"The cost to everyone has been enormous. With the way budgets for mental health have been cut in Arizona, we have had to figure out ways to make things work as well as possible. Working with people like Mark and others is one big way."

Salerno's positive place in that ongoing dialogue is remarkable.

Just 10 years ago, Maricopa County sheriff's officials deemed him a high risk for suicide and strapped him for hours into a "restraint chair" at the Madison Street Jail.

Dr. Salerno on the black shoe: “It’s had a life, that’s for sure.”
Jamie Peachey
Dr. Salerno on the black shoe: “It’s had a life, that’s for sure.”

Details

Shadow Dwellers: A Series

What's the one image you took away from the Tucson shootings? We thought so. That mugshot of Jared Loughner is haunting. And for the world, it has become the face of mental illness in Arizona. Here, we know that's not true. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but the story of what it's like to be mentally ill in this place cannot be told in a single photograph.

Tens of thousands of seriously mentally ill people live in Arizona. Some of them look just like you.

Other stories in the series:

Phoenix's Most At-Risk Homeless Find Their Way, Thanks to a Team of "Navigators", by Paul Rubin

Meet Raven, a Homeless Man with More Community Than Many of Us Have, by Paul Rubin

Why Did the Arizona Department of Corrections Put a Mentally Ill Man in Cell with a Convicted Killer?, by Paul Rubin

Mental Illness Hasn't Stopped Chris Shelton from Becoming a World-Class Boxing Historian, by Paul Rubin

Jan Brewer's Response to Jared Loughner: Slash More Than 35 Million in Services from an Already Beleaguered Mental Health System, by Paul Rubin and Amy Silverman

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Known by critics as the "Devil's chair," its leather belts and tight cuffs keep a prisoner from moving.

It is the same medieval device in which inmate Scott Norberg suffocated in June 1996. (Norberg's family later settled a civil lawsuit with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office for a reported $8.25 million.)

By the end of 2002, Salerno's life seemed ruined, if not over.

In his case, substance abuse never was an issue, nor was an urge to hurt anyone physically, other than (at times) himself.

Instead, Salerno suffered from a mental condition that caused him to lose touch with reality and endure ongoing mood problems.

Later, he wrote a short story that aptly described his state of mind after his major psychotic break.

Salerno called it "Not Today Luke."

Luke was his adored (now deceased) golden Labrador retriever. The piece was written from Luke's canine perspective, as his nearly catatonic master huddled in bed day after day, depressed beyond measure.

"Mark had been in bed for a long time now. I have howled at five full moons since we last took a hike. I remembered our trips to the mountain. We were both so fit and happy and moved gracefully and confidently over rough terrain. It was clear to everyone we passed that we felt I was the greatest dog and I knew he was the best master.

"I remember the day he took to bed. He must have come home from the hospital; he had a scent similar to the vet's office. He moved slowly and clumsily. He gave me a little pat on my head, but without the enthusiasm I had grown accustomed to. His voice was thick and slow and his 'Hi Luke' came out on a sigh and seemingly with great effort."

Luke tells the reader that he won't stop fetching his leash from the wicker basket every morning.

"I will continue to say, 'C'mon, Mark, let's go!' even though I cannot speak," the dog says. "I am the keeper of hope."

Another Luke, of Biblical fame, is the patron saint of doctors.


Mark Salerno grew up in a working-class home in Bergen County, New Jersey, the younger of two boys. His mother's parents lived upstairs in the two-family residence.

Salerno's father was a service manager for a firm that repaired elevators and forklifts. His mother was a homemaker.

"My parents were community people," he says, "and doing things for others was what they did. I knew from the youngest age that I had to do something, preferably for those less fortunate than me."

After high school, Salerno enrolled at a private Dominican college about 17 miles from New York City. He was able to pay for his schooling by carving out a job as a "housemaster" at the New York Institute for the Blind in the Bronx, where he spent his nights after attending college classes during the day.

The venerable institute included students who were blind and deaf, victims of a rubella epidemic in the mid-1960s. Salerno learned American Sign Language so he could communicate with the deaf kids.

He earned his undergraduate degree in education and seemed headed for a teaching career after completing his master's degree in special and elementary education at Boston College.

But in 1985, Salerno was accepted to the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He spent much of his residency working at an inner-city hospital with Boston children, and he knew pediatrics was it for him.

"I loved to treat children and help them heal," says Salerno, a divorcee with no kids of his own.

He worked as a pediatrician in the Boston area for almost a decade before moving to Arizona in the late 1990s for his then-wife's health.

After a stint with a pediatrics group, Salerno opened a one-doctor office at Tatum and Bell Road in North Phoenix. He attracted a devoted clientele of young parents with his direct and compassionate bedside manner and unusual round-the-clock approach to the job.

Beyond the call of duty only begins to describe it: Salerno gave his personal cell phone number (no answering service) to the parents of his patients and always responded as quickly as possible.

Later, after the doctor's name had been splashed across TV screens and newspapers, more than 20 parents sent letters to the judge in the stolen-car case, each saying that they wouldn't hesitate to let him treat their children again once he got better.

One addressed Salerno directly in her letter: "Don't let your missteps define you. Don't let others make you see only your mistakes. You need to see always what others know of you. A loving doctor, a person who remembers his little patients by name and greets them so. A doctor, a person who can immediately make a child unafraid."

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25 comments
MichaelYevtuck
MichaelYevtuck

Mike Yevtuck

I am the God of the USA hells angels  I punish the  USA hells angels for their decades of crimes victimizing women and children.I punish the USA hells angels for the gangs continued support to ruin the American way of life. to this day The USA hells angels Still in 2013 continue to raise money to help USA Hells angels sex offenders and USA hells angels involved with child porn . 


  I would not call my hate for the filthy fowl flock of USA hells angels anger issues .  I call the hate I have for the USA hells angels justified 

I call what I do real street justice funny I wonder where chuck got that idea from  that coward chuck Zito wrote a book about street justice yet he is on the losing  team with  the cowards and punks of the USA hells angels who cover and give money to registered sex offenders and men involved with child porn.


The USA hells angels is the same as it always was filled without of shape  cowards who hide in the flock they USA hells angels still vote registered and unregistered sex offenders to fill the flocks USA leadership roles I guess ensuring the position of sex offenders and child porn transporters and collectors into the next century.

The punks commenting here using my name could be Chuck Zito Sonny Barger or any USA hells angels or a man that dates USA hells angels I may have beat up or smacked around in the past . USA hells angels know better to try to attack or kill me. This is all the USA hells angels can do with out risking their Life they hide type and libel me like the cowardly bitchs they are.

Aundi
Aundi

Dr. Salerno was a wonderful doctor and an awesome person. Mental illness can hit anyone at anytime. I am so glad he has overcome the darkness and is once again making great contributions. Thank you Dr. Salerno for touching my familys lift. I hope you continue on your road to recovery and I know you will make a differance in all the lives you touch.

Marianne
Marianne

First of all, It is a nice story. I just do not want folks with mental issues to think they can over come the illness. Mental illness is like having a substance abuse problem; yes one can stop drinking and doing drugs, however it is a day-to day struggle. Mental concerns is the same way, one would learn coping skills, find the correct medication for that time frame. One can hope to have a good doctor that will listen to your problems. Have a healthy eating habits, do some kind of excersize to help relive stress. A health belief in some type "Higher Power" often helps. True folks with mental issues do lead productive, happy lives. Even so, staying on the right kind of doseage of medication and support groups and even having some one that you can trust to talk to that can keep you on the right path. Changes in this world, is something that can not be ignored, with the proper tools one can deal better then before, however to say one is fully recovered from mental illness; without having to be concern of relapses due to triggers like hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, and remembering negative things that cause the mind to breakdown, is false hope. Mental stigma has changed over the years, through education, postive stories, along with documentation and better medications. A person can be dry dock for 40 years, but let them get tigger some how and they take that drug or drink and it does not matter they are still concidered to have a substance abuse.

Walter Concrete
Walter Concrete

So, is this an excuse you're trying to use for not helping people with mental illnesses? Because if he can cure himself then anyone can? How about this one...if he can cure himself of his mental illness then maybe there's really no such thing and we can stop trying to help the 10 people per year who get services for it in this state. Think of all the money the politicians could siphon into their pockets.

Jenn Campbell
Jenn Campbell

Neat story, very inspiring on many levels to hear about someone who happens to be mentally ill who is on a journey of recovery and gets media attention for something good instead of the usual negative attention given to folks with mental illnesses by the media. Thanks for sharing this story, and I hope there are many more like it to follow!

dsgasgahasdh
dsgasgahasdh

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dsgasgahasdh
dsgasgahasdh

Hello, everybody, the good shoping place, the new season approaching, click in. Let's Facelift bar! ( http://fashion-long-4biz.com )Air Jordan (1-24) shoes $33 UGG BOOT $50 Nike shox (R4, NZ, OZ, TL1, TL2, TL3) $33 Handbags ( Coach Lv fendi D&G) $36 T-shirts (polo, ed hardy, lacoste) $16 Jean (True Religion, ed hardy, coogi)$30 Sunglasses ( Oakey, coach, Gucci, Armaini)$16 New era cap $16 ATO shoes $42 Gucci shoes $42 ,prada shoes $40 NBA jerseys $33 ,NHL jerseys $29 YSL shoes $85 Bikini (Ed hardy, polo) $18 Accept paypal payment, accept Credit card payments, electronic check payments. FREE SHIPPING ( http://fashion-long-4biz.com )

VongMee
VongMee

Now that dude has totally got game. WOw.

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A Parent
A Parent

It is my hope that some medical group will see this story and snatch Dr. Salerno up as fast as possible. He is a wonderful Pediatrician and he should be back in practice.

Shooter McGaven
Shooter McGaven

What an amazing story Paul, thanks for sharing it. Also HUGE thanks to the Doc for being brave enough to share this story. People who don't work in mental health, or have loved ones who are facing these issues don't understand, and this helps. It is easy to just lump everyone in a group and ignore them, and this man is a great example of why that is wrong. Best wishes.

MIKE YEVTUCK
MIKE YEVTUCK

I bet he did alot of LSD and it made him go loco.

MIKE YEVTUCK
MIKE YEVTUCK

He still has that weird strange far away look in his eyes I wouldn't trust him at all. I have that same look in my eyes and i know I am 100% mentally unstable and could cause harm to others. DTA = dont trust anyone.

PTCGAZ
PTCGAZ

I doubt that. Chemistry of our brains isn't understood. Chemical imbalances are common.

Broski Love
Broski Love

mike is right, once youve been to the darkside and back, you can easily get there again.

MIKE YEVTUCK
MIKE YEVTUCK

Read the story again PTCGAZ stupid. it said he had a substance abuse problem years ago. and being he is from new jersey also in the story I bet he had a heroin problem like most druggies from new jersey and new york city have. the LSD thing was a joke. heroin and heroin use is all over back there in those parts. in the western USA the drug of choice is meth in the north east USA it is heroin and cocaine.

MIKE YEVTUCK
MIKE YEVTUCK

I understand you PTCGAZ are about 33 years old and you are unemployed.

MIKE YEVTUCK
MIKE YEVTUCK

my lame online jokes are also misunderstood as fact when they are merely cheap jokes based on nothing other than pure idiocy.

SteveMuratore
SteveMuratore

Whether he has or has not had a drug problem is not the issue. Mental illness can come out of the blue. And people sometimes can emerge from it. Going through hard times can make it easier to understand what others deal with.

Nemo4mimo
Nemo4mimo

u have no way of knowing what he did since u dont know him. i do and he's a straight shooter with no drugs. there r people who just have a breakdown and i hope it never happens to u.

Grannie
Grannie

I guess you didn't read the article too well. It says, "In his case, substance abuse never was an issue," He had no drug problem. Instead of trying to find some fault in him, mybe you could GET the whole point of the article: People can and do heal and become fully well.

Guest
Guest

with a nasty attitude like that its no wonder you can get hired for a job. your mean an mentally unstable also.

Guest
Guest

your still unemployed GET A JOB!

PTCGAZ
PTCGAZ

wow you are also a piece of shit troll. Sometimes I wonder if all the people are trolls that make lame jokes and fail to understand logic.

 
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