Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Living in a Fractured System

On the lower left of this painting are the words: 'Don't ask us to live in the cracks of the system'.  Yet that is exactly what is expected of people living with a mental illness in today's society.

What you can't see in this photo is the taser wire from when I was shot with a taser gun in my own home.

My home was filled with people I didn't know, my advocate had left.  The police had come and insisted I go to the hospital because an involuntary commitment had been issued.  I had no choice and they had no choice.  They wanted to get it over with.  I needed time, I told them this is my life we're dealing with.

I never raised my voice or became combative, I was trying to wrap my mind around going to a place I knew I wouldn't come out of because of my history.  They wouldn't listen to the options I was giving them.  I turned my back and faced my art table and suddenly I was grabbed from behind by a policeman and an emt.  I was frightened by the sudden assault and grabbed what I could.  It was a small palette knife from my table.  They had my arms out stretched and I was completely restrained.  I could do nothing to help myself.

Suddenly someone yelled there is something in her hand. I was released and pushed back, I looked up just in time to see the policeman shoot me with the taser gun.  I never felt so much pain.  I couldn't breath and I thought my heart would explode.  I was then insulted, handcuffed and charged with assault and battery upon a police officer.  I was charged and dragged through criminal court.

The only reason I grabbed the palette knife was because of my traumatic history, I was frightened from being assaulted from behind. It was pure instinct to protect myself, there was no intent to hurt anyone.  I never waved it or raised it at anyone but that was put in the report to justify shooting me.

Life goes on and this past week through Dance in the Rain I put on an art event called Mindset it feature my art and another artist.  We brought together the mentally ill peer community , the mental health community and the community at large to view some thought provoking art and perhaps help rethink their views on the mentally ill, mental illness and recovery.

Below is the video I made from the event from pictures my friend took.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

People not auction items

How does it feel to be an item auctioned off to the first bidder?  What if at that time you are feeling alone, facing a crisis, cycling through an illness and just wanting to go to  a place where people at least know you and you're close enough to home where friends/family can visit and support you? 
People with mental illness going through the inpatient process know this feeling all too well.  I just went through this just a week or so ago and I witnessed another go through the same thing at the same time.
In my experience when a person is going through the psychiatric inpatient process they either wait in a busy emergency room or another area while social workers find a bed for you in a psychiatric hospital.  Sometimes your wait is short and other times it's days, it all depends upon what available and where.
During the process even though you' voluntary come in to be evaluated you can lose all of your rights and have no choices of your own as to if you can leave or where you will be sent for treatment.  It all depends upon how you 'present' when you are evaluated.  If your deemed in need of psychiatric treatment your right to leave or where you go are determined by many things but definitely not you.
You become an item to be auctioned off the first bidder who meet your insurance requirements.

I have come to learn that people with mental illness are viewed as 'lesser than'.  Events can happen to us and there isn't even a blink of an eye.  If it happened to the general public there would be uproar.

There is much to think about when one thinks about the stigma associated with mental illness.  It's far more outreaching than one can even imagine unless one lives it and experiences it every day and in every aspect of life.

August 20 2013


Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Mentally Ill and the use of the Taser Gun.

On July 14, 2013 I read an article in my local paper titled: "Suicidal man slices arm and leads police on low-speed chase in Marstons Mills". 

The portion of the article that triggered and angered my was as follows: "Once the man resisted officers who were trying to restrain him until rescue personal could arrive, the officers had to use a Taser to subdue him."  The man was 52 years old with a wound from his palm to his elbow obviously in crisis and he was Tased while awaiting rescue because he resisted the officers restraints.

I sent the following letter to the editor of the paper:

It’s Time for Change

Mary E Munsell


As a person who faces the challenges of living with mental illness I felt the need to comment on Patrick Cassidy’s article; Suicidal man slices arm and leads police on low-speed chase in Marstons Mills.

First of all I wish to state my respect for the police who face many unpredictable situations every day.  Secondly I would like to comment from the point of view as one of the mentally ill population.

Saddened and appalled are the words that comes to mind when police use pain techniques on the mentally ill population.  As a person who has been tased when reaching out for help I know without a shadow of a doubt that it’s time to educate the community, the mental health system and the first responders about the mentally ill during crisis situations.

The mind of a person in crisis is not one of a criminal and shouldn’t be treated as such.  The person those tase guns are pointing at in these circumstances are living trauma, pain and are symptomatic of an illness.  Tase guns are not the answer unless the police or others are in eminent danger. 

I was shot with one of those electric guns in my own apartment with strangers all around me.  I grabbed a simple small palette painting knife as two responders grabbed me from behind.  I grabbed what was in front of me at the time because I was so frightened by being assaulted from behind. Even more traumatized when I was completely subdued and then released because they saw something in my hand.  Only to be horrified when I looked up after being released and pushed back to see a policeman shoot me with his tase gun.

People who are in crisis, living trauma or simply just don’t want to go where the police are told to take them are not subjects to be tased.  There are other solutions and we need to be educated about them before the threshold of what is acceptable lowers even more.

Yes, it’s time for the voice of persons with mental illness to be heard and respected.  It’s time for the community to be educated about mental illness and how to treat the mentally ill.  I know I speak for many when I say “I don’t want to be hurt anymore because I have a mental illness”.

Our voices are a mode of education.  Our side of the stories and experiences need to be told and heard.  We need to be part of the dialogue of change and solutions.  After all, our voice is the one that carriers the intimate knowledge of our illness.

Since my writing was a letter to the editor it had to be reduced to 200 words. The following is the link to the printed letter in the Cape Cod Times: http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130718/OPINION/307180343/-1/OPINION02
It's important for people to speak out against things like these happening in the mental health system.
What are your thoughts?
Please comment.

Thank you for reading my post M.E.M 7/20/13

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Coming Full Circle

I Began the Ugly Pin Campaign upon my discharge from Torrance State Hospital in the early Spring of 2008.  I don't know, perhaps it was a way for me to fight back the horror my life had become.

In 2005, I was taken from my home and my children.  I would never return to that home and live with my children again.  I left my home that day in September of 2005 escorted by a policeman to a waiting ambulance.  The last thing I said to my 17 year old son was "I really screwed up this time didn't I?" He never said a word. 

In 2013 it has take me all this time to understand that, no I didn't screw up.  I did the very best I could possibly do with all that I had available to me at that time.  With all that was going on in my life and within my body I did my best.  Who could possibly ask anymore of me?  I had no more to give and that's okay.

It's not only the weight of Stigma from others we feel.  It's the stigma we put upon ourselves that's most damning .

May 2013, I have lived and live experiences beyond experiences.  Some I share and others I do not.  My life is still painful.  I still live within a broken and fractured system called "the mental health system''.  I think perhaps the stigma held within the mental health system itself keep people with mental illness from recovering.  Until they stop trying to fix us and begin dialogue with us the system will continue to hurt and stigmatize us more.

I called this post: Coming Full Circle because ...

I've learned to take all the bits and pieces of my life and use them to speak out and offer solutions.  I have spent the past 8 years in what I call intense study.  Now my experience, creativity and gained knowledge has helped me come full circle and create:
Dance in the Rain - Whole person Centered Care
A Platform of Recovery
You can link to the main website at:
I will be continuing with this blog and campaign as part of 'Faces of Stigma - Breaking Restraints'.  Also there will be a new ugly pin.  Same design but different medium.