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Mental Health Advocates Urge Compassion

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<H3 class=post-title>[link=http://tracyannshively.blogspot.com/2008/06/mental-health-advocates-urge-compassion.html"'>http://tracyannshively.blogspot.com/2008/06/mental-health-advocates-urge-compassion.html" target="_blank]Mental health advocates urge compassion for Ackerman[/link] </H3>

[link=http://bp3.blogger.com/_k3GphCWNh3Y/SFvs8wd_VnI/AAAAAAAAAP4/5olU52eMfYM/s1600-h/2224226138.jpg" target="_blank]2224226138.jpg[/link]

During her years of activism and community service, she also apparently dealt with mental illness in her personal life. Her struggles became public last week after her doctor got a commitment order and police sent a team to take her for a psychiatric evaluation. The incident led to a standoff that ended with police using a Taser to subdue her.

The incident illustrates the difficulties that even the most accomplished individuals face when dealing with mental illness. Mental health professionals and advocates say mental illness is a pervasive problem that is often controlled with medication and treatment, but can grow out of control when a person stops taking medication.

"This was obviously a woman who was dealing with her mental illness, and unfortunately one of the behaviors or symptoms of people who have bipolar disorder is very often, times when they're feeling better they come off medication," said Karen Oates, a doctor and president of the Mental Health Association of Rockland County.

Friends of Ackerman have said she is bipolar and had stopped taking her medication. They said she showed erratic behavior and worried about her health in recent weeks. Her doctor was concerned enough to get a letter from the Rockland County mental health commissioner authorizing the police to take Ackerman for an evaluation.

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy and ability to function.

Symptoms range from high levels of energy, sleeplessness, and impulsive or reckless behavior to guilt, decreased energy, anxiety, hopelessness and sadness.

Oates said she had been on committees with Ackerman and praised her for her work in the community. Ackerman is a former priest associate of Grace Episcopal Church, and served on the staffs of the peace group Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Garrison Institute, a faith institute and retreat center.

Oates said people often perceived mental illness in a negative light, and she hoped that people would show Ackerman the same compassion she has shown them over the years.

Rena Finkelstein, president of NAMI-FAMILYA, the local affiliate of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, said many people live productive lives while hiding the fact that they deal with mental illness.

Finkelstein noted that famous people such as actress Patty Duke and media mogul Ted Turner have suffered from bipolar disorder.

"Mental illness is a no-fault, equal-opportunity disorder that people can recover from or lead normal lives with treatment," she said.

Finkelstein said mental illness was an illness like any other, and that family and friends should treat sufferers with the same support and respect they would for someone who had diabetes or cancer.

She said people, including Ackerman, should be defined by who they are and not by their illness.

"All individuals can lead very active and productive lives, and there's no reason why she shouldn't continue to do what she did before," Finkelstein said.[link=http://tracyannshively.blogspot.com"'>http://tracyannshively.blogspot.com" target="_blank]http://tracyannshively.blogspot.com[/link]

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