Today, I read an article that so many of us have read before but with different names.  The story of trauma turned addiction turned psychotic. The storyline doesn’t change. We are often left wondering why all the fuss about mental illness and why all the changes in the healthcare system in 2010 didn’t prove to be the help we needed.

If you ask any of us why we don’t trust the system, this story clearly explains why.  If you have never been hospitalized in a psychiatric ward or been forced into a mental health jail, you cannot appreciate our stories.  Inside an institution, you meet others just like you with the same stories. Granted you have a few that have escaped the cruel systems of care, but for the most part, the story is the same.

Andrew, from the story referenced above, was given a death sentence before anyone knew it.  Parents are often disillusioned by a piece of paper on a wall claiming a doctor has gone through some sort of sainthood and deserves respect and trust.  In my book, both respect and trust are earned characteristics and should be evaluated regularly. Andrew was forced into institutional drugging as though the pharmaceuticals he was forced to take were the answer to his issues. 

This story is tragic from the addiction to opioids to suicide and everything in between.  Instead of counseling for the addiction stemming from opioids and the painful issues from the loss of control in Andrew’s life, he was shamed by the court system and forced to submit to the treatment he felt was not helping him.  Parents sometime think they are out of options when they can can no longer control their children’s behavior and may feel someone else is better qualified to ‘treat’ them during a crisis (chaos). When in fact, if they will step away from the chaos for one minute and remember the days when the child was throwing a temper tantrum because of pain or confusion and do what they did then, the outcomes may be different.  

When we hurt emotionally, we scream –  which often leads to hospitalization and a misdiagnosis based on behavior. When we scream, and no one pays attention to the screams or tantrums, we  explode into psychosis. From there, we are no longer able to express our thoughts and feelings without judgment. Or without more medications being prescribed –  which suppress our basic human needs by the medical community or our families.

This post is not about shaming the system, even though it may appear that way.  This post is a warning to us all. If we are ever faced with the decision to take a medication, do your research on the specifics so you are fully aware of the side effects and dangers associated with its use.  Compare your current medications with the new one and ask your pharmacist the hard questions doctors claim not to have the time to explain during an appointment. Doctors are NOT medication experts. They are informed about new medications by pharmaceutical reps who make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to push their pills into the hands of well-meaning doctors with little or no experience.

I wish I could say this is the last story we will read about a young man or woman taking their life, but it’s not and never will be. We will never see an end to suicide no matter how many awareness crusades, advocates or government policies are created.  If you read the story well enough, you will recognize red flags his family thought were signs of an exceptionally talented and gifted child. Children who are exceptional by today’s standards will need additional care and attention. The world they live in is perceived as perfect so they are able to grow intellectually and when an change occurs in their environment, they get lost in the process of change and reach out for understanding.  When the understanding support system fails to understand the trauma within the child’s mind they struggle.

How they reach out depends on the caregiver.  Will you express unconditional love and acceptance while asking lots of questions or will you throw up walls to keep from dealing with the issue(s)?  It’s hard to reach into a child’s life not knowing what will happen next when the behavior exceeds the level of patience. However, it is not impossible.  Take into account the program Mental Health First Aid. It offers many tools and ways to reach into the crisis and make sense of the episode – before calling 911.  

This is when you ask lots of questions and stay engaged and mindful of anything that might affect them physically or mentally, including medications.   The children are exceptional and sensitive to their surroundings.  

Mental illness does not happen overnight.  It is a progressive set of circumstances and issues that have spiraled out of control.  Don’t feed more than is necessary into a circumstance unfamiliar in your current environment.  Many people are suffering and confused at the moment. Take your circumstance and inject the principle of compassion before reaction.