Salish communities and also traveled to the east coast to track down the stories of the white husbands. After eighteen years tracing dozens of women and their families, her book profiles four: Mary Fitzhugh Lear Phillips, Clara Tennant Selhameten, and Nellie Carr Lane. Wellman reconstructs these women’s “exceptional endurance, strength, and adaptability” as well as their roles as cultural interpreters, mediators, and political players. They married men suitable to their own stations: top brass military officers, city officials, educators, community founders, judges, and business owners.

    These aren’t just captivating stories (well told, aka not in academic gobbledygook) and documentation of a piece of our history otherwise forgotten to time; Candy—and these strong, savvy women—also utterly blasts many misconceptions and stereotypes we hold—and have been taught—about 19th Century native women’s lives, experiences, power, personalities, and impact.


    The clean energy news this week was overshadowed by the announcement of new tariffs on imported solar panels — which of course includes almost all of the solar panels installed in the US. Since there seems to be some confusion in some pro-solar circles about why this is a bad thing, here are a few stats to clear things up:

    • Most of the jobs in the US solar industry are in sales, installation, and maintenance, not solar panel manufacturing. Of the 260,000 people employed in the solar industry in the US, fewer than 1300 of them work for panel manufacturers.
    • The tariffs are expected to raise the price of residential rooftop solar by around 4% and of large utility-scale solar projects by about 10%
    • The increased price is expected to depress demand for solar by about 9%
    • This increase in costs and subsequent depression of demand is expected to cost around 23,000 jobs in the coming year.

    To address another carbon-related controversy, yet another study has confirmed that fracked gas, despite being marginally cleaner than coal, is still one of the worst ways to produce electricity.

    Nothing to celebrate there, but in better news a recent utility bid solicitation in Colorado generated  a lot of buzz among energy wonks this week. The details don’t mean much to non-wonks (myself included) but David Roberts sums it up nicely:

    The Xcel RFP in Colorado is a relatively small signal, but it is one of many sending the same message: renewable energy is not “alternative” any more. Costs are dropping so fast it’s difficult to keep track. It is the cheapest power available in more and more places, and by the time children born today enter college, it is likely to be the cheapest everywhere. That’s a different world.

    And finally, climate conscious consumers in the UK will soon be able to plug their Nissan Leafs into a wall-mounted Nissan battery pack to draw power collected from the roof by Nissan solar panels. No word yet on if or when such a thing might be available in the US or Canadian markets, but we can hope.