THE TV SHOW 60 MINUTES ran a segment recently that addressed the issue of mental illness and the mistreatment of patients by the current mental health care system. There is a cycle: patients are at risk of becoming a danger to themselves or others and are admitted to a psychiatric facility. Doctors prescribe medication which stabilizes the patient. The patient is then released. Back in society, the patient stops taking the meds, destabilizes and is readmitted. And the cycle continues. Pardon my bluntness here but how freaking asinine is this?
I have to admit that this harmful inefficiency makes me angry. In this modern day and age, how can we continue to employ a system that mistreats and neglects the needs of vulnerable citizens and their families? It's not right and it needs to change.
This flawed system is what Madeline Sharples and her husband Bob were up against when they discovered their son Paul had bi-polar disorder. And for them, like so many, the cycle ended tragically with Paul's suicide.
Madeline's riveting account takes us back to how a sweet, young boy with incredible talent and promise devolved into a young man with a disorder that confounded them. Eventually they get a diagnosis but they need so much more.
In some ways, I know what Madeline went through. In 2005, my best friend ended her life in her psych ward room a few hours after I left her there.* This just goes to show that the system has a long way to go.
Although I disagree on a few of Madeline's conclusions and beliefs. Her book is worth reading if you've been through a similar experience. It helps to know that you're not alone and that others have felt that same guilt, anger and emotional agony over not just the loved one suffering but the system designed to help them. As she wrote, "His moods controlled mine." Totally understandable when you love a child with every fiber of your being and want the best for them. It's a gut-wrenching way to live but could be so much easier if the system were revamped. We can hope.
(*You can read the complete account in The Moment I Knew. See sidebar.)