AUSTIN, Texas—A lecture and panel discussion with Pete Earley, author of "Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness," will be presented on May 6 by the Austin affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in conjunction with The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work.
The event will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Thompson Conference Center. It is free and open to the public.
"Crazy" was a finalist in the recent Pulitzer Prize awards for nonfiction books. Earley, a former Washington Post reporter, had written extensively about the criminal justice system. But it was only when his own son—in a manic episode—broke into a neighbor’s house and took a bath in her tub that he learned the truth about what happens to mentally ill people who break the law.
"I had no idea what it was like to be on the inside looking out until my son, Mike, was declared mentally ill," Earley said.
The lecture and panel discussion will focus on the urgent need for mental health reform.
Through his research Earley found that 300,000 persons with severe mental disorders are being held in jails and prisons in the United States, another 500,000 are on probation and 700,000 go through the court system each year.
"People with severe mental disorders should not have to become criminals in order to get meaningful treatment," said Earley, who calls for national reforms that would reduce legal barriers to treatment and would stop jails and prisons from being used as mental asylums.
"This book is an eye-opener," said Cathy Weaver, president of NAMI Austin. "Anyone who is concerned about the fact that people with mental disorders are being jailed due to an absence of treatment and support systems will want to hear Pete Earley."
Panelists include Charles L. Bowden, M.D., the Karren Professor of Psychiatry, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio; Susan Stone, M.D., J.D., a general and forensic psychiatrist in private practice and also an attorney and consultant, and Joe Vesowate, assistant commissioner for Mental Health Substance Abuse Services, Texas Department of State Health Services. They will join Earley in a discussion following his presentation.
Earley is the author of numerous books, including "Family of Spies: Inside the John Walker Spy Ring" and "Circumstantial Evidence: Death, Life and Justice in a Small Southern Town," which won the Edgar Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Social Justice in 1995.
Organizations co-sponsoring the event include NAMI Texas, Austin Area Mental Health Consumers, Inc., Austin State Hospital, Austin Travis County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance Texas, Mental Health America in Texas, Planned Living Assistance of Central Texas, Seton Shoal Creek Hospital, St. David’s Community Health Foundation, Texas Mental Health Consumers and the Texas Federation of Psychiatry.
Seating is limited. To reserve a seat, please call the NAMI Austin office at 512-420-9810. To learn more about the event, visit National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Austin.
For more information contact: Nancy Neff, The University of Texas at Austin Office of Public Affairs, 512-471-6504; Cathy Weaver, president, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Austin, 512-633-5933.