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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Department of Health and Human Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

Last Updated: 7/7/2008

SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)


Risdon Slate's Story

Risdon SlateDuring two weeks in 1986, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, forced to resign from my position as a U. S. Probation Officer (USPO), hospitalized, and abandoned by my wife, who subsequently divorced me. I thought my life had ended.

However, I encountered a psychiatrist by the name of Roger Deal, who informed me that he got his kicks by taking broken people like myself and putting us back together so that we could go forth and live successful lives. I believed him, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in criminal justice from the Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. I have taught criminal justice full time at the college level since 1989 and am currently chair of the Criminology Department at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida.

After I arrived in Florida in 1994, a new doctor decided I did not have mental illness and discontinued my medication. This resulted in the second manic episode of my life, and police contact. I was jailed, my bail set at $500; and an inmate and then detention officers assaulted me as the officers forced me into a strip cell. Ironically, I was ultimately released under no authority whatsoever to USPO Ronald L. Hudson, whom I had worked with previously. I was then hospitalized, my charge dismissed, and the arrest eventually expunged.

Since this ordeal, I have changed doctors, resumed taking my medication, and have now been teaching full time for 10 years, with no further manic episodes.

I now spend a portion of my time training police officers on how to appropriately respond to persons with mental illnesses in crisis. My academic publications have focused on criminal justice/mental health issues, and I have spoken and consulted nationally on this topic. Additionally, I served as a gubernatorial appointee to Florida's Mental Health and Substance Abuse Commission and testified before a U.S. congressional subcommittee on the impact of the criminal justice system on persons with mental illness.

If this could happen to me, it can happen to anyone. I am fortunate to be alive and I am grateful for my recovery.

Risdon Slate

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