My son is 24 years old and has schizophrenia. He lacks insight that he is sick. Consequently, he refuses all help and blames us for all that has gone wrong in his life. He will not allow us to help him, so we have no complete picture of what the situation is because the laws prevent us from access to this information though he has been deemed incompetent by the courts. He landed in jail in December. We know we don’t have the full story, but seem to think he got into an altercation at a party. Once in jail, we begged for help for him because there was no other way to force treatment on him. He has been in a mental hospital and we see no change. We see him every week. It’s the same conversation each time. I am not sick. He also was very scary while he lived at home. We locked our bedroom door at night, carried mace with us around the house, hid all knives, candles and lighters. He had a couple situations with rage that we had to call the police. Bottom line, nothing helped. There are not enough beds, treatment programs, funding etc to solve this for anyone. Until this country wakes up to the crisis that we are in, we will keep seeing mentally sick people lash out. Until treatment is enforced, shots given or whatever assisted outpatient treatment can be enforced, we are using a bandaid on a very tragic situation. Until you live it, you don’t get it. I speak to people daily who are in our shoes. The families are trying to keep their loved ones safe and keep those around them safe. The job is impossible. Without information and help, we don’t know what we are dealing with. The privacy laws should not apply to the mentally ill. They are too sick to take care of themselves. They have no aw Awareness of their needs because they don’t know they are sick so much of the time . We all see the issues. Why can’t we make common sense decisions and stop letting our mentally ill people decide whether or not they need meds? HELLO! They all need their meds! The families are in desperate need of help. Please what can we do? How do we fix this?
When my son was 18 months, I adopted him from the State as a single parent. It was challenging. It was thought, I was told, that he might have FAE. In Head Start, one teacher told me that he “Marched to the beat of a different drum”. He received special education services throughout his life. Numerous times, he was bullied but not until his teens did it become more obvious that he was “different”. Up until then he had blended in and was socializing with a nice group of friends and the moms planned play groups, etc. He enjoyed reading and scored high on science testing. He always had a fascination for metal. I kept him in scouting after it was “cool”. He grew to like it and became an Eagle. In middle school he was ostrasized by the “cool” kids and became more irritable and depressed. When he was 3 he had been molested by the teen who babysat him across the street. He was in therapy most of his life after that and at 8 he started a medication for ADHD. When he was 9 he mentioned suicide so the doctor changed the medication he was taking for depression and OCD traits. Since then, the medications have continued to be evaluated and monitored regularly. After middle school, he wanted to attend a charter school; not the local large, reputable high school. The first day, he was embraced by kids when I dropped him off and I felt relief. Another chance. I had moved three times by then seeking a “new start” for him. He got expelled from high school for carrying a knife and making a “threat” to a fellow student when he misunderstood a social cue. He was sent to the “school” for kids with criminal backgrounds. He was sent to a special program at the high school across town after he completed that program (was the poster child). He was academically mainstreamed part of the time and sat in a classroom “dumbed down” the rest of the time. He did not make friends. He continued to collect sharp objects, other metal objects, kitchen knives and fashion them into sharper objects, etc. I found that he was ordering knives and air soft guns off Amazon and somehow charging them to me. Numerous times he threatened me and punched me on two different occasions. The bullying and fear increased for him. I found knives and daggers hidden all over the house and in the yard. He carved them out of wood. He was in counseling learning other ways of coping. I took him to the youth group at the Unitarian Church. So he still had Scouts and Church group. He graduated with a modified diploma from high school and started in a special program at junior college (another new start, right?). In early fall, I asked him to take out the trash one day and when he had been gone a short while, I went out and saw a police car down the street. Later I learned that my son had heard someone screaming and went down the street to see what was up. Another young man was beating up his girlfriend on the sidewalk and my son intervened. No charges; my son was let off in self defense when the other young man lunged toward him. Sad thing is my son had his knife out and the other young man died from the single knife wound. After more stealing, lying and threatening from my son who had dropped out of college, I couldn’t take anymore and asked him to move out with the aid of his case manager (he was getting disability at this point), supported him into getting into housing. For over a year he has been living in a foster home. A wonderful young couple have 4 young men living there. My son often has not followed the rules but they give him another chance and another. We stay in touch and he came over for Christmas, etc. He has failed out of other “programs” (stealing etc.) and last week he went to jail for threatening the girl next door (illegally his junior) with whom he was in love when she broke up with him (knives and airsoft gun hidden in the yard). My son went to California last month with me for a family reunion. I tried to ignore the threatening remarks he made toward me a few times. Mostly he was a joy and happier than I have maybe ever seen him. It is heartbreaking to parent such a child. There was so much promise and potential. I still cling to it. I empathize with the parents of all the “killers and shooters” as they are called and of course, all those who are dead even more. I dearly love my son. This is only part of the story. Thank you for a chance to tell it.
After talking about psychosis, hearing voices, drug use, and my fears for my children with a social worker I met at a BBQ- I asked him what he recommended to help me protect my children. He told me the best book he read that is the plainest psychology and the most honest about mental and behavioral problems is an ebook called Fraud in Mental Health by the Therapist. The beginning is mainly about how and why fraud is chronically happening in county mental health- and that was important to know-but the rest of the book was beyond enlightening. The reasons people with a mental illness are dangerous is easily explained. Then their are people who also have personality disorders and these explanations and examples are priceless. I now see them on reality shows, people I used to know, behaviors and attitudes of others now that clearly reflect what is wrong with them. I know about psychology in ways I am building on. There is fraud in many aspects of mental health and the book is about personal responsibility and choice. This book has been invaluable in training my children about what to look for. I can not stress enough how good and important this book is. The therapist that wrote the book is a whistle blower and I do not believe anyone else would dare to be this honest— making mental illness and who will hurt someone else so easy to understand. And this was recommended to me by a social worker. It seems the book is advocating for social workers in government agencies and starting to get popular. Please read this yourself and pass it on!!!
Trust me no one wants to walk in our shoes; our story is one of tragedy in more ways than I can count. There is so much more to my story than what is written below.
As a child, my son was diagnosed as ADHD Inattentive by 5 different physicians/psychiatrists. This was from age 5 to 18. Eventually I realized - on my own - after he started having panic attacks - that he needed a Neurological exam. The neurologist diagnosed him with Severe sleep apnea & REM sleep behavior disorder. He said my son did not have ADHD Inattentive & in fact some of the medicines that were prescribed for him as a child, including a well known sleep medicine could cause damage.
Now my son has just dropped out of college. I am worried about his future. He’s in his early 20’s. He suffers terrible depression. I remember when he was a child he would say to me, “I just want to feel better now.” Those words haunt me.
Our country’s mental health system is broken.
Our daughter’s schizoaffective disorder is well-managed, with the help of anti-psychotic medications, and she has enjoyed many years of stability.
One of the most difficult aspects of these illnesses is encountering misguided mental health policies that make getting this kind of good outcome more difficult. Unfortunately, two of the organizations suggested as resources on this site promote the policies that pose grave dangers to people with psychotic illnesses. Both SAMHSA and Mental Health America oppose any involuntary treatment. Research has made it clear that many people experiencing psychosis have a brain based inability to understand that they are ill so there is no reason for them to seek or agree to treatment.
I know many families in British Columbia like ours; we were able to get our daughter the help she needed to be safe early on in her illness. However, ongoing progress is limited because of the power of the ‘alternative’ mental health movement which denies what neuroscientists tell us - that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are treatable brain disorders. I write about the problems that families encounter when they try to get the best services for family members living with these disorders:
July 8, 2014 at 10:55am
My comment relates to the recognition of mental disorders. As a retired physician I witnessed many with mental disorders, some sudden, variable and brief, others unrelenting. From medical school days on the “psychiatric wards” through experiences in practice I was struck by the reality that mental illness can be illusive to recognize and define. Of course many sufferers of mental illness exhibit an illness that is recognizable by untrained persons. However, many mental illnesses are not readily recognizable. In such sufferers it may take a trained psych professional or extensive testing to define the presence & extent of their mental disorder.
As a medical student, I recall interviewing a psych in-patient for most of an hour. I tried in vain to define her disorder. I could not. My psychiatry professor then led our interview toward recognition of her severe illness.
Persons with a lurking mental disorder can be normal or well compensated. Only under select circumstances of stress or physical illness might they decompensate and the illness become apparent to their friends or family.
It is understandable that persons with mental illnesses hide their disorders. Early in my career homosexuality was labeled a mental disorder and gays hid their sexual orientation. Fortunately they are being freed from that stigmatizing categorization. The mentally ill whether crafty, withdrawn, or confused typically fear that others will witness their abnormality and stigmatize them. Our culture can be hard on the mentally ill including their exemption from insurance coverage. We can merit out punishment for their aberrant behavior while religiously protecting their individual rights no matter how far they might stray from reality. Unfortunately, we can be weak at supporting their recognition, diagnosis, treatment and protection. The result is a cultural apathy toward our millions of mentally ill who too often end up homeless wards of society and million milers within our jails.
It is not surprising that Elliot’s Rodger’s dangerous mental state wasn’t obvious or at least not fully recognized. Each mental illness is somewhat different and typically variable over time. I applaud these efforts to bring recognition to the vagaries and clues of mental illness and the status of the mentally ill within our culture.
I saw your story on ABC World News Late Night on June 29/30 2014. I am sorry for all of the losses due to your son’s issue. I personally have been diagnosed with Bipolar and know the ups and downs of that disease. There is such a stigmatism placed on any type of depression issue within the U.S. I do not believe that individuals realize how serious it can be until it is too late, and then the fingers begin to point. It is not always folks who refuse to take their medicine, sometimes it is those in the medical field that are at fault. I take several medicines, one of them costing an outrageous amount of money even with my insurance, so I have had to rely on samples from my Dr. The Dr. at times acted like he didn’t want to give me samples which led me to switch Drs . I went for 2 or 3 months w/o the med due to being between Drs. Life became quite hard to the point of not wanting to live but not wanting to die. At times I felt so alone. When you are in this position you begin to alienate yourself, it literally robs you of your joy. Having a Dr. that cares, family that upholds you in prayer, and knowing that even though you don’t feel Him God is still there is what gets the mentally ill through during these times. Anyone who reads this who is suffering with any type of depression, though it’s nothing to be proud of, it is definitely nothing to be ashamed of. It does not make anyone on earth any better than we are, in fact with the correct treatment we can still function normally. That doesn’t mean the lows will not come, but when it does turn to someone. If you are suffering I would be willing to be all the help I can.
God Bless, SS
I posted the following to the ABC News page:
Elliot Rodgers sexualized his need for his mother’s love, which was apparently unfulfilled. This was very obvious in his manifestos. These disturbances are buried below conscious awareness, and well hidden (through repression) from both the potential perpetrator and those close to him. The ABC news report skimmed over this, as it was not their position to conduct the interview from an analytical perspective. These types of psychodynamic disorders are not addressed by the vast majority of today’s mental health practitioners in favor of medications. TV commercials that advertise drugs for depression mention “if you have thoughts of suicide stop taking the drug and consult your physician immediately.” The relationship between homicide and suicide, which competent psychologists should understand, has played out and will continue to play out over and over again in headline news. Individuals who are walking around with this kind or pain too often kill others then kill themselves, or have the police kill them to end their suffering. I explained these psychobiological processes in my autobiographically based book which I completed earlier this year. I hope the rebuilding of the broken mental health system will include greater awareness and preventative measures in dealing with individuals who are on or close to the edge. I’m devoted to doing my part as a writer and Mental Health Counselor to prevent future incidents such as this one, as many are preventable; this one unquestionably was! (end of post)
My book was completed many months before the great misfortune of what happened with your son. It’s not only the political, sociological, and economical issues that have made a mess of the mental health system, it is their theoretical and therapeutic approaches. There are no magic pills. Medication is imperative in some cases to be used during the process of resolving the causes of distress. I personally went through this, so I write with authority. There is complexity and simplicity in understanding human behavior. As I was healed, my life’s work is devoted to healing others. What happened was no ones fault! Preventing future occurrences is every ones responsibility; especially mine.
Dear Mr. Rodgers,
Please accept my sincere condolences for the loss of your son.
Your desire to turn this tragedy into something that can help others is important and urgently needed. I commend you for your selfless desire to reach out to others, in spite of the pain I know you must be feeling, and I would like to offer my assistance toward your goals.
I am a Psychiatrist and Neurologist currently living and practicing in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In addition, for years I have been doing extensive and very encouraging research regarding the prevention of violence and suicide in youth and young adults. I was the head of an Adolescent Psychiatry Program when I began to see the connection between patterns of words used by troubled youth, and possible violence, and as I continue to refine the data, the work is showing very promising outcomes. (I just returned yesterday from presenting the findings to the Society for Psychotherapy Research in Copenhagen.)
Without going into too much detail, the words your son used in his writing - and the words used by other young men and women, boys and girls- have predictive value and can be applied to timely identification of violence and prevention of violence by applying appropriate, focused measures.
The standard response seems to be that there is no way to predict violence in youth. I believe that this is incorrect, and leads to pessimism and failed treatments. The need for proper understanding, intervention, diagnosis and treatment is urgent, and I would like to work with you to help show people that there is a way to prevent these tragedies from occurring.
Please contact me anytime. I would like to take the time to discuss all of this in detail with you, and to find a way to help turn this tragedy into something that can help others from experiencing this almost unbearable pain, confusion and sorrow.
Very Truly Yours,
Dr. Gerald F. Ronning MD
I have a son with high functioning autism and anxiety. He also has a history of depression. When I first heard Elliot’s story, I immediately identified with his feelings of confusion, trying to fit-into a world he did not understand, being bullied horribly and repeatedly rejected no matter what he attempted to do socially. We experienced very similar challenges with our son. In fact, he told us recently of the “acute loneliness” he felt for years, even while he was unable to respond verbally or appropriately to others. He would talk with us at home, you see, but not in public or at school. It was painful to watch him as he tried to make connections with others, at the later age of 16, 17, 18, and see them turn away from him and ignore him. Even adults would do this. He realized at these late ages that he was unable to converse with his peers and that he was different, which led to a major depressive episode. He told us he was a “freak” because he had no idea what to say to others. We convinced him to go for counseling and social skills therapy, which he did. He also took an Anti anxiety medication, which he still takes and it helps him tremendously. We were very lucky that he accepted that he has a condition and was/is willing to receive help. After the counseling, medication, social groups, and speech therapy he has improved greatly… This is a terrible thing for families to endure as they watch their loved one suffer. It is socially isolating for everyone involved and especially for the lonely individual who wants friends and companions but is unable to initiate and sustain relationships or interactions. Much more needs to be done to help them, along with awareness that they do have feelings like us and want to Belong. They crave acceptance badly but often receive rejection, which feeds the depression cycle. I think a lot of this begins in school with intense bullying or being ignored to death. They are emotionally fragile already and cannot handle it. I hope that interventions can begin early, not only with the sick individual, but our society needs to react more kindly to them. Removing the stigma associated with mental illness through conversation can help. We shudder to think what may have happened had he not been willing to accept help and medication. The depression, anxiety, and negative obsessive thoughts may have won.