I don’t normally write about things like this. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I very rarely comment or post about anything on the news, be it political or about some terrible tragedy. I keep those thoughts for myself and my closest friends. No judgement. It is just the way I am.
However, I feel the need to address (vent?) this after what has recently happened in Texas. Some of you know I am an elementary school teacher. I also happen to teach mostly 4th grade and 99% of my students are Hispanic. So this horrifying massacre hit a special cord for me and all of my coworkers.
But despite what you might have guessed, I am not here to talk about guns or the wisdom of allowing teenagers (or anyone really) whose prefrontal cortex, responsible for things like self-control, planning, and self-awareness, is still not fully developed, to buy war weaponry. I’m here to discuss the state of mental health in this country. Because, let’s face, it’s one big slice of the problem.
Before I start, I want to emphasize that having a mental illness does not make you a monster willing to go on senseless killing sprees like the young man in Texas did. Just like everyone else, people who suffer from mental health problems are all individuals who react to things differently. I hate when people automatically pin the label of bipolar on anyone who loses control of their anger or has an explosive temperament. It doesn’t work like that. But I digress…
My youngest son was diagnosed with bipolar disease at the age of nineteen. He had always been hyperactive, creative, stubborn, impulsive, and a risk taker. He was climbing out of his crib before he could even walk. Yes, he was a challenging child who often had trouble with self-control. But he was not an angry kid who bullied others, hurt other children, or had excessive bouts of temper tantrums in school. He was instead the kid who jumped off a high wall with no forethought of how it would hurt him. He was the child who cut his brand new pants with his kindergarten scissors because he wanted to see if the scissors were sharp enough and overlooked the fact it’d destroy his clothes in the process. He was the kind of preteen that would sneak out of the house in the middle of the night–blind to the danger to himself–to go help a friend in trouble.
One summer day, he walked in the house and told us all he was Jesus and that like the original one, he had to die in order to save his friends. Needless to say we called 911 and this was his first of many hospitalizations.
Keep in mind that we, the parents, are financially supporting him (he was in his first year in community college at the time). That he lives with us and an older brother. That his pain becomes our pain because we love him. A mother does not dream of having her child committed to a mental institution and to watch her child’s life go from full of promise to one of helplessness and despair.
Like most people who suffer from a mental illness, he has always had the tendency to self-medicate which 99% of the time only makes his psychosis and his depression worse. As the years went by, things got worse and worse. He was hospitalized five times, most of them involuntarily. In order for him to get the help he needed, we as parents had only ONE option: to call the police and have him taken away like a criminal to be assessed and then placed in a mental hospital.
One time he had a bad reaction to one of his meds and was extremely agitated. He has never been physically violent towards others but he can get verbally abusive and destructive of things around him. When we visited him at the hospital and had a meeting with one of the doctors there, he was not hiding the fact he was angry at us for putting him in the hospital and that he was obviously not okay to put it mildly. Despite that, they decided to let him go and let us, the family, deal with someone who at the time was being assailed by psychosis and believed the world was out to get him. Nothing we said mattered because he was an adult and he wanted to go home.
The whole family suffers from PTSD. Even our dog suffered from it. Watching your son go to bed with gardening implements and cry all night because he thought there were people coming to kill us all, does a number on your emotions. Walking in your son’s room and find him with a belt wrapped around his neck is not something you will ever be able to erase from your memory. And through it all we, the parents, couldn’t do anything to get the help he desperately needed. Every time he went to the hospital, he was let go after a few days without any signs of recovery.
Because the system must protect his right to privacy as an adult. Parents have NO saying in their adult children’s health care, not even when they are so obviously unable to do it themselves.
I get it. I totally agree that we all have the right to privacy. However to not allow family members, those who love the patients, to do anything (other than call the police on them) to help those who by definition cannot be expected to make the right choices because of their illness seems to be counterproductive. If not outright criminal.
A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_disorder
Any time something like Texas happens, people tend to blame the parents. They brought them up wrong. They did nothing to control them. They were bad parents.
Not necessarily so. The system does not allow parents of adult children to do anything about their mental health. I have a friend whose brother in law suffers from schizophrenia. The man is harmless but oftentimes he is “out there” like my son, incapable of taking care of himself. His parents with whom he lives have tried to help him with no success. This man who often doesn’t even know who he is or where he lives is expected to make his own health decisions.
Is it me or is there something terribly wrong with this?
Mental Health needs a facelift. We went from a time when everyone who did not fit in the box was diagnosed as mad and taken to a mental institution to the very extreme opposite; now we have people who obviously need the care and can’t find it because they are expected to do it themselves. Do you see what I am getting at?
The way it stands today mental health care is, well, total madness.