Monthly Archives: June 2012

What Do We Know About Female Stalkers?

The majority of stalkers are men and thus most research has focused on males. It is estimated that approximately 15 to 20% of all stalkers are female. In studies of stalkers, females have been found to be less likely than men to have a history of criminal offenses, violent criminal offenses or to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder.

Men are more likely than women to stalk a stranger and women are more likely than men to stalk a prior professional contact. When compared to males, females are less likely to threaten and then assault their victim. Approximately one in five female stalkers in a large Australian forensic mental health clinic attacked the individual they were pursuing.

The lifetime risk of being a victim of stalking in the United States is approximately 2 to 4% for men and 8 to 15% for women.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have been stalked at some point in their lives.

A 2003 study of 82 cases revealed the following characteristics about female stalkers:

  • The majority were Caucasian, high school educated, childless, single, heterosexual and of those in which an IQ score was available, were found to have an average to superior IQ
  • Were on average 37 years old
  • 38% had a college or graduate degree
  • Nearly half had a history of sexual abuse
  • 30% had a history of physical abuse
  • A  significant portion of the female stalkers were determined to have been psychotic at the time that they engaged in the stalking behavior
  • 75% denied a substance abuse history
  • Of those in which a psychiatric diagnosis was possible, personality disorders were the most common, borderline personality disorder in particular
  • The majority did not have an adult criminal history prior to their stalking incident
  • Half stalked prior acquaintances
  • The majority made telephone calls and left messages, sent letters and unwanted gifts, had driven by the victim’s home, office or school, trespassed on the victim’s property, or followed the victim
  • 65% threatened their victims
  • The majority of female stalkers were motivated by anger/hostility and obsession; 44% were motivated by rage at abandonment
  • Only 25% were physically violent towards the victims; two female stalkers killed their victims (three victims total)
  • The majority of female stalking victims were male, Caucasian, and heterosexual

Because most studies focus on male stalkers, it is difficult to know if these characteristics are true for all female stalkers. Also, some research suggests that relatively few individuals report incidents of stalking to the police. Those two factors make it difficult to definitively gauge the true profile of female stalkers.

If you or someone you know is being stalked, it is strongly recommended that you report the incident to the police. Also, be familiar with the stalking laws in your state. Follow this link to learn more about the stalking laws in your state.

Source: Meloy, J.R. & Boyd, C. (2003). Female stalkers and their victims. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law, 31, 211-219.

15 Criminal Justice Career Options for Social Workers

Many people inquire about what role social workers have in the criminal justice system. They are particularly interested in whether or not they could work in the criminal justice system once they graduated with their social work degree. The answer is yes.

At the undergraduate level, people with degrees in social work, psychology, sociology, and related degrees, are often competing for the same jobs. Some refer to these jobs as “entry level.”

Individuals who work in the criminal justice field and who a have degree in social work may consider themselves forensic social workers. There are degree programs across the country that focus on forensic social workbut they’re relatively sparse, compared to other traditional social work programs. You can read more about those programs at the National Organization For Forensic Social Work (NOFSW) website.

One of the many benefits of having a social work degree is its versatility. Below is a list of possible jobs that one could hold in the criminal justice system with a social work degree. Many require a master’s degree in social work but not all of them.

15 Criminal Justice Career Options for Social Workers

1. Mental Health or Drug Court  Coordinator/Program Manager

2. Guardian Ad Litem (court-appointed individual who represents the best interests of the child in a divorce or parental responsibility case)

3. Parole or Probation Officer

4. Assisting a team of lawyers investigating a case of possible innocence (i.e. Innocence Project)

5. Victim Advocate

6. Sex Offender Therapist

7. Policy Analyst

8. Providing expert testimony in a legal trial

9. Assistant to a public defender

10. Forensic investigator at the local Medical Examiners’ office

11. Custody Evaluator

12. Mental Health Evaluator

13. Mitigation Specialist

14. Case Manager for offenders leaving prison and transiting back into society

15. Conflict Mediator

Schizophrenia & Violence: What Are The Facts?

I remember speaking with a client with schizophrenia who, for her entire life, had [amazon_link id="0967718937" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]denied that she had the illness[/amazon_link]. For many years, she would not even allow a conversation between us about schizophrenia. The topic was simply off-limits.

One day, she was talking about viewing a Law & Order television episode in which an individual with schizophrenia had killed someone. That led us to a conversation about schizophrenia and violence. I delicately broached the subject of why she would never admit to having schizophrenia. She stated that she didn’t think she had schizophrenia because she “never killed anyone.”

The perception of individuals with schizophrenia being violent remains strong in our society. The facts do not match that perception. Individuals with schizophrenia are no more dangerous than the average person except under four conditions that increase the likelihood for violence. Those four conditions include:

1. Having a history of violence

2. Actively using drugs and/or alcohol

3. Being off medication and actively psychotic

4. Having a [amazon_link id="0967718937" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]lack of insight [/amazon_link]into one’s mental illness

Those conditions may increase the likelihood of violence but they do not guarantee violence. It is difficult to accurately predict who is going to be violent and under which conditions.

The National Institute of Mental Health states the following about schizophrenia and violence: “Most violent crimes are not committed by persons with schizophrenia and most persons with schizophrenia do not commit violent acts.”

Individuals with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators of violence.

 

 

Documentaries About Suicide

A reader asked if I knew of any documentaries about suicide. I knew of several but I wanted to research what else was available. The result: relative to other subjects, there are hardly any documentaries about suicide. It may be because it is a controversial topic. Some people believe that focusing on suicide might increase its likelihood.

Probably the most famous documentary about suicide is The Bridge which caused a great deal of controversy during production. Watch the video of The Bridge‘s filmmaker Eric Steel being interviewed by Charlie Rose.

Below is a list of documentaries about suicide. If I missed any, please let me know in the comments section.

1. The Bridge: A documentary about individuals who committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. It features friends and family members of individuals who jumped from the bridge and also at least one person who jumped and survived.

2. How To Die In Oregon: (HBO Documentaries): Oregon was the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. This film discusses Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act and features several terminally-ill patients who chose to end their life with medication prescribed by their physician.

3. Boy Interrupted: (HBO Documentaries): This film tells the story of a 15-year-old with bipolar disorder who committed suicide. The film also examines what it was like for his family to deal with his mental illness and his loss.

4. Jonestown: (PBS FRONTLINE) This documentary is about Rev. Jim Jones and the mass suicide in Jonestown in 1978. The phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” is thought to have derived from the Jonestown tragedy. Over 900 men, women and children drank soft drinks laced with cyanide for the purpose of ending their lives. There are several documentaries about Jonestown but this one particular is told from the perspective of cult defectors, relatives and journalists.

5. *Heaven’s Gate: This documentary is about a San Diego-based cult that was formed by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles in which 39 members committed mass suicide. The purpose of ending their lives was to reach an alien spacecraft which they thought was following Comet Hale-Bopp. If you’re interested in cults you’ll like this documentary.

6. Cry For Help: (PBS FRONTLINE): This documentary follows the efforts of two high schools attempting to address adolescent teen suicide and mental illness. Many people who have seen this documentary find it to be very compelling.

7. The Self-Made Man: This is a documentary made by Susan Stern whose father committed suicide at the age of 77. You can read more about the film here.

8. Kevorkian: (HBO Documentaries): This is less of a documentary in the traditional sense but a film about the life of Jack Kevorkian starring Al Pacino. Jack Kevorkian has performed over 130 physician-assisted suicide and has earned the name “Dr. Death.” His work is very controversial. It is an interesting documentary and worth watching.

PBS FRONTLINE also has a documentary about Dr. Kevorkian.

9. Daughter of Suicide: This is a documentary by Dempsey Rice, whose mother was a psychotherapist and an amateur photographer. It is the story of her mother’s death by suicide as well as an in-depth look at the healing process of the family. Daughter of Suicide is the recipient of many awards.

10. Aftermath: The Legacy of Suicide: This documentary deals with how children cope after the death of a parent by suicide. It features three people who lost their fathers to suicide at an early age.

Crime Documentaries Worth Watching

I made a list of my favorite documentaries focused on mental health and now I have a new list of favorite documentaries related to criminal justice. Many of these films can be viewed online for free. The links are provided below. Did I miss one? If so, let me know.

1. *The Real CSI: (PBS FRONTLINE): Investigates the reliability, or lack thereof, of the best-known forensic science tools.

2. *Top Secret America: (PBS FRONTLINE): Examines the top-secret world of government that has developed since 9/11. The documentary features Dana Priest of the Washington Post.

3. *The Interrupters: (PBS FRONTLINE): This documentary demonstrates a new approach to solving gang violence. The film offers a different way of understanding violence and poverty.

4. *Death By Fire: (PBS FRONTLINE): It is believed that the state of Texas executed an innocent person named Cameron Todd Willingham. This documentary investigates that case in great detail.

5. *Solitary Confinement: (National Geographic): This documentary explores the psychological effects of solitary confinement. You can view this on Netflix or by clicking on the link.

6. *The World’s Most Dangerous Drug: Meth: (National Geographic): This documentary explores the tragedy of methamphetamine and how it destroy lives. It is probably the best methamphetamine documentary I’ve seen.You can view this on Netflix or by clicking on the link.

7. [amazon_link id="B001CDEGWM" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Paradise Lost[/amazon_link]: (HBO Documentaries): This is the in-depth story of the West Memphis three, Damion Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. & Jason Baldwin who were convicted of murdering three boys in West Memphis Arkansas but who were later found to be innocent. There are a number of subsequent documentaries that update the details of the story.

8. *The Released: (PBS FRONTLINE): This documentary provides an inside look at mentally ill offenders and their struggle for stability.

9. *Cocaine Cowboys: The very interesting story of the history of drug trafficking in Miami.

10. Most Evil: (Investigation Discovery Channel). This is a long-running series of one hour individual television shows on the Investigation Discovery channel. I would consider these “mini” documentaries about the science of evil. The show features Dr. Stone and his scale of evil.

12. *Post Mortem: Death Investigation In America: (PBS FRONTLINE): This documentary examines the status of autopsies and the doctors who provide them. The overarching conclusion is that it is a dysfunctional system with few standards and little oversight.

13. *The Iceman: (HBO Documentaries): This is a chilling look at Richard Kuklinski who is known to have killed many people as part of his “job.” Many consider Richard Kuklinski to be a “textbook case” of antisocial personality disorder.

*Indicates that it can be viewed online for FREE.

18 Best Criminal Justice Websites & Blogs

Many websites and blogs have a great deal to teach their readers about elements of the criminal justice system. There are many great criminal justice blogs but not all of them are updated on a regular basis.  In no particular order, below is a list of my favorite criminal justice websites and blogs that are updated regularly and that will help you learn about the criminal justice system. If I missed any of your favorites, let me know.

1. Matt Mangino: “A former prosecutors musings on crime and punishment in America.”

2. Solitary Watch: “News from a Nation in Lockdown”

3. The Crime Report: “If You Read It Here, It’s A Crime. America’s most comprehensive source of news on crime, and resources on criminal justice”

4. Karen Franklin, PhD: “Forensic psychological evaluations and psychological treatment, San Francisco Bay Area. Expert on motivations for violence and hate crimes.”

5. HuffPost Crime: “Get the latest on crime and justice. Follow missing person cases, the hunt for serial killers, breaking crime news and reports on newsworthy trials.”

6. Think Progress Justice: “Breaking news, original research, and hard-hitting analysis on legal issues.”

7. Doc Bonn: “Criminologist and media analyst.”

8. Crime Scene Training “A blog to teach the fundamentals of Crime Scene Investigation, and to encourage input, feedback and involvement from site visitors.”

9. Jonathan Turley ” …A nationally recognized legal scholar who has written extensively in areas ranging from constitutional law to legal theory to tort law.” His blog has won many awards.

10. The Wrongful Convictions Blog: “Addressing wrongful conviction and actual innocence issues from an international for them.”

11. The Charles Smith Blog:  Former reporter of the Toronto Star, Harold Levy writes about cases regarding flawed forensic pathology, junk science, the US death penalty and other forensic developments.

12. Bonnie’s Blog of Crime: “My Life of Crime, Murder, Missing People and such! Above all else, never forget the victim, that the victim lived, had a life and was loved. The victim and their loved ones deserve justice, as does society.”

13. The Crime Analyst Blog:  “A blog of crime, law enforcement and related topics.”

14. Cops Alive: “Information, strategies and tools to help cops plan happy, healthy and successful careers, relationships and lives.”

15. The Sentencing Project: “Research and advocacy for reform.”

16. Vera Institute of Justice: “Making justice systems fairer and more effective through research and innovation.”

17. Prison Culture: “Prison Culture is an attempt to document how the current prison industrial complex operates and to underscore the ways that it structures American society.”

18. Death Penalty Information Center: “A national non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment.”

Parents of Mentally Ill Psych Hospital Shooter Blog About the Incident

Two Interesting News Stories

Sea of Heartbreak: Blog Post By Parents Of Killer John Shick Leaves More Questions Than Answers

Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette

The above article is about a blog post by the parents of a schizophrenic man John Shick who killed one person and wounded 5 others on a shooting spree at a large psychiatric facility in Pittsburgh, PA on March 8, 2012. You can read the entire blog post by his parents here. It is very interesting to read the words of his parents. You don’t often have access to such materials.

Shick had a history of schizophrenia and was involuntarily committed four times since 2005. His parents stated that he would often stop taking his medication, and “over the last years [their relationship] was difficult at best, as he became increasingly surly, withdrawn, and verbally abusive, though never physically threatening.”

John Shick was killed by police on the day of the incident.

Voices from Solitary: “The SHU Is California’s Equivalent of Waterboarding”

Source: www.solitarywatch.com

Continuing with their “Voices of Solitary” chronicles, this article is written by an inmate in Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU). Inmates in SHU spend on average 22 1/2 hours in a cell alone, for an average of over 6 years. Very powerful.

 

 

Suicide Survival Story

Some individuals attempt [amazon_link id="0375701478" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]suicide [/amazon_link]and live. Studies have shown that those who have lived are often thankful they survived. Many were able to receive help and never considered suicide again.

A blog reader was kind enough to share a [amazon_link id="0375701478" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]suicide [/amazon_link]survival story. This story has the power to be inspirational to others who may feel hopeless or that their life can’t improve. This story is a testament to the fact that life can be better.

If you would like to share your suicide survival story, please click here for submission. All personal information will be removed and your post may be slightly modified.

Disclaimer. This is not a substitute for psychological advice. If you are feeling suicidal then you should get help immediately. Call 911 or go to the hospital. 

One Reader’s Story

In this moment is hard but reassuring to write about my story. I have Bipolar Disorder. When I was a child and a teen, did’t know it, just was sad most of the time, and had days, weeks or months when everything was possible. Mi grades reflected it so good, some months I failed or got 6 (I live in Mexico and the grades are numbers, it will be something like D), and some others straight 10 (like an A). I always thought, and I guess my parents too, that it was my will. Like just made an effort when I wanted to.

I grew up, and started medicine school, ’cause I wanted to become a neurologist since I remember, I was doing ok, but like 5 or 6 months after I entered, I started having trouble concentrating, I did’t want to do anything, and was tired all the time, I thought I didn’t like my choice of career, so I quit. Mi parents got scared at first, because it was all of sudden. The thing is I lost my purpose, and my way in life with this. I didn’t know what to do.

Since that moment, everything was like black, I was sad most of the time, did a major in Communication studies, but did’t like it. I was hospitalized like 3 times in a psych ward, and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and whatever, and I tried to kill myself 3 times, the last one, almost got it. I was in the hospital for a week, and unconscious like 5 days. That one, was really significative for several reasons: 1. It wasn’t planned, or like I was feeling sad for long time, or something, I just feel so bad that night, and wanted to ended everything. 2. I regreted, after I took the pills (a lot, of everything, antipsychotics, antidepressant, etc), I realized what I have done, and that I didn’t want to die yet, so I call my doctor, and she send an ambulance, I guess that’s why I can tell my story now. 3. I realized I didn’t want to die, just to stop the feeling of sadness and emptiness, so I promised myself I wouldn’t do it again.

Since that moment, (like 3 years ago) I have accepted I have a disease, that there is a part that might not be completely in my hands, I really work very hard not to feel too depressed (not so hard not to be manic, honestly I like mania), I swim, do yoga, play tennis, eat correctly, sleep well, take my meds, have a routine, and that helps me a lot. But there are days, like today, when everything is black again. The difference, and what I would tell someone who wants to kill him/herself, is that today I know is not forever, maybe today everything is black, but maybe tomorrow everything will be colorful again, and the thing with bipolar is, that some other day everything will be so bright, and beautiful, that I will understand life, death, love, the universe, everything, for a moment (and honestly I love when that happens).

I would say that, it passes, everything passes (I know it sounds like a Hallmark card but is true). And, maybe, what have worked for me, has been to concentrate on beautiful things, stuff that makes me happy and laugh. For instance, I refused watching news, and watch cartoons on TV, although I am 33 years old, and I know is not a grown up thing to do. I worked at home doing something I enjoy so much, working in an office made me very nervous, and then I had hallucinations, so it was not cool. Uh, I have a dog, and enjoy walking with him in the park, I have an organic garden. I don’t know, for each person is different, but try to do things that make you feel happy, that make you laugh.

Mi point is, in my case I know I suddenly feel very depressed, and in that moment, I want to die (even today). But now I know is not forever, also when I don’t feel so sad I work in finding activities I enjoy and love, so in my blue moments, when I feel like doing nothing, I do it, and out of sudden I don’t feel that bad.

I am happy I survived, because I feel sadness, and emptiness, since I was a kid. I mean, it didnt’ know what it was, but I feel so bad most of the time. And there was a time when I believed I will never feel ok. I remember one day I said to my best friend (when she was depressed) that I didn’t want to die without feeling happy, really happy not manic, (is different) one day. That would be the saddest thing in a life (I believe). Now I have experienced happiness and peaceful of mind for months, and is awesome,  I can’t wait to be there again.

Maybe, my experience is a little bit idiotic, I know, is not very amazing, is just a struggle of a mind that goes to extremes trying to find balance, but I hope it helps someone else. I just want to finish saying that I get it, I feel it, when is hard to open your eyes and get out of bed. When you walk on the street with sunglasses so people can’t see your tears, when smiling is painful. When you would like to beg someone, anyone, to take away your pain ’cause you feel you can’t stand it anymore, but words won’t come out of your mouth. Actually, I’m in there right now, and all I can tell myself, and others like me, is tomorrow everything will be bright again, I (and you) will be able to enjoy music, trees, swimming, my (your) pet, etc, all we have to do today is hang in there, and get out of bed even though it hurts today.

Follow-Up  

Just a little epilogue. Today everything is colorful again. I don’t feel a 100% yet, but I feel so much better. I was depressed for 5 days, that kind of depression where you want to be death, but I was able to stop it in 5 days instead of months. It used to take me months and lots of meds to get over it. What I do (and hope it work for others) is simple:

1) get out of bed in the morning (even though I really don’t want to)

2) try not to skip or cancel any activity or appointment (I know is hard I cried everyday in my commute, and a lot)

3) eat well, not skip meals (even though I wasn’t hungry)

4) not sleep more than usual (8-9 hours per day, I know I sleep a lot, but I need it, haha!). Although I might need a short nap, because let’s admit it being depressed is exhausting. But keep it short, not all afternoon.

5) go out for a walk, and try to say hi to people you usually meet, and help someone.

6) talk to others about mundane topics. (it helps to distract your mind)

7) do something that kills hours, and help you forget everything. (In my case is paint my nails, cut the damaged tips of my hair, drawing or coloring something)

I think is the most important, I remember my former therapist always telling me that I needed to do things when I was depressed, and I was like “come on, you are not feeling this pain, how come can I do any activity.” And as a result I ended overdosing with pills, or having an accident, or in a hospital without doing anything for myself. Now I do what she said. I know is the complete opposite, I mean, one feels like can’t do anything. And I won’t lie, it hurts like hell. Is harder than staying in bed or try to kill yourself, but always works. Doesn’t hurt less, but certainly the feeling that something is killing your soul, lasts less.