No one can say for sure why one person gets severely depressed or snaps mentally and another is able to stay the course.

Genetics, of course, matter.

Dr. Mark Salerno
Jamie Peachey
Dr. Mark Salerno
Michelle Bloss and Mark Salerno of Recovery Innovations of Arizona
Jamie Peachey
Michelle Bloss and Mark Salerno of Recovery Innovations of Arizona

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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

But DNA is no guarantee that a person will become mentally ill, even if both parents have suffered from it.

Surely, stress also can play a major role in sending someone toward the deep end — family, job, financial issues, or whatever. Again, however, not everybody worried about paying the rent on time or how they'll find a job succumbs mentally to the pressure.

In some ways, mental illness — like cancer, diabetes, or myriad other medical conditions — is the luck of the draw.

Mark Salerno says his parents had no obvious mental problems and that he, too, had no "extreme issues" before his life-altering (and almost life-ending) psychotic break.

"I was a busy guy, going nonstop for a long time," he recalls. "People probably saw me as a little eccentric, but if you're well-to-do and you're successful, you're 'eccentric.' Poor and not doing well, you're 'crazy.' Same behavior."

Salerno masked his growing malaise, continuing to treat his young patients with care and consideration. But mania, paranoia, and other manifestations of mental illness began to emerge.

Inexplicably, he stole the car from a young woman who was working at his office, and in April 2002, a Scottsdale cop stopped Salerno for speeding. Turns out, he was driving the stolen car. A county grand jury indicted him that May on a charge of felony auto theft.

Salerno lost any remnants of self-control as his first court date approached that month.

After treating a newborn at a hospital, he hopped into a car — his own this time — and split town with nothing more than the clothes on his back.

Salerno left behind a note suggesting that he had been kidnapped, but it was a lie: Actually, he says, he was in a paranoid state, fleeing from forces of evil that he was sure were closing in on him.

"My predominant emotion at the start was terror," Salerno says. "At the end of that run, I became suicidal."

Three days later, with TV cameras capturing the moment, San Diego fire officials used the Jaws of Life to pry open the trunk of Salerno's car near Balboa Park.

Inside, they found the doctor, conscious but disoriented, his ankles bound with duct tape and his hands free. Salerno had taken a large dose of prescription pills, climbed into the trunk, and shut himself in.

A passerby had seen what was happening and contacted authorities, which likely saved the dehydrated and drugged-up Salerno's life.

"I don't remember much of what was going on, and what I do remember is probably pretty inaccurate," Salerno says.

This is where Sheriff Joe Arpaio jumped in, drawn to the nationally publicized case like a bee to a flower.

Though no new charges against Salerno were forthcoming, Arpaio quickly dispatched a helicopter to San Diego to collect the doctor.

In Phoenix, Salerno was taken to the Madison Street Jail, where, as a suicide risk, detention officers forced him into the dreaded restraint chair.

"That is one of the lasting traumas, that fucking chair," he says. "You can't move and can hardly breathe — it's like being encased in concrete. I remember people staring in at me. I never acted out physically or verbally with the police. But this is how they treated someone who was obviously in a really bad way mentally."

Later, after Arpaio announced his agency's intentions to the news media, sheriff's deputies delivered a bill totaling $7,909 to Salerno's home in Carefree for picking him up in San Diego. An additional bill of $1,677 to cover the cost of the helicopter ride came later.

Salerno says he never paid it, and with good reason. It's against the law to charge prisoners for their transportation.

He spent about a week in jail on the pending car theft charge before being released to await trial.

That September, the doctor pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of unlawful use of means of transport. It still was a felony but would be reduced to a misdemeanor if Salerno completed a three-year probationary period without incident.

"He is the best pediatrician that has ever treated our children," one mother wrote Judge Thomas O'Toole before sentencing. "We are looking forward to the day that he is better and resumes his practice. We will personally welcome him back."

O'Toole fined Salerno more than $10,000 in restitution to the insurance company that had compensated the car-theft victim. The doctor later paid that sum in full.

The Arizona Medical Board agreed to allow Salerno to resume his practice but limited the number of hours he could work weekly, and then only under the supervision of other doctors.

But Salerno remained paranoid and depressed after his sentencing. The medications he was taking and counselors he was speaking with apparently didn't help much.

Within weeks, Salerno again took off one morning after walking Luke near his home.

This time, he landed after two weeks in the Pennsylvania woods, about 50 miles north of Pittsburgh.

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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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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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