Pat Neal…2011 Oregon Rural Health Hero of the Year! A selfless community service leader and trailblazer for mental health…


Mental Illness is a Medical Problem, by Patricia Neal, Mental Health Advocate, Lincoln County Oregon…Newport News-Times, Viewpoint, Wednesday, March 9, 2016

We have heard a great deal about people with mental illness in connection with mass shootings and sometimes when police are trying to deal with the mentally ill. Many people know very little about mental illness and because of the stigma associated with mental illness there may be a reluctance to learn about it or discuss it. There was a time when parents were blamed for raising their kids wrong and causing mental illness. In the 1970’s a few of the medications used for mental illness were in use and we knew mental illness was a medical problem. The early medications did not work for everyone and although many more medications have been developed there still are people who are not well served by the existing medications. Medications sometimes seem to be more effective if given as a shot rather than a pill. More research is being done to develop medications and to better understand how the brain works and what affects the development of the brain.

Emphasis is now beginning to integrate treatment for mental illness with primary care. Physicians are not normally trained to work with mental illness and efforts are now being made to provide them with training on the subject.

We hear of schizophrenia frequently in connection with police involvement. It affects people differently. Some can’t sleep, get agitated and angry, may hear things that are not real and others may go into a catatonic state. My nephew stood in front of the refrigerator and did not move for three hours. He said his mind was going so fast that he could not make a decision to move. Paranoia may be part of schizophrenia and they think everyone is watching them, threatening them, or trying to do things to them.

Many of the medications have undesirable side effects. Weight gain and type two diabetes are two “side effects”. The medications also may leave them perpetually ’tired’ and slow to wake up in the morning. .

There is a program now being taught here and elsewhere in the country called Mental Health First Aid. It is used with first responders, physicians and other medical providers, and parents. There is a version for students and that is very important because mental illness frequently strikes during the high school years. (It can be found online—use a well-known website like Mayo Clinic or some universities for medical information. Wikipedia is not necessarily reliable.)

Mental illness—depression, bipolar (once called manic depressive because of the mood swings) and schizophrenia frequently start in the high school or puberty years. As young people begin to have symptoms they may not understand what is happening and self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. Then when they are diagnosed with mental illness they have two problems.

Recent research seems to indicate that Gluten (associated with Celiac Disease) may attack the brain rather than the digestive system and cause schizophrenia and perhaps other mental problems. Both Celiac Disease and Schizophrenia are inherited diseases. Type 1 diabetes is also frequently found with Celiac Disease.

Mental illness has a physical medical association or medications would not help deal with the illness. We need to recognize it as a medical problem, remove the stigma associated with it and begin to learn about it and deal with it.


I’m so pleased and honored to have Pat Neal as a guest blogger, especially on the topic of mental health.  She has been making a huge difference in Lincoln County for over 20 years since her retirement.  Pat’s life experience and family circumstances fuels a passion to make a difference.  Pat and I are now teaming up serving on the Lincoln County Mental Health Advisory Committee (MHAC). Pat Neal really cares!  I can only hope that my work in post trauma growth can help carry her significant contributions and passion forward.  She intends to stay engaged and active in the community for as long as possible.  I feel lucky to know her as a friend and neighbor.  Thank you, Pat Neal, for all you do!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1&2… Please Click the highlighted text for my author page and to order books.

My Post-Trauma Growth project and workbook, “I Worry About the Kids,” for parents, teachers, mentors, and others.  Please click the highlighted text and for the project video clip.  Support and backing as a donation and sharing is most appreciated.  Thank You!



Patrick J. Kennedy’s Memoir is Cathartic and Healing…”A Common Struggle” indeed…

Ted Kennedy and son Patrick…

Patrick Kennedy opens up about toxic family life and PTSD…

Click the book cover to order…

“At the forefront is his father, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, whom Patrick now believes suffered not only from a serious “drinking problem” but also from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder following the assassinations of brother and President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and brother Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. 

Patrick goes on to paint a raw and unsettling portrait of his father, a man he says suffered “in silent desperation for much of his life, self-medicating and unwittingly passing his unprocessed trauma onto my sister, brother and me.”


I know something about a common struggle of “untreated post-traumatic stress!”  Patrick Kennedy does too…  Children growing up in a family affected by severe traumatic experiences, often take on the same mental health symptoms and behaviors as parents who struggle.  Untreated PTSD is mostly hidden behind closed doors with family members getting the direct hit of the symptoms of self medication, anger, depression, panic attacks, including emotional and physical abuse.  The toxic behaviors are mostly invisible outside of the home where parents who suffer can keep a safe distance from the pain of the past while becoming workaholics who self medicate with a good whiskey to keep calm.  The false cover of calmness by day turns into a nightmare for family members during evening hours and on weekends as the trauma sufferer releases all the pent up anger connected with bottled up pain from the past and the sickness from a never ending hang over…

When I wrote my book many years after Dad passed away in 1998, my family members helped me with stories that were difficult to remember and to share with the world.  But it was a most cathartic and healing experience that gave me and others who read my story a path to recovery, including peace of mind.  When my book was published; however, family members became agitated and anxious, distancing themselves from me and our painful family story.  There has never been any denial of the events described in my book since my siblings and mother helped me reconcile the stories and experiences showing a violent and toxic family life that drove us all away.  We carried the emotional baggage with us and were consistently challenged in confronting something we did not understand until later in life.  We acted out in our own ways to each other and our own family members with behaviors that added up to all the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, that all of us know much more about in the 21st century.  Even though we know so much more, there is still denial and stigma keeping sufferers from seeking treatment and find the lasting peace of mind we all deserve.

I attempt to write in my latest book, My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2, about how critical it is to seek treatment, if for no other reason than to save your children from suffering the same fate, and their children as well.  PTSD is an inter-generational national mental health crisis that will take decades of awareness and treatment to cure from society.  We have been a nation at war since the Civil War with families becoming embroiled in the symptoms of post trauma as a fact of life.  It doesn’t have to be like bad genes that carry forward forever.  I am encouraged and confident that someday, following my life-time, that PTSD will be in the history books and cut off at the pass eventually.  We will become strong enough as compassionate human beings to address mental health needs effectively, starting with kids at an early age, without the stigma that holds us back today.  I know we can do it, and the books written and on-going awareness efforts by those who have survived and thrived like Patrick J. Kennedy will help society heal in time.  We must talk and write freely about mental health to each other and in public places so that it is as comfortable as talking about a cure for a common cold.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1&2… Click the highlighted text for my author page…

Steve Sparks, Author, Blogger, and Child Advocate

“The Wrath of Stigma!” is the first chapter of my new book, My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 2.

Saving your children, family and loved ones from inter-generational Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS)

Following is an excerpt from my new book to be released soon…

“Stigma is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” they say…  “After all the research and writing on the subject of PTS/PTSD, including this blog with close to 800 postings offering tons of information about my own experience, references and resources with the goal to help others, the human condition of STIGMA leaves me stone cold and in a quandary.  It is clear that we should all seek treatment immediately following a moral injury and living with the awful symptoms of depression and anxiety, including panic attacks.  But it would be dishonest for me to suggest to anyone who fears losing opportunities and dreams of career success, especially loving relationships and spiritual growth in life, to ever admit a mental health challenge.

My latest book is dedicated to the 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1.  Click on highlighted text for my author page…

Mental Health Awareness Month of May… Take advantage of Mental Health First Aid training in your local community…


May is Mental Heath Awareness Month…  Quote from this website…

For more than 60 years, May has been nationally recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month.

“Mental wellness is essential for peak cognitive and physical performance and ensures the readiness of our service members. This month the Military Health System (MHS) focuses on the mental wellness of service members, their families, retirees, and DoD civilians. We will highlight the tools and resources available for the prevention and treatment of the DoD community’s overall mental wellness.”


I am pleased to share that Mental Health First Aid training has arrived in Lincoln County Oregon!  I was happy to take the lead to bring the Mental Health 1st Aid training to our City of Depoe Bay, Oregon with the help of Lincoln County Health & Human Services.  We are scheduling an overview introduction to the Depoe Bay City Council, and to the Neighbors for Kids (NFK) Board of Directors during this month.  Near future training for selected staff in both organizations will be schedule.  Following are a few highlights of the training quoted from the website…


Mental Health First Aid

is an in-person training that teaches you how to help people developing a mental illness or in a crisis.

Mental Health First Aid teaches you:

  •  Signs of addictions and mental illnesses
  •  5-step action plan to assess a situation and help 
  •  Impact of mental and substance use disorders
  •  Local resources and where to turn for help

The State of Oregon is making mental health a top priority going forward with a campaign  slogan, “Can’t We Do More?”  It is the responsibility of local and county government, private, and public leadership to take advantage of this training.  Lincoln County Mental Health offers the availability of two highly trained staff members to conduct training on a selected basis.  I have written previously in this blog about the need to do more in rural communities for mental health awareness... click on highlighted text for more…

You can make a difference during the month of May and all year by taking a look at the Mental Health First Aid program for your own needs as a business, school or public service organization.  Please review the references and resources available and take action.  Mental Health 1st Aid is just as critical as getting training for first-aid best practices in general.  Lives are saved through a higher level of awareness of all health and wellness challenges in local communities everywhere.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1…  Click highlighted text for my author page…

Vice Chair, Neighbors for Kids & Depoe Bay City Councilor



State of the Union in Mental Health and Addiction Live Webcast…and local initiatives…

The State of Mental Health in America Webcast…  Click highlighted text…

Kennedy Forum…State of the Union in Mental Health & Addiction…  Click on the highlighted text

“Just as President Kennedy rallied the nation to dream big and set audacious goals 50 years ago, The Kennedy Forum seeks to set a new standard for the future of health care in the United States.

Our mission is big, and the stakes are clear. We seek to unite the health care system, and rally the mental health community around a common set of principles: Fully implement the 2008 parity law, bring business leaders and government agencies together to eliminate issues of stigma, work with providers to guarantee equal access to care, ensure that policymakers have the tools they need to craft better policy, and give consumers a way to understand their rights.”



Mental Health is one of the State of Oregon’s key legislative initiatives for 2015.  League of Oregon Cities Local Focus (click this site) magazine for December 2014 is dedicated to mental health…”can’t we do better?” On the agenda for our City of Depoe Bay Council Meeting on February 3rd is Mental Health…to start this important conversation in our rural community on the Central Oregon Coast.  Communities everywhere are getting on the same page now and taking action…to find better ways to meet mental health challenges and improve services at the local level.  Following is a summary of the key issues we are addressing in our communities…

December 2014On the Cover…Mental Health: Can’t we do better?

  • It’s Time to Bend the Trend
  • Forest Grove – Mental Health Crisis Straining Police Resources
  • Wallowa County – Isolation Impedes Proper Response, Care
  • Portland and Project Respond: A 22-Year Partnership
  • Boardman – Crisis Care in a Small Community
  • Bend – Trying to Keep Pace in Deschutes County
  • Jail Diversion: Better for Cities, Better for Counties, Better for Patients
  • Mental Health Services: How We Can Do More

Please take the time to catch up on the State of Mental Health in America from the Kennedy Forum webcast.  Take a look at the Local Focus December 2014 magazine and learn more about specific challenges and opportunities for change in Oregon.  I will be reporting on the progress we are making in Depoe Bay, Oregon going forward.

Mental Health will be a high priority for me as city councilor during my 4 year term.  Our community will begin to seriously assess its needs and begin to collaborate with public private partnerships along with federal, state, and country resources to build a stronger foundation for mental health crisis treatment and referral services.  Join your neighbors in supporting a stronger Mental Health agenda for your community.  We can do better!

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life after Trauma, Part 1…  Click on the highlighted text for my author page…

Mental Health…We can do more in rural communities!

League of Oregon Cities…Local Focus, December 2014


“Mental Health…Can’t we do better?”  League of Oregon Cities, Local Focus December 2014…Quote from page 14, It’s Time to Bend the Trend by Cherryl Ramirez

Contrary to those with other chronic conditions like diabetes
and heart disease, people with chronic mental health and substance
use disorders have been criminalized. The difference is,
in part, that people with untreated mental illness may act in
ways that seem frightening or threatening to the general public.
According to the National GAINS Technical Assistance
and Policy Analysis (TAPA) Center for jail diversion, “when
effective treatment is available, people with mental disorders
and without substance use problems present no greater risk to
the community than people in the general population.”


This is my first posting as a newly elected Depoe Bay, Oregon, City Councilor.  It is fitting and timely to use the League of Oregon Cities Local Focus publication, entitled Mental Health, Can’t we do better?  as a reference.

I attended my first workshop in Manzanita, Oregon, this last week to receive training as a newly elected official.  The training was very valuable as I hit the ground running.  A big picture view of Oregon legislative priorities for 2015 was presented to help focus on the larger issues of our great State of Oregon, including mental health.

As a new Depoe Bay, Oregon City Councilor with a personal interest in mental health awareness. I am putting a special focus on this important topic during my term in office.  Following are some of the actions we are taking in Oregon and in local communities like Depoe Bay to do more in providing improved mental health services.

Quote from page 29 of the referenced LOC Local Focus…
 • Preventative mental health care in the form of “drop-in”
services should be available to all Oregonians regardless
of where they live.
The League believes that access to urgent care for mental
health will allow those suffering from an illness or condition
to be triaged and receive immediate treatment or
where appropriate, referrals for treatment. This will avert
unnecessary, unhealthful and sometimes tragic interactions
with law enforcement personnel.
• Proactive, mobile crisis intervention should be available
The mobile crisis intervention approach has reduced
negative encounters between police and the mentally ill.
Resources should be provided so such services are available
throughout the state.
• Every police officer in the state of Oregon should have
access to training in how to respond to a mental health
The state should provide public safety personnel with access
to instructions from mental health professionals that
would equip officers with skills to respond in a way that
de-escalates conflict and helps the affected individual and
their family receive appropriate care.
• The number of regional residential mental health facilities
should be expanded.
Jail should not be the only option to secure an individual
experiencing a mental health crisis. Safe and secure mental
health care beds will allow those in need to avoid jail,
which could worsen their condition.

It is an honor for me to serve the citizens of greater Depoe Bay, Oregon for the next 4 years.  As a rural community we have many challenges in community building and in sustaining the precious legacy of our town.  We are also focused on economic development and providing state of the art infrastructure utilities and services. 

In addition to my regular blog postings on the topic of Children and Families in Life After Trauma, I will be providing updates on more global mental health issues related to rural communities.  I am grateful for the support of my community of friends, followers, and family who read this blog.  Please share your comments at the end of this posting.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…  Click the highlighted text for my author page…



The Tragic Loss of Little London McCabe is a Shocking Reminder…We must do more to help children and families in crisis!

6 year old London McCabe loved hats and his Dad.. Playing with his toy giraffe last November was a joy…
Jillian McCabe calmly threw her young son, London, over the Yaquina Bridge to his tragic death…Newport, Oregon…

 Community Morns Little London McCabe’s Tragic Death… Quote from this website news report from the Newport News Times…

Blogs highlighted McCabe family struggles

Modified: Wednesday, Nov 5th, 2014

“NEWPORT — In the year leading up to the death of a 6-year-old Newport boy, allegedly thrown from Yaquina Bay Bridge by his own mother, online sites documented a family plagued by hardships, trying to make it by.

Little London McCabe was autistic, and his father, Matt McCabe, in therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS).”


Our local community and the world, according to news reports around the globe, are shocked by the tragic loss of a beautiful 6 year old boy (pictured above), London McCabe, who was loved and adored by his family.  This especially hit home at Neighbors for Kids in Depoe Bay, Oregon where we take great care and discipline to make a difference for children and families in an effort to prevent this kind of tragedy.  We practice vigilance as a high priority and devote additional time to our kids with special needs, including working with parents so that while children are in our care they receive extra love and attention. All the schools and numerous other public and private agencies strive to provide the best support for children and families, who are challenged and stressed each and every day with overwhelming problems with economic survival and special needs, including mental health issues.One of the more recent programs offered to help improve community response to mental health challenges is Mental Health First Aid…  Click on the highlighted text and learn more…  Following is a quote from this website.

“Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches you how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The training helps you identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses.”

The McCabe family is a tragic example of what can go wrong, really wrong, if we miss a step in care giving, even for a second.  A family tragedy like this can happen in any community anywhere in the world at any moment, even when we all work hard to prevent such a terrible outcome.  This is a shocking reminder that we must do more…be more vigilant as an extended community family of educators, care givers, mental health professionals, local government, and volunteers, especially working more closely with parents.  There will always be a risk that a tragedy will happen.  But when it does, we should talk to ourselves and each other, review and change best practices, and make efforts to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.  As a community, we know how to do this.   We need to do it better!

Steve Sparks, Vice Chair,

A Powerful Staged Reading of “Riva Beside Me” a novel by Carla Perry… A story of hope and healing…

“Riva Beside Me” cast members are, KE Edmisten, left, as “The Mother,” Sarah Gayle as “Riva,” Hovey Grosvenor as “Richard,” and Wayne Plourde as “The Narrator.” (Photo by Carla Perry)  Click photo for larger view…
CARLA PERRY is the founder of the monthly Nye Beach Writers’ Series and Writers On The Edge, a nonprofit organization dedicated to literary arts on the Central Oregon Coast. She received the Stewart Holbrook Special Oregon Book Award for her outstanding contributions to Oregon’s literary community, and the Oregon Governor’s Art Award for the longevity and quality of Writers on The Edge.

Staged Reading of Riva Beside Me, by Carla Perry…  Quote from this website Lincoln County Dispatch… The novel, “Riva Beside Me: New York City 1963-1966,” is based on real life, growing up in Manhattan in a dysfunctional family. But the story is one of transition and hope, where humor and love prevail. Perry says the story makes it obvious that angels walk among us.”


My wife, Judy, pulled me away from a lazy day at home, and gave me a wonderful and heartwarming surprise… the staged reading of Riva Beside Me by Carla Perry (order book on my sidebar from Amazon.) at Café Mundo, Newport, Oregon.  Carla is a close friend of ours so the performance was even more special.  Judy read her book as well, and loved it!  No more procrastination on my part now… I have to find out about the ending since the staged reading performance included excerpts from about 60% of the book.

The performance by the cast, especially the character of “the mother” by KE Edmisten, triggered painful memories of my own toxic childhood growing up in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  I was moved and visibly shaken until my empathy and compassion kicked in for the dysfunctional circumstances surrounding Carla’s childhood.  I could see my own family in a reality show on stage during the performance…it was both cathartic and healing…

Before researching and writing my own non-fiction story, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story, there was hate in my heart for decades from experiencing child abuse and emotional neglect.  The hate is now gone, and my journey of healing has taken over completely.  Once we let go of the anger and hate connected with a traumatic experience or event, we are able to forgive and move on.  Carla Perry and I are both survivors and battle buddies in life after trauma.  Thank you, Carla Perry, for your friendship and for helping others find their own path of healing.  You and the cast of the staged reading of your novel, Riva Beside Me, is now included on my bucket list of most grateful and treasured memories in life.

Steve Sparks, Author, Reconciliation: A Son’s Story and My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1…


Mental Health Awareness…”So many people are trying to hide something that needs to be talked about.” Brandon Marshall, wide receiver, Chicago Bears…

An estimated 590,000 mentally ill patients a year end up in a defacto system of mental health care, including jails and prisons, the streets, and homeless shelters where suicide is a high risk. Click graphic for a larger view…
The cost of treating mental illness…click graphic to expand view…As states have cut mental health funding, many have increased spending on prisons and jails, says D.J. Jaffe, executive director of, which advocates for patients with serious mental illness.

USA Today…”The Cost of Not Caring” by Liz Szabo…click here for an in-depth report…

Brandon Marshall Foundation, team up to fight stigma of mental illness…

Brandon Marshall Foundation… click here for more…

“So many people are trying to hide something that needs to be talked about, and if it’s talked about, so many lives will be saved, says Marshall, who created the Brandon Marshall Foundation to help others with mental illness.”


It is easy to say “we need to talk about mental health awareness,” but it will take decades of talking to change our culture of denial and remove the stigma from society.  Just this week several people close to me shared stories of the risk of revealing and talking about mental health challenges.  What is very similar about these and many other stories, including my own experience, is the push back and denial connected with talking about the truth and seeking treatment.  Most mental health conditions are manageable if treated effectively…sooner than later is much better…

Younger people are at the highest risk of paying a big price for revealing a standing mental health issue of any type.  Bipolar disorder, post traumatic stress, and clinical depression are high on the list of manageable mental health problems that can kill a career, stop a great opportunity in life, or even break up a loving relationship.  The worst case scenario we want to avoid is suicide.  We survivors pay the price at all ages, especially during our wage earning and career years.  I remember well in 1965 when my first career opportunity with General Telephone & Telegraph in Redondo Beach, California, was cut short of an offer to join the company because of a mental health diagnosis connected with my honorable service in the US Navy.

It was a surprise and shock to me to be told I could not be hired because my military record (DD214) showed a coded medical and mental health status that was “worrisome.”  That year of 1965 was the first time my apparent condition and diagnosis of the symptoms related to what we now know as PTSD became a reality.  From that point forward and during my entire adult life, no one else was ever told or knew.  My US Navy vocational training and skills saved the day when finally hired by the Western Union Telegraph Company.  I was very lucky to get a job that started me off in my career and gave me confidence and hope as a young man.   Although we know much more today than we did then about moral injury and PTSD, especially with soldiers returning home from hard combat duty, nothing has changed for most people who are compelled to keep their mental health challenges and treatment a secret.  And because of the stigma, the lives of sufferers, including children and families, are at risk every day.  Change is slow, but will happen someday, long after my lifetime…

I continue to be very encouraged as more well known leaders and celebrities like, Brandon Marshall, join the cause of mental health awareness.  The first step in changing the very soul of America and attitudes around the globe regarding mental health stigma and denial is awareness.  So we must talk and write about this subject, with the passion and energy that will eventually get through to future generations.  It is with our children that we will change, and someday break the cycle of pain and denial that haunts millions of survivors of traumatic life experiences and other mental health challenges that require professional treatment and healing…

Steve Sparks, Author, My Journey of Healing in Life After Trauma, Part 1 and Reconciliation: A Son’s Story…  Click on the highlighted text for my author page…