The Key Update, Volume 13, Number 3 -- September 2016

Key Update, September 2016

Volume 13, Number 3

Action Alert: Mobilize to Shut Down Horrendous Haunted House Exhibit That Inflames Prejudice

A new Halloween virtual reality (VR) exhibit at three North American amusement parks “admits visitors to a mental hospital where a psychiatric patient with demonic powers is on the loose,” the Los Angeles Times reported. At the time, the exhibit was called Fear VR: 5150—the California code for a 72-hour involuntary psychiatric commitment. “The VR experience follows a demonically possessed patient named Katie, who unleashes chaos throughout the hospital and takes mental control of the medical staff,” the LA Times reported. The three amusement parks—Knott’s Berry Farm and Great America in California and Wonderland in Canada—are operated by Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. Responding to an email, a Knott’s Berry Farm (KBF) spokesperson wrote: “It is never our intent to be disrespectful to any individual or group. The virtual reality experience is actually built around zombie-like monsters and paranormal activity in a hospital setting.” Following additional advocacy, the KBF spokesperson wrote again to say, “Cedar Fair recognizes that the press depiction of our experience, while inaccurate, has raised concerns around the insensitivity to the stigmas surrounding mental health. Part of the confusion stems from the use of the code 5150 in the experience’s original name. For that reason, the name has been changed to FearVR.” But the “experience” is apparently unchanged. In a somewhat different take, on Google, the Great America description of the exhibit reads: “...Strapped to a hospital wheelchair, you're at the mercy of maniacal hospital staff.” But the link is dead. Advocacy works! Please email,,, and and urge that they cancel or completely revamp the exhibit. Zombies would be good! For the LA Times article, click here. For a follow-up story in the Voice of OC, which highlights the power of advocates’ voices, click here.

Action Alert Part 2: PSYCHO-PATH Haunted Aslyum Created by Another Theme Park Chain

Now comes a competing theme park chain, Six Flags, with PSYCHO-PATH Haunted Asylum! “The inmates of the Asylum have broken loose and will have you screaming in sheer terror as they taunt and torture their newest victims” (click here). To contact Six Flags, click here or write Six Flags New England John Winkler, Park President, Route 159, 1623 Main St, P.O. Box 307, Agawam, MA 01001, and urge that they revamp the exhibit to a ghosts-ghouls-goblins-zombies-other-Halloween-monsters experience.

HHS Issues Game-Changing Rules That Promise Increased Research Transparency

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has taken a step toward creating more transparency in clinical research, NPR has reported. Sharing the article on Twitter, prominent psychiatrist @AllenFrancesMD, author of Saving Normal, wrote, "Wonderful new rules force much more honest reporting of clinical research so that negative results don't get buried." According to NPR, "Since 2007, scientists have been required to post results of experiments on a government website, But many top universities and drug companies have failed to meet those standards, according to academic studies and investigative journalists." The new rules take effect in January 2017; researchers will have 90 days to comply. For the NPR article, click here.

Participants Are Sought for Study on Peer Involvement/Leadership in Early Intervention Policy/Programs

An international peer-led study based at Stanford University is seeking participants for a survey aimed at understanding and bringing to the forefront the experiences of peers/service users who work or volunteer in early-intervention-in-psychosis settings or related initiatives (e.g., an early intervention planning or advisory council). Targeted participants include peer support specialists, peer youth workers and others, as well as individuals involved in early intervention research, program development, policy or evaluation. A lead researcher writes: “As many of you know, early intervention services are rapidly gaining tremendous traction in the U.S. (and already have in many countries around the world). Unfortunately, peer/user leadership remains (often seriously) under-supported, peer leadership limited, and no study, to date, has sought to capture the perspectives of those peers who actually work or volunteer in these services or related initiatives across national borders.” This research hopes to change that. For more information and a link to the survey, click here.

SAMHSA Makes Available Many Resources to Prevent Suicide at the Community Level

“September marks National Suicide Prevention Month,” SAMHSA writes, “but suicide is a pressing public health issue throughout the year. Disasters may increase suicidal thoughts, planning, and attempts. Individuals affected by disaster may also experience several risk factors for suicide, such as job or financial loss, loss of relationships, and lack of social support and health services. Following are resources you can use to ensure that suicide prevention is part of your disaster preparedness and response efforts; to refer people to sources of information and support; and to develop suicide prevention programs for college students, senior living communities, and American Indians and Alaska Natives.” For links to the many materials and resources, click here.

Report on Smart Solutions to Our Growing Female Prison Population Is Available

The Oregon Justice Resource Center has issued An Alternative to Women’s Prison Expansion in Oregon: Presenting Smart Solutions to Our Growing Female Prison Population and Identifying Who Has the Power to Reduce It. “The relentless growth in Oregon’s women’s prison population over the last 40 years shows why Oregonians can no longer hope to incarcerate their way out of problems such as trauma, addiction, mental illness, homelessness and poverty,” the report notes. Three of its suggested six “fixes” are “Expanding eligibility and use of the family sentencing alternative pilot program,” “Streamlining the clemency process,” and “Early release for terminally/severely ill, permanently incapacitated or elderly prisoners.” For the other solutions and the rest of the document, click here.

Thanks, @pdxlawgrrrl

New Resources, Including a Webinar, Are Available from the TU Collaborative on Community Inclusion

Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion has published three new guides: Addressing Sexuality and Intimacy Interests of Persons with Mental Health Conditions: Recommendations for Program Administrators (for more information and to download, click here), Adding Recreation to Your Coping Toolbox: An 8-Week Protocol (to download, click here), and Peer Facilitated Community Inclusion Toolkit (click here). In addition, the TU Collaborative will sponsor a one-hour webinar, Supporting College Students with Psychiatric Disabilities, on October 11 at noon ET. For more information and to register, click here.

National Drug Court Institute Issues Report on Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts, Others

The National Drug Court Institute recently issued Painting the Current Picture: A National Report on Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving Courts in the United States. Besides drug courts, the 88-page report covers DUI courts, veterans treatment courts, mental health courts (MHCs), and other specialized courts. According to the report, “Evidence is convincing that MHCs significantly reduce criminal recidivism compared to probation and other community-based dispositions for offenders with mental health disorders (DeMatteo et al., 2013; Goodale et al., 2013; Heilbrun et al., 2012).” However, critics have raised such concerns as forced medication and/or civil commitment requirements, lack of referral sources/mental health agencies for treatment mandates, stigmatization, longer “sentence” mandates, overcriminalization of individuals with mental health conditions, and coercion to plead guilty. For the report, click here. For criticism of mental health courts, click here.

CBT Is as Effective as 2nd-Generation Antidepressants in Relieving Mild to Severe Depression

Comparing Talk Therapy and Other Depression Treatments with Antidepressant Medicines: A Review of the Research for Adults is a new “plain language”publication available from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). It is “based on an AHRQ systematic review that found cognitive behavioral therapy [CBT] is as effective as second-generation antidepressants in relieving symptoms of mild to severe major depressive disorder. Second-generation antidepressants generally lead to a higher risk of adverse events (including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, headache, insomnia and weight gain) when compared with behavioral therapy.” The publication can be downloaded here. A publication for clinicians is also available (click here).

Thanks, Fran Hazam

Announcing Early Career Data Connections via Live & Learn and the TU Collaborative

Live & Learn writes: “This [Early Career Data Connections] initiative facilitates connections between early career investigators and researchers at the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities to provide those early in their careers access to large, federally funded data sets to conduct publishable analyses that can advance the research agenda…Our focus is on promoting opportunities for researchers with lived experience of the topics they study, or those who incorporate such perspectives into their research.” For more information, click here.


Scientific American Reports on How the FDA Manipulates the Media

A recent report in Scientific American notes that the “U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has been arm-twisting journalists into relinquishing their reportorial independence.” “[T]he FDA assures the public that it is committed to transparency,” the article continues, “but the documents show that, privately, the agency denies many reporters access—including ones from major outlets such as Fox News—and even deceives them with half-truths to handicap them in their pursuit of a story. At the same time, the FDA cultivates a coterie of journalists whom it keeps in line with threats.” For the story, click here.


Thanks, Carl Elliott @FearLoathingBTX

Report on Segregation of People with Mental Health Conditions in Prison Recommends Solutions

A report by the AVID (Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities] Prison Project, published on September 8, 2016, focuses on the work of the protection and advocacy (P&A) system to promote the rights of individuals with mental health conditions in solitary confinement, including both non-litigation and litigation strategies. The report, Locked Up and Locked Down: Segregation of Inmates with Mental Illness, includes “federal and state recommendations to build on the momentum gained by the P&As and their partners.” For the free report, click here.

Thanks, Howard Trachtman

New Rules Granting People in MA Psychiatric Hospitals Daily Outdoor Access Spark Some Resistance

Despite rules recently issued by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health requiring hospitals to allow people with mental health conditions access to the outdoors, up to 20 hospitals (about a third of psychiatric hospitals statewide) plan to seek waivers, citing lack of space. “The rules present a tug-of-war over patients’ rights, doctors’ judgment, and the logistical demands of running a hospital in an urban environment,” according to a STAT News article. An interviewee who had been confined on a psych unit and had repeatedly been denied outdoor access told STAT, “I feel like my stay would have been cut in half if I had had access to fresh air.” For the article, click here. In related research, scientists have found that contact with nature has a positive physical impact, resulting in better mental health (click here).

Thanks, Elizabeth Saenger

An Opera Based on the Life of Elyn Saks Can Be Viewed for Free Online

An opera about Elyn Saks, the MacArthur Award-winning law professor whose memoir chronicled her recovery from a diagnosis of schizophrenia, is available for free viewing on the Mental Health America website. Saks co-wrote the libretto for “The Center Cannot Hold” with composer/psychiatrist Kenneth B. Wells. “I am delighted and just a little overwhelmed to have Ken make an opera out of my story,” Saks told MHA. “I feel as if Ken has captured my experience and my voice.” To view the opera, click here and scroll down to “View the Full Opera.”


Time and Location Change for March and Rally to Close Rikers Island Tomorrow, September 24, in NYC

Tomorrow, September 24, at 1 p.m., people will gather at a march and rally with the goal of shutting down Rikers Island, an infamous correctional facility in New York City. As The New York Times has editorialized, “The sensible thing to do with Rikers is to close it.” Just Leadership USA, which is organizing the event, is helmed by Glenn E. Martin, who served time on Rikers as well as several years in a state prison and has become a nationally known advocate for criminal justice reform. In a long interview published by The Atlantic, Martin said, “It seems like such an abomination for us to have this facility continue to operate.” For the revised details about the event, click here.

Save the Date! March for Dignity & Change in Mental Health in Washington, DC, October 10!

Join the march against the dehumanization of, and discrimination and prejudice against, people living with mental health conditions on October 10 in Washington, DC. To learn more, see


National Technical Assistance and Networking Teleconferences Are on Hiatus for Now

The National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse is no longer operating under a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Although we are keeping our doors open – including publishing our monthly e-newsletter, the Key Update – we are suspending our monthly national technical assistance and networking calls for the time being. We will keep you posted.

Consumer-Driven Services Directory

The Clearinghouse welcomes all programs in which consumers play a significant role in leadership and operation to apply for inclusion in its Directory of Consumer-Driven Services. The directory, accessible at, is searchable by location, type of organization, and targeted clientele, and serves as a free resource for consumers, program administrators and researchers. Apply online at, via fax at 215.636.6312, or by phone at 800.553.4KEY (4539). To receive an application by mail, write to or Susan Rogers, Clearinghouse, 1211 Chestnut Street, Suite 1100, Philadelphia, PA 19107.

About The Key Update

The Key Update is the free monthly e-newsletter of the National Mental Health Consumers’ Self-Help Clearinghouse. Volume 13, No. 3, September 2016, To subscribe, please send a message to: subscribe thekey. To unsubscribe, please send a message to: unsubscribe thekey. For content, reproduction or publication information, please contact Susan Rogers at or 800.553.4539 x3812, 267.507.3812 (direct). Follow Susan on Twitter at @SusanRogersMH