I was honored to be asked by Pete Earley, best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist, to write a response on his blog to a letter he received from a concerned parent about their son, who struggles with both mental illness and addiction. Here is their letter:
We have tried to get our son professional help. I think he has bipolar disorder, although he possibly could have schizophrenia. We know he has an alcohol addiction. He has not cooperated with hardly anything, and we’ve been unable to get him to go to our local mental health center, although officials there said he is eligible for treatment.
We feel like our hands our tied. The few times that we’ve gotten him to a psychiatrist, our son denies that he is sick, won’t take his medicine, and is extremely hostile to doctors for the short time he’s being seen by them. We’ve had him in our house for several months with his erratic moods and high level of anger. Yesterday he asked to go to a homeless shelter and he is now on the streets. If we try to visit him, he runs away. His dad and I are at the point where we feel resigned that there is no hope nor help for our son. The system has worked against us at every turn … and he needs help. People have recommended “he needs to hit rock bottom” and that we need to wait for him to *want* help.
We simply don’t know what to do. Do we wait for him to hit rock bottom on the streets where we know he is not safe? In our view, the mental health network has been ineffective at best, and is rolling the dice with people’s lives. Now we can see how barriers in the mental illness system keep people from receiving basic services. This has been hell for his dad and me, and I’m sure worse for our son. If you have any advice please let us know.
A concerned parent.
Read my reply on Pete’s blog.
I'm not severely mentally ill (I can hold a job) but I can't even get help when I ask for it over and over and over again.
**trigger warning** I had to get stitches after cutting myself once, and I didn't get any follow up care whatsoever. None.
When I'm stable enough to do functional things like book doctor's appointments for myself, they see this stable person and don't believe me when I say I really need help. I've been telling doctors I'm not well since I was 16 and I've never gotten help from it. My boyfriend has had to restrain me because when I have a panic attack I smash myself against walls furniture ect.
I get my anti-depressants & anxiety medication off of someone else (illegal, I know, dangerous, I know) because they are easier to get without a prescription.
That's why I say over and over and over how awesome you are Chrisa, for being a go get-em, take no prisoners mom, because getting help is HARD HARD HARD.
I have no advice for Pete's concerned parents, but I have seen people hit rock bottom and it is never pretty, and it is always a traumatic experience, so I would not count on that as being a solution because it might happen one way or another, and there is no guarantee there will be a positive outcome.
You're a fighter, babe. You make sure you get what you need, no matter what. It makes me heartsick tat you can't get help unless you crash. Prevention should be the gold standard. Keep fighting. You will change the world for the person who comes behind you.
Have you considered an intervention?
That's a thought, but if they can't even visit him without him running away, how would you stage that?
TwisterB- if you are on Facebook, find me (firstname.lastname@example.org). There is a private support group for adult mental health consumers that I can get you into. *hugs*