About The Film
“Obstacles to moving my sister with schizophrenia near me, sparks my exploration of how two families with loved ones and a man living with severe mental illness cope with police encounters, a broken healthcare system and how can it be fixed?”
Teresa’s older sister, Patricia, recalls coming home one evening to a call from the police saying her sister, Teresa, “was shot, is in surgery and may not make it.”
Teresa’s younger sister, Frances, immediately flew to San Francisco, when Patricia called her about the shooting. She was “flabbergasted” that the police shot her sister seven times. Frances became Teresa’s advocate when she was in jail. She helped Teresa seek compensation for her injuries under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Teresa’s case reaches the Supreme Court.
Teresa was 56, when the social worker at the Single Room Occupancy (SRO) did a welfare check on her. She was reading and did not want to leave her room. She threatened him. He called the non-emergency number for Teresa to be transported to the hospital telling them she is “gravely disabled and needed care.”
Kleigh Hathaway was Teresa’s public defender. Teresa did not want to go to the hospital. Her door was closed. The officers broke in and Teresa picked up a small knife yelling at them to leave. They shot her seven times. Kleigh was Teresa’s valiant defender at the trial.
Linda, a devoted mother of Jesse, 38, with severe schizophrenia navigates a failed mental healthcare system to get treatment for her son, who lived in his car for seven years and sprays chemicals on his body to kill germs. “I feel like Jesse is in a prison of these delusions and hallucinations that he can’t break out of.”
Jesse saw faces popping out of a mop at age two. His brain illness continued to worsen and brought him to homelessness living in his car. Jesse is not aware of his brain illness. He wants to have his own house.
Jeff who is living with bipolar disorder “a white tunnel of white light” attempted suicide at 53. He told friends he was going to try again. They talked him into letting the police take him to the hospital. He was relieved they didn’t handcuff him. He takes medication for the first time in his life and is stable. Now, Jeff helps others in a bipolar support group, while balancing his stability with side effects from the medication.
Ben Nisenbaum, Attorney, Law Offices of John L. Burris, represented Teresa in her lawsuit against the City and County of San Francisco for compensation for her injuries under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Stating that officers knew Teresa had a mental illness and did not take that into account when they attempted to transport Teresa to the hospital for evaluation.
Dr. Paul Linde
Dr. Paul Linde, emergency room psychiatrist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, recalls the need of his mentally ill patients for treatment. There are no beds. “You’re asked as a physician to discharge people, who clearly are not healthy enough to be discharged. Puts you in a bind.”
There are 8.8 million adults living with severe mental illness in the U.S. today. Family members are their primary caregivers. The documentary-in-progress Piece of Mind amplifies the voices of families advocating for loved ones with untreated neurological brain diseases interweaving personal stories to expose complicated family dynamics, encounters with law enforcement and a failed health care system. This timely film combines intimate interviews, archival footage and animation to highlight the urgent need for treatment over trauma.
As the stories unfold, Linda, Patricia and Frances are confronted by a 1996 HIPAA privacy law that blocks family members from taking action on behalf of, or obtaining medical information about their loved one.
Another devastating barrier for family caregivers and their loved ones is anosognosia, a brain disorder that affects approximately 50% of persons with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder, which drastically impairs awareness of their mental illness.
Couched in the deeply personal stories in the documentary Piece of Mind are viable solutions for treatment over trauma such as Assisted Outpatient Treatment and the urgent need for a comprehensive continuum of care for persons unable to care for themselves.