Houston's Craziest Headline?
The violence myth: Thank you for your critically important and well-written article on Houston's chronically mentally ill ["Houston's Craziest," by Paul Knight, December 31, 2009]. The progressive and hands-on approach to treating these individuals is admirable. From an economic perspective, the article demonstrated the importance of being proactive as opposed to reactive — ultimately saving the city a great deal of money.
Despite the impressive writing, intriguing story and inspiring message, the article did little to dispel the myth that mentally ill people are violent. In fact, a vast majority of people with mental illness — even those with more severe diagnoses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder — are not violent and are no more at risk of becoming violent than the non-mentally ill. The factors associated with crime in the mentally ill are generally the same factors associated with crime in the general population (e.g., gender, age, poverty and especially substance use).
Individuals with mental illness face many struggles and are often treated inhumanely. They don't need to be feared by the general public; they need compassion. Further, because of the stigma and misconceptions associated with mental illness (such as violence), many individuals who need treatment avoid services and suffer needlessly.
Many thanks for your coverage of important social issues.
Jeff R. Temple, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor and Psychologist
Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology
University of Texas Medical Branch
Terrible title: With this headline you are undermining an extremely important and necessary social program. To sensationalize and seemingly poke fun at individuals with serious mental illness by dubbing them "the craziest" does a disservice not only to the caseworkers and city officials behind this program, but to those individuals who receive this much-needed aid and attention. Additionally, you diminish your own credibility in an article that is otherwise informative and raises awareness of the important work being done by the city to address a very critical issue of public safety and well-being. I understand the need for attention-getting headlines, but this is certainly not the way to do it.
Lend a hand: God help these people, and all the homeless. I'll be praying for them. If we can give to every cause, then we can help them. Start a drive to collect money for their care.
A disservice: Thank you for bringing this story to light, but I need to say that the title is too sensationalistic. I know many of the mentally ill people in Houston as I have worked in the emergency room at Ben Taub Hospital for the past 12 years. While I agree that more programs like this one need to be implemented, to single out a few people as "The Craziest" and to name them in your article does them a disservice. I hope you never need to try to find a place to stay after you have been listed as one of "Houston's Craziest."
Great article: The title is fine as it served its purpose. It caused me to read a story that I may just have passed over. Hence, the story title has had a positive outcome by bring more attention to the problem. Frankly, I'm tired of political correctness.
What a great program: I hope that it gets funded for the safety of Houston and its people. It takes special people to work under these circumstances; God bless them for what they do.
Stoking stigma: As a licensed psychologist, I'm very disappointed to see a renowned newspaper repeatedly refer to mentally ill individuals as "crazies." Is this The National Enquirer? Using this kind of language is the exact reason that mental illness is such a stigma, and makes it even more likely that people don't seek help when they need it.
Lost love: It is amazing how much a little tender love and care goes. Just one of the things that the Peer Specialist programs across this country offer that so many others don't is love. The rest is a true understanding of where that person is. It may be beneficial for you to investigate this program.
I cannot believe the ugly, horrible, stigmatizing way these individuals have been labeled when they are so clearly vulnerable, hurting, misunderstood and mistreated human beings. You would not treat a mentally challenged individual in this way.
I really, truly applaud your efforts for these peers of mine and hope against all odds that the funding comes through. It really takes so little to heal the wounded.
Begging to differ: I would like to disagree with your assessment that Daniel Derozier was one of the most bangable men in the Texas Technosphere ["The Top 10 Bangable Men in the Texas Technosphere," Hair Balls blog, by Fayza Elmostehi, December 29, 2009].
As a close personal friend, I can tell you that his bangability levels are extremely suspect and severely below that of me, Evan. He may be a shiny little button, but his little shins leave much to be desired. Furthermore, the author's response of "yowza" to Dan's picture hints that she let her personal preferences interfere with an objective bangability analysis. Perhaps her personal fetish for otters skewed an attempted process, but there is no way to know until the author admits to her own failings, attractive as she may be herself.
Now you may say that Dan is not an otter, but a human being. However, I've heard that excuse before — from talking otters, and that hasn't stopped me from stealing their clams.
In conclusion, the Houston Press has left me less than impressed with its notions of bangability, Texas and the Technosphere. Let me recommend a book by Donna Haraway, titled Primate Visions. You will find it to be confusing.
At What Cost?
No shortcuts: As a teacher, I found your article about HISD's increased use of credit recovery programs to be disheartening ["Computer Driven," by Margaret Downing, December 31, 2009].
The students who were interviewed praised the credit recovery programs because they did not involve "excessive" reading, writing or learning.
While these shortcuts to course credit have their place when students face special hardships, they should be used sparingly, because teaching reading and writing is the core of what public schools need to be doing, especially among students who are not acquiring these skills at home.
Increased use of credit recovery programs may inflate the graduation rate, but not the quality of education measured in terms of students' knowledge and skills.
At worst, credit recovery programs, excessively employed, may send the subtle message: We cannot really educate these kids.
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