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Correctional Mental Health And Jail Suicides - Virginia Frusteri Sollars, Author of 'And Some Will Triumph'. Believes Much More Must Be Done

02-08-2017 03:10 PM CET | Arts & Culture

Press release from: Virginia Frusteri Sollars

Author Virginia Frusteri Sollars

Author Virginia Frusteri Sollars

A group of articles on the Al.com by Amy Yurkanin discuss a number of mental health issues in the Alabama Prison system, the most urgent of which is suicide. Suicide in jail is not unique to Alabama certainly - it is a high priority concern that impacts prison systems and jails nationwide. Virginia Frusteri Sollars, author of 'And Some Will Triumph: Stories of the Mentally Ill in a Correctional Setting and the Nurses Who Care for Them', understands intimately the challenges we face in regards to correctional mental health.

"Whenever people are incarcerated, suicide becomes an issue," Sollars stated. "For a while, the jail I worked in had the lowest suicide rate in the county and I feel this was due to the psychiatric nurses who worked there. One of the things we did was give a briefing every three months or so, giving the deputies pertinent information on how to gauge if a person was suicidal. Was the inmate isolating themselves, not eating or talking with others, did that person have a history of mental illness and has he or she stop taking their medication? Was the inmate giving his belongings away, has his or her mood changed dramatically? Though we were very busy, it worked. Our mental health department followed up on all the deputies’ referrals. Sometimes it was nothing, but most times we found depressed people who were helped by our follow-up system, or by antidepressants before their depression changed into suicidal thoughts or a plan for suicide."

"I agree with Amy Yurkanin’s article of Jan. 31, 2017 regarding mental health in the Alabama Prisons. You must have staff, both deputies and nurses alike who are well versed in psychiatric disorders. We actually worked with a very small mental health staff, but due to the eyes of the deputies, we were not alone. Correctional Officers should be educated. They should know what to look for and advise the proper people when they see a potential problem. I am sorry to say that in Orange County, Ca. out of the 664 hours of basic training the deputies receive, there is maybe three hours devoted to dealing with the mentally ill. This is not enough. Crises Intervention Training should be mandatory as the jails and prisons have become the new dumping grounds for the mentally ill."

"As medical insurance prices climb, I am afraid that we will be seeing even more of the mentally ill within corrections. There are no longer institutions for long term care and as soon as a mentally ill person is stabilized, they are back home or on the streets again, not taking the medications they need and getting into trouble with law enforcement. Some can’t afford their medication and many outpatient clinics cannot take care of the many in need."

"Though we did our best, many of the mentally ill incarcerated in the jail were sometimes locked down all day for weeks at a time. We could not force medication unless they became a danger to themselves or others. There were times the cells were filthy, as due to staffing, we did not have the personnel to take dangerous inmates out and clean them or the cells. Even if the nurses were available, everything had to be coordinated with the Correctional Department."

"I understand that Laura’s and Kendra’s Law has helped, but there are stringent conditions to qualify for the court mandated program and I feel that many will fall through the cracks. The mentally ill are here to stay and we need to find the money to help them."

Sollars uses her captivating and sometimes shocking stories of fact-based fiction to reveal the stark truths that lie behind the curtain of today’s current issues- the fundamental facts often obscured by our headline culture. Her gift for raw storytelling takes readers backstage, where they will experience, in vivid 3-D the challenges her semi-fictional characters must face. She brings the truth into the light, and lays bare the stunning reality behind these stories in ways that mere headlines could never achieve.

As a psychiatric nurse, Virginia journeyed inside the minds of the mentally ill. She not only allows her readers to participate in the day to day struggles that ensue behind the heavy steel doors of the correctional facility, but takes her readers into the thoughts, fears and secrets of the psychiatric inmates. Virginia explains the reasons why the criminal justice system has become the dumping ground for the mentally ill and why there are so few beds available to them on the outside, a matter of great concern in the United States.

Sollars' book has received rave reviews from readers. Kirkus Reviews said the book is " . . .a remarkable timeline of the treatment of mental illness in the past 40 years, and it’s a triumphant account of her boldness as a mother, nurse, and woman. At a time when mental health is in the forefront of conversations about our health care system, her story is one of hope."

One reader stated, "Absolutely the best book I’ve read in years, uncensored look into correctional mental health, patients, inmates and the professionals who deal with some of society’s most troubled criminals, their day to day struggles all interwoven within a gripping story of murder and suspense. A must read!" Another said, "Awesome story! While the story keeps you turning the page to see what happens next, the real plight of the mental health patients in a correctional setting is heartbreaking.

Virginia Sollars is available for media interviews and can be reached using the information below or by email at virginiasollars@yahoo.com. 'And Some Will Triumph' is available at online retailers. More information is available at her website.

Virginia Frusteri Sollars was raised in Brooklyn, New York, and became a registered nurse in 1980, working as a psychiatric nurse for most of her career. She worked in the jail system for twenty-six years, caring for and treating the mentally ill. She continues to advocate for the mentally ill though her presentations and radio shows advising people of the plight of the mentally ill.

PO Box 1613
Shallotte, NC, 28459
http://www.virginiasollars.net

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