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June 05, 2006



That's really difficult to accept, a man with an obvious disorder is fired for "abandoning his post." I think he needs an attorney, I'm going to send messages on his behalf as soon as I can.

sly civilian

So sad. I've been so extraordinarily blessed in my struggles with mental illness to have the support, treatment, and choices available i needed. It has nothing to do with being better suited to academia, or a stronger person...or anything like that. It has to do with luck. Nothing more.


Indeed, sly, it is all luck. In my many years of struggle, I always had a loving family and first-rate health insurance. Those two things, more than anything else (other than God's grace), guaranteed my survival.

isabella mori

right now i am involved with fundraising for the weekend to end breast cancer, a huge fundraising effort that requires each walking participant to raise $2,000 in order to be allowed to walk. it is fascinating how a "sexy" project such as breast cancer actually makes it relatively easy to raise that much money. everyone buys in happily - from my very out there GLBT friends to my husband's very mainstream blue-collar co-workers.

okay now. can you imagine the same for ANY kind of mental illness or developmental disorders, even something as "tame" as ADD, phobias or autism? i can't. many people are afraid of mental illness -so they are willing to distance themselves as much as possible from anyone who might "infect" them with it. so until we've educated people better, we won't have any huge fundraising successes for mental illnesses anytime soon, and we'll continue to have people like your colleague be punished for getting sick.

p.s. i'm definitely not complaining about the breastcancer fundraising; it's a very important cause.

Joel Sax

Today, at my new health club, I took a risk and told my personal trainer that I was on Lithium. "I'm not putting that on there," she said. "A little knowledge...."

I got lucky. But I know how stupid even educated people can be about bipolar disorder. When people ask in support groups whether they should come "out" or not, the answer is usually "Be very very careful". It's like being gay except the stigma is much much worse. (Gay bipolars confirm this.)

What was asked of Magloe was almost like asking a man with no legs to walk up a flight of stairs to get his approval. The school seems stuck in Victorian England where it has all manner of technology but no compassion.

And some people wonder why many of us who suffer from mental illness do not return to work.


What was asked of Magloe was almost like asking a man with no legs to walk up a flight of stairs to get his approval.

Well said, Joel; I would surely only have "come out" in this manner with the protection of tenure and in the confidence that I have been asymptomatic for a long time. Thanks for blogging this.


Definitely the guy should hire a lawyer. One of the unintended consequences of near-fireproof employment is pretextual firing for "abandonment" where the real reason is something else. Maybe they really don't like the guy's teaching, or maybe he pissed a few bigwigs off; who knows?

Joel Sax

Hugo: Thank you. I got a strange comment on my site which research proved came from the Georgia Department of Education. I read it as another "you bipolars are a bunch of spongers". I'd like them to try the disease for a week in high mania.

Xrlq: Probably so. It could be that his being bipolar was the thing they wanted to get rid of him for, however.

Ralph Luker

Hugo, I've sent links to both the college newspaper story and to your post to the editor of Inside Higher Ed. It's possible you'll get some national attention on this situation.


Thanks, Ralph -- the board of trustees is meeting tomorrow (Wednesday), and I'll report.

Jonathan Dresner

Legal opinions vary, but it might well be worth bringing up the Americans with Disabilities Act "reasonable accomodation" issue: diagnosed mental illness does qualify as a disability, I think, in most cases. The firing is probably contestable, and I suspect it's illegal, under the circumstances.



Thanks for the great post. I hope you'll allow a departure from the main gist for a moment, as it is obvious there are at least a few bipolar sufferers tracking this post. It is to these people I'd like to ask a question.

I have a family member who is bipolar, who for the past 3 years or so has had serious difficulty controlling the illness. For 15+ years lithium proved an effective control, however in the process it apparently damaged his liver/kidneys, forcing the docs to try other methods. None of these new meds, nor the new & improved version of electric shock therapy has been able to keep him from a series of hospital stays.

Do any of you have knowledge of similar cases and what was done to treat them? I hate to secondguess doctors, but even more I hate watching the strain this uncontrolled disease is placing on the family.

Again, Hugo, thanks for your patience.


Sorry about the typo in my above email "address". It was corrected here.

Lynn Gazis-Sax

We have someone in our family group who's been going through that with a family member. It's unfortunate that people can't always stay on the medication that works best for them. Sometimes people find a new medicine that works better than anything else, but then run into problems getting it covered (since medicines that aren't generic yet are expensive); other times someone is no longer able to tolerate a tried and true medicine like lithium. And unfortunately, sometimes nothing works quite as well as the medicine you can no longer take. I'll check, though, with my husband (Joel, who commented above), and see whether he has any ideas.

Joel Sax

I understand your frustration. Unfortunately, meds sometimes give us side effects and sometimes they stop working.

Second opinions are fair play in psychiatry as they are in all of medicine. Also be aware that it may take up to eight years to find the right cocktail for your son's condition. I was not properly diagnosed with the disorder for 11 years (they put me on antidepressants -- ouch! -- but I hold no grudges). That you get the right medicine right from the start and keep that medicine is very unusual.

What your psychiatrist will give depends on your son's condition. As I said before, there is no harm seeking a second opinion when the first psychiatrist seems stuck in the water. You may get some insight that you didn't get from the first one. You may get the comfort of knowing that the first psychiatrist is on a reasonable track.

I will mention one medication that I use with others: Lamictal which is a mood-stabilizing anti-convulsant. (That means it is both useful for epilepsy and for Type 2 Bipolar disorder.) This med balanced out my depressive cycles very well. If your son is not allergic to it, it may be the med for him. Ask, but let his psychiatrist make the call.

I wish you well and welcome you to my blog anytime. There are other bipolars there who understand and support the needs of our kind. We overwhelmingly want to feel better.


"okay now. can you imagine the same for ANY kind of mental illness or developmental disorders, even something as "tame" as ADD, phobias or autism? i can't. many people are afraid of mental illness"

Yes there is - it is called Walk Through the Night and is about suidice awareness - it occurs in several cities thoughout the US and is a 20 mile walk through the night and into the light.


I used to teach. I wanted to change careers sooner, but teaching was the only job that covered my expenses (therapy, Rx) without a waiting period. I'm 32 and I had to move back home to go to school full-time. My COBRA insurance is $337 a month (just for me).


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