Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Video: "Shattered Families: The Collapse of America's Mental Health System"

“Shattered Families: The Collapse of America’s Mental Health System” movie (50 min.) is about lack of mental illness treatment in the USA and how this affects people with serious mental illness and their families. The movie shows the historical and legal reasons we are in impossible situations.

I hope lots of people who have never even thought about mental illness will watch this movie.

Movie is embedded in link:


Thanks for posting - this is obviously a very important issue. Here is the movie, embedded in the post from Youtube (you can do this just by copying the youtube link to here):

more about the movie:

“Shattered Families” is my family’s attempt to change America’s national mental health disaster. Congress seems unable to fix it. Neither do the states. So my wife, son and I, decided to do something ourselves. We decided to make this movie. Here’s the premise: In 1959 there were 350,000 Americans with serious mental illness all getting treatment in hospitals. The word “homeless mentally ill” didn’t exist. No mentally ill persons were in jail or prison. There had been one mass shooting in the past decade. Move forward to the 21at century. In America today there are 350,000 sick persons rotting on our urban streets. 1.2 million mentally sick people languish in our jails and prisons. There is a mass shooting every day. What happened?

Our movie “Shattered Families” tells that story. It tells the story of our national mental health system nightmare through the eyes of the families that have been devastated by our national failings. Know this: the system of total neglect we have today, was planned. This disaster was done on purpose. As one mother says, “The system was planned to fail and it does. So your child either ends up in the gutter or the morgue.” We offer solutions to the problem as well.


Full Movie:


This is a must watch for all of us. In particular, those of us who have family members who are not able to take medications voluntarily due to their illness.

This 50 minute movie explains how we get where we are, how it came to be that the only plan our country has for our children is prison or the streets.

If you can, watch the followup to this “RoadMap”


I just watched it. Thank you for telling us about it.

Link for Roadmap on Youtube:


I’ve updated the links to both videos above for everyone. Just a note to people - when you post links - put them on their own line (not after text on a shared line of text) That way the videos and documents will get “embedded” as you see above).

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@SzAdmin Thank you!


Wow!! Such amazing stories of wisdom and conviction in getting the MH ‘mess’ cleaned up in this country! I’m reassured that I did the right thing for my son 8 months ago when we called the police and had his MH commitment started. It’s difficult to for me to admit now that he’s improved that he still needs this ‘forced’ help but I know that he’s not well enough yet to make his own decisions. He will be up for a renewal of his MH commitment soon and I’m now realizing that it’s the best option for him after viewing these films. The alternative 3 options stated in the shorter film is not an option (the streets, jail or the morgue). Thank you so much for sharing these important films!!! :blush:


Most of us have no idea what we are up against once we do get a diagnosis. So glad the ‘forced’ meds are working for yours. So many of our loved ones are too sick to make a ‘choice’ about medication.

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As a paranoid schizophrenic who was once considered to be a danger to himself (due to my suicide attempts as a teenager) and seriously mentally ill, I was on Assisted Outpatient Treatment and forced to take Geodon and Zoloft. So, this is the perspective I am coming from.

When I was first hospitalized as a teenager, it was exactly what I needed. It probably saved my life at the time. So, I am not against it when it is truly necessary. I will say this, the quality of care varies dramatically from hospital to hospital, and maybe this was just my experience, but the quality of both the staff and the facility at the psychiatric hospital ward for adolescents was so much higher and better than the one for adults (I was later hospitalized a second time as an adult). Part of it could have to do with the clientele at each ward. The one for adults had some people in there that were so far gone it was obvious that they were never coming back from it, and it was quite simply depressing to see them. And some of them in there were downright scary and dangerous. They need to evaluate each new inmate and determine which ones are truly dangerous and keep them away from the rest of us. They shouldn’t be in the same wing of the hospital with the rest of us. So what I am saying is that there is room for improvement in terms of both staff and facilities. They should spend the money to improve both. If someone is truly a danger to themselves or others, they should have a high quality place to go, not a nightmarish place to go.

Also, the use of 4 point restraints on a non-violent patient is more traumatizing than helpful. I was not put in restraints when I was teenager in the adolescent ward, but when I was in the adult ward my first 6 hours were spent in restraints. And I’ve never been violent against anyone. I was a danger to myself, but not to anyone else and yet I was treated that way. So, to sum this point up, they need to look at how they treat adolescents and try to figure out why they treat adult inmates so much worse. There must be some way to fix this problem.

My next point has to deal with how they force someone to take drugs after they leave the hospital. This is my opinion, if a person is mentally well enough to be released from the hospital, then that’s it. They shouldn’t be able to force me to keep taking the drugs if I make an informed decision that I don’t like the side effects and would rather take my chances with the mental illness. It would be one thing if these drugs had minor side effects, but no, these things have major side effects which I’ve already discussed in my previous posts, and won’t bother going into here. My point is that if I am well enough to leave the hospital, then I am well enough to make my own decisions about the meds. If I am that sick where I absolutely must take the meds because of my suicide risk, then keep me in the hospital. But they have a one size fits all approach to it, and even though I am a high functioning schizophrenic (I currently have a part-time job and I am even back to dating again), they wanted to force me to take the meds. I feel that it should be my choice.

I also see it as a civil rights issue. The “court” process I went through to get on the involuntary forced drugging was a joke. I had a public defender who met with me and spoke to me maybe 3 minutes at best, and when it came time for him to speak on my behalf he had virtually nothing to say, just sort of went through the motions like he knew the judge was going to rubber stamp whatever the psychiatrist wanted for me. So try to look at it from my perspective, my Constitutional rights were swept away from me because I supposedly didn’t know what was good for me or what was in my own best interest, and everything came down to what one person had to say-- the very subjective viewpoint of the psychiatrist. And I sat there is dismay as the psychiatrist read aloud all the very private things I had said to him in confidence. My words got turned around and used against me. It taught me what NOT to say to a psychiatrist from then on.

The only way I got off forced drugging was when my parents saw what the drugs were doing to me and then hired a private attorney to represent me at the next hearing.

They are casting a wide net with outpatient forced drugging and sometimes they are catching people like me-- high functioning schizophrenics-- and there needs to be some way to address this issue. For one thing, there should not be a separate mental health court with its own set of rules. They should have to treat me like a criminal defendant with all the same rules and all the same Constitutional rights and defenses. I should be able to request and get a jury trial, and since my very freedom is at stake, they should have to prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt” to the minds of the jurors.

I’ve learned how to avoid it since then, just be very careful what you say, because it can and will be used against you. I didn’t realize that at first.

This video discusses some of the issues from my perspective…

Thanks again Wes for your great perspective and sharing your experience! I’m very conflicted at times trying to know how to help my son. When we called the police last Dec he was getting so delusional that he was walking around the house with a baseball bat to keep his 89yr old grandmother who lived with us from ‘hurting us’ - as his voices were telling him to do this to protect my husband and I. It was a dark time for him and our whole family to be honest as he was untreated for at least a year while he was experiencing his ‘telepathy’ with Michael Douglas (the actor) and other people. Fortunately he didn’t experience such bad treatment at the two hospitals he was in since last year. I know there’s so much more that should be done to be more supportive once a person is discharged from the hospital but I have to disagree with you about getting rid of the MH court as criminal court would have been a nightmare for my normally peaceful son to deal with as he never was in trouble before his MH commitment. We had to hire a lawyer to get the domestic violence charges dropped as the public defender didn’t want to do anything so I agree with what you said about your experience with a public defender. Thanks again for sharing!

Hi Wes_B, I agree that you should not be forced into treatment. From all you have contributed to the forum, it’s clear that you are fully capable of making your own choices.

I am wondering how the system could change so that the 96% of people who don’t need involuntary treatment will never be swept up by that net?

I think if someone is communicating effectively, living somewhere suitable, working or going to school or volunteering, is physically healthy and safe, non-disruptive of the basic functioning of their household (possibly even contributing), not yelling abusively, not destroying property, not harmful to self or others that they should be free to choose.

I think involuntary commitment should be about safety and basic functioning, as in the person is not starving themselves or walking miles barefoot and coatless in a blizzard.

If you think about it in a purely theoretical way, and I am asking you to: is it better to be homeless rather than involuntarily hospitalized? 250,000 people with SMI are currently homeless. Is it preferable to be incarcerated in jail or prison during a psychotic episode and possibly long-term instead of being involuntarily hospitalized? 350,000 people with SMI are currently incarcerated. A person with SMI is ten times more likely to be incarcerated during a severe episode than to receive inpatient treatment. Most hospitalizations last less than 7 days.

Due to the severity of my family member’s illness, I know that involuntary commitment and court ordered treatment save lives when nothing else works. I never want these medical interventions to go away for the people who need them. I agree that the system ought to find a way to preserve the rights of people who do not require these life-saving medical treatments.

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From my perspective, probably the most practical way to prevent people like me from getting swept up into the net would be to make a legal distinction between the violent ones and the non-violent ones. I would like to see the laws focus mostly on those who pose a danger to others, rather than on those who are a danger to themselves. I know this is harsh, but worst case scenario for me, I would’ve died, but no one else would’ve been hurt.

For the non-violent ones, CBT should be offered as a valid and acceptable alternative option to forced drugging immediately. The only way I found out about CBT was when I talked to another schizophrenic patient in group therapy. I had to request it. No one mentioned it or offered it to me. It should’ve been offered to me right at the beginning. CBT helped me far more than drugs ever did.

Probably the easiest and simplest fix to the problem without changing anything else would be to divert some money into the current mental health court public defenders. If I had had a high quality public defender who actually did his job properly, I probably wouldn’t have been caught up in the net of forced outpatient drugging. I am against that more than anything else. I can see where involuntary hospitalization saved my life, and I can see where it is vital to have a safe place to go when you need it, but the forced drugging after I was released from the hospital is the one thing I disliked the most.

And finally, yes, I would like to see more money spent on high quality mental health hospitals so that there are plenty of beds available for patients, and plenty of highly trained, well paid staff that are caring and respectful of their patients, so that going in there would be a positive experience rather than a negative one. And once again, the violent ones should be separated from the non-violent ones. It should never be a scary and dangerous adventure in there. The non-violent ones should not be treated as if they were violent (restaints, etc.). And this may be asking a bit much, but maybe separate the older ones from the young adults. I mean, yes, technically I was an adult the second time I was in a hospital but should a 19 year old guy be in the same wing as a drooling shuffling incoherent rambling muttering 64 year old? He wasn’t violent or scary but it made me even more depressed to see him every day I was in there.


Thank you, Wes, for responding so thoughtfully.

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Same here Wes… Your thoughtful explanations are invaluable to me. I want thru CBT training as well for my anxiety and I agree- it’s helped me get a handle on my condition along with his meds! Take care and thanks again!


@Wes_B - I think there should be one other distinction: insight.

If my son functioned like you do, I’d be OK with him making his own decisions about his medication because he would be capable of making an “informed” decision. But, how does anyone make an informed decision when they can’t see that they’re ill and can’t see that the medication helps them?

(EDIT: I would like to add that we handled his first two psychotic breaks at 15 & 17 100% drug & hospital free - I think it was the biggest mistake I ever made.)

My son has only rarely been violent, and only when he was in fear for his life due to his delusions/paranoia.
He has never threated to hurt himself, although he has done some minor self-harm - I think it was an experiment to see if it would help or to find out why other people like to do it.

However, he has been a danger to himself - wandering around in the street in traffic because your brain stops functioning once you’ve been up for 6, 7, 8 days or not eating at all for weeks on end can be very dangerous. By the time he goes to the hospital, he looks so bad physically and is so bad mentally, that some people have been concerned that he was in the middle of a drug overdose. I think if it continued long enough, even being at home where I can try to keep him out of the street, he could die.

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During my worst episodes I remember the long stretches of insomnia which led to full blown psychosis and I also had the paranoid delusions that my food was being tampered with (that my cousins were putting ground up insects in my food) so I wouldn’t eat it.

I never wandered into traffic, but I did try hanging myself with a rope, but my dad heard the noise and cut me down and then called 9-1-1 which ended up in my first involuntary hospitalization.

But yeah, I can see your point about insight being a part of the law.

I’m so glad you’re doing better Wes_B.