Mental Health

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Paramedics treat a wounded boy outside the McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro as SWAT officers secure the scene. James Oliver Huberty shot and killed 20 and wounded 20 others at McDonald’s, San Ysidro, California. ZUMAPRESS

McDonald’s Massacre

The McDonald’s massacre, sometimes called the McMurder, was an incident of mass murder at a McDonald’s restaurant in the San Ysidro section of San Diego, California, on July 18, 1984. The massacre was carried out by James Oliver Huberty, a 41-year-old former welder from Canton, Ohio. In January, Huberty had moved to San Ysidro with his wife and children, where he worked as a security guard until his dismissal one week prior to the murders. His apartment was located near the site of the shooting spree.

Before leaving for McDonald’s his wife Etna asked him where he was going, Huberty responded, “going to hunt humans”. Earlier that same day he and his family visited another McDonald’s restaurant for lunch, before going to the zoo. While walking around with his wife and two daughters he made the comment to his wife, “society had its chance”.

It was another busy summer?s afternoon at McDonald?s in San Ysidro, San Diego, California. But it was about was to go down as a horrific day in US history. At 4 pm, as families sat eating burgers and fries, a balding man wearing camouflage trousers and a black T-shirt burst in. He was heavily armed. Ready for battle. And all hell was about to be let loose?

?Freeze!? he yelled, firing at the crowds of diners and employees.

His bullets killed a 4-month-old baby girl, other children, mums and dads.

Read more »

Erasing memories behind PTSD

Soldiers could be cured of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by erasing memories of disturbing events, scientists believe.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered that individual memories are encoded in just a few cells of the brain, and hope they will be able to switch them off using drugs.

Figures from the Ministry of Defence show that around 400 soldiers a year report symptoms of PTSD and, in the last five years, the charity Combat Stress has received nearly 10,000 referrals largely linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many more suffer similar trauma – with symptoms including flashbacks, insomnia and paranoia – from events such as child abuse, road accidents and crime.

Ex-wives. ?Ex-husbands… ? Read more »


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Before the Fatal Rage

?On April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech experienced one of the most horrific events in American university history?a double homicide followed by a mass shooting that left 32 students and faculty killed, with many others injured, and many more scarred psychologically. Families of the slain and injured as well as the university community have suffered terribly.

Like so many thousands of Virginia Tech parents, Sung Tae and Hyang Im Cho spent the day of April 16 calling their son,?Seung-Hui Cho’s cellphone and sending him e-mails, hoping he hadn’t fallen prey to the man who was shooting students and professors at Virginia Tech.

The Chos’ fears were confirmed when police officers, FBI agents and a chaplain showed up that night at their Centreville townhouse.

But the news was worse than they had imagined.

Their shy, quiet 23-year-old son was the student gunman who fatally shot 32 people before killing himself.

Cho?s imaginary life included calling himself ?Question Mark?; a ?supermodel? girlfriend called ?Jelly? who ?travelled by spaceship?; and reporting to his room mate that he was ?vacationing with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin? having ?grown up with him in Moscow?. But a Senior in Cho?s class who read his one-act play told a friend: ?This is the kind of guy who is going to walk into a classroom and start shooting people?.

?He has made the world weep,? the statement by Cho?s family said. ?We are living a nightmare.?

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Karl du Fresne on how we have failed our most vulnerable

Ross Douglas Bremner.  via Stuff

Ross Douglas Bremner. via Stuff


Until the 1980s, mentally ill people in New Zealand were mostly looked after in hospitals. Older readers will remember the names of these institutions: Tokanui, Sunnyside, Lake Alice, Porirua and Kingseat, to name a few.

They tended to be drab, depressing places where patients were managed rather than treated. I know this because my brother-in-law, who was schizophrenic, spent years in Porirua. I also once had an opportunity to observe things from the inside when mental health nurses went on strike and I responded to a call for volunteers to help.

It was an imperfect system, but patients had a roof over their heads, three meals a day and a warm bed to sleep in. They had companionship and nurses to ensure they took their medication. Their families didn?t have to fret constantly about whether they were okay. Read more »

Is Youthline really at risk of closing, or is this just the annual fake scare to get donations going?

This seems to come around every year.

A health service for at-risk youth in central Auckland may be forced to shut its doors in the next couple of weeks if it can’t secure more funding.

The Youthline health service has helped hundreds of young people who say they would otherwise have slipped through the cracks.

A teenager who spoke to Newshub didn’t want to be identified, but she wanted to talk about Youthline. She says she doesn’t want to think where she would be without it.

“I would probably be homeless if it wasn’t for this service — a very desperate person probably,” she says.

She went to the primary healthcare clinic when she had nowhere else to go, and it got her health and life on track, like so many other young people.

But unless it can get $50,000, it will close in two weeks, leaving many youth stranded. ?? Read more »


Photo Of The Day


Ruined kitchen equipment is spread at the now abandoned hospital. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)

Ruined kitchen equipment is spread at the now abandoned hospital. (Photo by Marco Secchi/Getty Images)

The Haunting Of Poveglia Island

Things That Go Bump In the Night

It?s been called ?the Island of madness?, ?Hell?, ?the most haunted place on Earth?. Locals have a saying that goes: ?when an evil man dies, he wakes up in Poveglia?.

Poveglia Island is a secluded little piece of land that even the most macho of Italians stay away from. The final restless place of thousands of diseased, murderous, and insane people, Poveglia is the convergence of everything we know about evil. So what’s the deal with this island of spooky terror?

Back when the bubonic plague ate up most of the world’s population, the Romans had a clever idea to keep the healthiest separated from the sickest. The plagued people were shipped off to Poveglia Island, a small, secluded land mass that floats between Venice and Lido.

There, people lived out the last of their desolate lives together until they died. Since the island already reeked of death, the next time an epidemic came along; barely alive bodies were dumped there and burned in mass graves. In the 1920s, a mental hospital was built to welcome the island’s newest “guests,” or anybody that showed symptoms of any sort of sickness, physical or mental.

Basically, if you had an itch, away you went to Poveglia where you’d sink your feet into the soil half dirt, half human ash. The dark history of Poveglia Island began during the Roman Era when it was used to isolate plague victims from the general population. Centuries later, when the Black Death rolled through Europe it served that purpose again. The dead were dumped into large pits and buried or burned.? As the plague tightened its grip, the population began to panic and those residents showing the slightest sign of sickness were taken from their homes and to the island of Poveglia kicking and screaming and pleading.? They were thrown onto piles of rotting corpses and set ablaze.

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We’ve created a generation where 10% start off mentally ill

semicolon tattoos social

There is only one acceptable view when it comes to mental health issues, these days. And it involves a sympathetic face and blaming someone, usually the government.

I don?t have the former in my repertoire and love the words personal accountability, so I find myself unable to go along with the prevailing consensus.

Listening to Kate Middleton support Children’s Mental Health Week, I am with her all the way. Kids do need to develop resilience in order to overcome life’s hurdles and cope with challenges they face.

Clearly there are genuine cases of family trauma and mistreatment. And these children deserve all the support the state can afford.

But when we are told 1 in 5 children under 11 has experienced mental health issues and 10% of children aged 5-16 have a recognised mental health disorder I can?t help but feel sceptical.

These days everything has to have a label. Normal emotional reactions end up being disorders and a child who doesn?t like being told what to do by teacher is diagnosed with Pathological Demand Avoidance. If you?ve got PDA you can stick two fingers up at teacher and still get Golden Time for not physically assaulting her. Now that?s progress.

This adds to the article the other day that saying that fewer children were getting hurt these days.?? We lock them up, mollycoddle them, and then give them neatly packaged labels to excuse poor behaviour.? Read more »

Photo Of The Day

Christine Chubbuck.

Christine Chubbuck.


Even if a person might look all right in the outside, we might never know what they may be dealing with on the inside.

29-year-old Christine Chubbuck didn?t leave behind a note. Instead, she staged a grand and memorable performance. Looking healthy, well-groomed, and in good spirits the morning of July 15, 1974, the newswoman geared up for a special presentation. ?She was in a much better than normal mood. To this day, her enthusiasm puzzles me,? news director Gordan Galbraith said of her demeanor that morning.

Christine asked to change things up a bit for that morning?s broadcast of Sarasota, FL?s WXLT-TV?s?Suncoast Digest. She wanted to start the normally unscripted talk show with some news reports, and spent the few minutes before air-time typing up what she was going to say on-air.

She started off with some standard news item, but when it came time to roll footage of a local shoot-out from the night before, a shot she specifically requested, the film stalled. The person operating the camera panicked a bit, but this was all a part of Christine?s plan. She looked into the camera with a determined eye.

?In keeping with Channel 40?s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts and in living colour, you are going to see another first ? attempted suicide,? she read, inflicting a little sarcasm into her tone.

Then she pulled a gun out of a bag of puppets she had at her feet and shot herself on live television.

Read more »

Job well done on dealing with bad teachers, now what about proactively tracking down the pedos?

Looks like the Education Council is working well.

Nearly 100 mentally-ill teachers have been investigated by their professional watchdog for misconduct or incompetence in the past six years.

It included incidences of aggressive, violent or threatening behaviour toward children, drug and alcohol use at work, theft, bullying, harassment and falsifying grades, according to information released to Fairfax?under the Official Information Act.

Since 2009, 99 teachers referred for investigation by the Education Council over concerns about their practice were found to have a range of disorders, including?depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance abuse or addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome. ?? Read more »

Another suicide on Corrections watch


ANOTHER INMATE has been found dead at maximum-security Paremoremo Prison ? and again it?s on Corrections? watch.

Just months after taking over the management of Mt Eden Corrections Facility from private company Serco following allegations of prisoner mistreatment, Corrections?is now facing questions of its own after the suicide of another inmate at one of the prisons it runs.

The death is another black mark against the prison service, and further evidence that more needs to be done in the field of suicide prevention not only in private prisons but also in state-run ones as well.

In this latest case, a Paremoremo inmate committed suicide on Monday after swallowing a watch battery.

Three weeks ago the inmate had slit his wrists and was taken to the prison hospital.

A source said Corrections had refused to clean all the blood from the man?s cell for over a week, claiming it was a ?crime scene?.

?We had to look at it and smell it,? the source said.

?Corrections were clearly on notice of the guy?s high suicide risk. How much longer will these preventable deaths continue in New Zealand prisons??

It was only six weeks go that prison guards found a member of the Headhunters gang dead in his cell on the top of Paremoremo?s B block landing.

Prison sources say the man had hung himself.

Over the past five financial years there have been 88 suicide attempts behind bars.

Hawke?s Bay Regional Prison had the worst record, registering 13 suicide attempts over the five years. That was followed by 11 suicide attempts at Auckland Prison, and eight each at Christchurch Men?s Prison, Christchurch Women?s Prison and Waikeria Prison.

Only four facilities registered zero suicide attempts ? Invercargill Prison, Rolleston Prison, Tongariro/Rangipo Prison and Wellington Prison.

There were five suicide attempts at the Mt Eden Corrections Facility.

In a recent interview, Corrections National Commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot claimed the department was doing everything it could to stop inmates from killing themselves behind bars.

He said the department was committed to preventing suicide in prison, but noted prisoners had a high risk of mental health disorders which made dealing with the problem a challenge.

?In order to understand and address a prisoner?s medical condition, we conduct health screenings when a prisoner is received into prison and when they are transferred into prisons,? he said.

But he conceded Corrections would never be able to completely prevent suicides.

?Despite our efforts to reduce suicide and self-harm in prison it is incredibly difficult to stop someone who is determined to harm themselves.?

Over the past five years there have been 35 unnatural deaths in custody, which include murders and suicides. The deaths were spread among 14 prisons.

The only facilities not to record any unnatural deaths for the period were Arohata Prison, Auckland Region Women?s Prison, Rolleston Prison and Tongariro/Rangipo Prison.

Seven out of the 35 deaths ? or 20 percent ? were at Christchurch Men?s Prison. There were five deaths at Rimutaka Prison, and three each at Auckland Prison, Northland Region Corrections Facility, Waikeria Prison and Whanganui Prison.

Despite recent public concerns about the Mt Eden Corrections Facility, there has only been one unnatural death registered there since Serco took over management.


cookStephen Cook is a multi award winning journalist and former news editor and assistant editor of the Herald on Sunday.