Arizona Tragedy - WWYD?

Discussion in 'Random Ramblings' started by welsummerchicks, Jan 10, 2011.

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  1. welsummerchicks

    welsummerchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2010
    As I read the reports on the Arizona tragedy, I'm struck by how frequently these days, there seem to be tragedies that involve untreated mentally ill people.

    This shooter lived with his family, and had clear, obvious signs of mental illness. He had five prior contacts with the college authorities and/or police, and he had been required to resign from the school, only to return on condition of getting psychiatric help.

    Not everyone here is familiar with the extreme difficulties that families face when a mentally ill member refuses to accept help.

    It is nearly impossible to get a person care if they don't want it - even the police, the courts, and many advocacy groups don't seem to be able to make a dent in this problem. Many families are very frustrated, afraid and grieving over their mamber's illness. The reaction when a tragedy occurs often comes from the parents, 'I suppose now that someone has been harmed, someone will listen'.

    That isn't always the case. Many times, family members don't know how to identify signs of mental illness. They may believe it's something else - usually something that would not be expected to result in such a tragedy.

    I have a question for you. Those of you who are in a family - not necessarily a parent, a child, aunt, grandparent, any family member.

    What would you do, if you suspected that a family member was becoming ill enough to harm himself or others, and he refused treatment?

    We all already know that very few mentally ill people ever harm someone.

    But what would you do if you sensed that there was a threat to others from YOUR family member, and that family member refused any and all help, treatment or contact with anyone who could help?
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  2. Enchanted Sunrise Farms

    Enchanted Sunrise Farms Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 26, 2007
    Fair Oaks, California
    That's a tough one. The closest i have come to anything remotely close was when our elderly mother was still driving and should not have been. We turned her in to DMV, fully knowing she would be furious with us.

    i feel as though we have a responsibility towards our family members to safeguard them and others from them. i would hope that, if i felt a family member was becoming dangerous, i would take any and all steps to get them help, including getting them deemed incompetent so they could be hospitalized and treated. i realize this is a very difficult thing to do. Maybe someone with personal experience will post here as this is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed in this country.
  3. bburn

    bburn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 9, 2010
    Delaware, Arkansas
    The problem is this: there is no where to get help until they actually DO some harm, either to themselves or others.

    Now, what could you do????

    I am saying this from experience. Both a special needs child that needed help. And now I have a stepson that has a problem both with alcohol and drugs.....depending on the time in his life and sometimes it all runs together.

    So, what we people out here need is a list of actual help you can get when something goes wrong with a relative. Because I am here to tell is impossible to find!

    The tragedy in Arizona was awful. I am still shocked by what happened. My heart and prayers go out to all the victims and the family of the shooter.
  4. kla37

    kla37 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 18, 2010
    Hillsborough, NC USA
    No one really cares. My ex had some problems and turned violent to me and the kids, I tried to get him help from the military, and his parents, and they didn't care either. Divorced now and he isn't my concern anymore.
  5. nonseq

    nonseq Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 16, 2009
    Central Ohio
    The wait time for an appointment with a psychiatrist that specializes in treating children/adolescents in my area is 7 - 8 months. I've taken my family member with evidence of self-injusry to the ER (while on wait list to see psych) and been sent home. Several times. Then when she turned 18 I couldn't even get her high school to tell me her grades, never mind talk to any of her doctors. She wouldn't give permission. Then she aged off our health insurance and things went rapidly downhill......

    Thank god, thank gods, thank goodness for that health care law. She is back on our insurance and able to get private treatment.

    What do you do? We just keep plugging along and making sure we know what - at least some of what - is going on in her life and in her head.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  6. welsummerchicks

    welsummerchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2010
    I can't give you a list because there is no list. It is extremely rare that the courts will assist a parent in getting a child into care. Often that is the parent's only recourse and many judges simply will not cooperate.

    It is nearly impossible to get an adult to accept any type of medical treatment if he or she does not want it, including treatment for severe mental illness. This right generally starts at about age 16.

    A parent has to have a child adjudged incapable of making health care decisions before that age of 16, and the illnesses are usually not apparent at that time. And even if the parent could get the child adjudged incapable of making medical decisions, the parent STILL would not have any means to force the child to take the medication or any other treatment, for that matter. If he sneaks it into his food he's violating his civil rights(and that is very unwise for many other reasons as well, because the patient needs to provide feedback on how the medication is working), if he forces the medicine down his throat, he can be arrested for assault.

    This isn't a simple matter or 'getting the person where they can get help'. In general, those places don't exist, but I don't feel the solution is to lock most people away somewhere in any case. Rather, to prevent them from ever deteriorating at all by getting them diagnosed and into treatment from the very start.

    You can't generally get a person declared 'incompetent' and force them to take medication if they do not want it, no matter how ill they are. Even in the rare case where you can(one judge ruled that a woman who was eating dog waste on the street was making a 'lifestyle choice', and it often gets worse than that), there is generally no hospital that can keep them against their will.

    Further, there exists no policy, even in a prison, of requiring people to take medication, even if they are severely ill. This is the basis of the 'revolving door' - the person deteriorates, gets in trouble, gets hospitalized a couple days with no treatment (refuses it) and then is discharged, and after a while gets arrested or hospitalized again.

    One ill person I saw in court, been arrested 80 times in 18 months. Disturbing the peace, threatening, assault. 80 times. The judge on that day, gave him a jail sentence of several days, and after that, he was back on the street and starting in the 'revolving door' again.

    Furthermore, there are in fact, violent mentally ill people who have been jailed for murder, are released, and murder again.

    This idea that people can be 'put away permanently', it generally does not exist.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  7. PineappleMama

    PineappleMama Chillin' With My Peeps

    Been here done this. Mom has for 30 years now gone on little trips where she'll try to kill herself...

    Once it was the wrists, but she locked herself in the car and waited until the cop was standing at the window to cut, poor guy tossed his cookies over that one, but they broke the window and took her into The Bin... she was out before the stitches were. And was very offended when anyone would have the audacity to notice all the stitches when she'd wear a short sleeve shirt in public... bit odd that, but that's mom.

    All the other times were pills, she'd take dozens of them, then announce that she'd taken them, 911 called her taken in and stomach pumped. Stay in there for a couple days, or worst case a couple weeks, then out again.

    Many instances where she just said she was going to do that but didn't. That's the latest one... called up Sis had her come out. Pack a bag because she needed to go into The Bin... but before they got her admitted she changed her mind (sobered up?) and said she wanted to leave. They had no choice but to let her. Against Medical Advice to be sure, but without a judge they can't force the issue and they only do that in extreme cases, just saying that isn't considered extreme I guess??

    She's been diagnosed as Bi-Polar and the problem I see in that particular disease is that while the pills are awesome for getting rid of the lows/depression they suck because they get rid of those awesome, I can do anything, I'm the king of the world highs. High energy, high motivation, get 'er done highs are hard to resist... which is why there are so many people addicted to speed I think... but imagine having that kind of high with NO drugs, no risk of jail, no cost... just naturally there. Pretty easy for me to understand not wanting to give that up. Imagine all the projects you can get done!! That's what happens with mom. Those highs are just too good to resist so she goes off the meds that 'flatline' her so she can enjoy the high. But then, inevitably, the low kicks in and that's where the problems really come out. There are some problems with the highs, not sleeping/eating right, overspending, etc... but as far as I've been able to see she's never tried to hurt herself/others while in a high.... ONLY in a low. When you add a ton of booze on top of this cycle it gets really ugly.

    The only way to guarantee she takes the meds needed to prevent harm when in a low is to have her locked up and forced... during the low obviously, but you'd also have to have her locked up during the high because you can't predict precisely when the shift will happen. Locking up when she's actually a threat to herself... okay many folks can understand THAT. But how do you justify (in our innocent until proven guilty society) locking someone up who hasn't done anything wrong, who isn't a threat to themself/others? You can't. And that's why she keeps getting out as soon as she either gets used to the new meds OR until she gets her head on straight enough to make the docs believe she is... and with the sheer number of folks in need of help (esp. those that really are a threat to themselves/others ALL the time) they can't justify holding a bed from a dangerous person just so this one who's only a threat to herself and only sometimes can stay.

    And you can't just say "well her DH or parents or siblings or children should do something"... she's divorced again so the DH thing is out.. her parents are both dead so that's out... her brother D is living with her and has the same problems plus liver and lung disease that's killing him so he's out... other Uncle A, Me, Sis all have children that we do NOT want exposed to her... you try explaining why Grama/Aunt is throwing things, falling down drunk, saying things (won't elaborate but those who've been there know)... not going to happen... I believe my first responsibility is to protect the children I brought into this world... I owe them that... protection from anything that can do them harm (if possible) and I know just how much harm being around her can do... I lived it. And recall you'd have to be there 24/7 to make her take her pills, not throw them up or away, not drink, eat right and keep watch for any other things as well. Since I won't subject my kids to that it would mean me leaving my kids and living with her as her nurse for the rest of her life. NOT going to happen. My children deserve to have their mother with them.

    And while my Mom should get treatment it's not my responsibility to see that she does. She makes the choice to ignore her doctors, she chooses to talk her way out of the Psyche ward, she chooses to drink like a fish on top of her meds, meaning going to the store and getting it... while knowing to the penny what's in the bank, what bills are coming due, etc. She has plenty of perfectly lucid time in which to make those choices, and she chooses not to go on meds/stay on meds. I'm not 100% sure why, I have the theory above, but that's the way it's been for at least 20 years... no judge, no doctor, can hold her against her will when she's that lucid... so they have to let her go and just hope for the best. Pretty much what we're stuck doing.

    What CAN you do? Call 911 when she threatens, check. But then it's the medics, police, doctors, perhaps judge that take it from there. You have no control over what they decide to do with her. You could try committal, it's been done by her hubby before... works for a little while and then she talks her way out... takes a little longer but the effect is the same... and only if you get just the right judge... and you happen to have DOCUMENTED instances, not just your word, to back it up. Which is hard... that last trip she ended up getting a breathing treatment while there, IF they got the medical charts from that visit (unlikely) that's what it would show for treatment... it's really just Sis's word that she said she was going to hurt herself... Sis who's done drugs, been in The Bin herself, kids are currently in CPS care... yeah that'll hold up next to Mom who on paper is a perfectly sane person... owns her car, bought a home, handles all her bills... etc.

    So... yeah... I'd love to know the answer to What Would YOU Do because I'm at a total loss.
  8. bburn

    bburn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 9, 2010
    Delaware, Arkansas
    .....and there's my point.

    Thanks welsummerchicks!

    And Pineapplemama....bless your heat (ok, I am in the South). I do understand how hard it would be. Just trying for two weeks to get help for my special needs daughter with my work asking me WHY I had not gotten her help yet and telling me I needed to take FMLA..what a crock.

    People can talk all they want about 'they should have known, they should have done something'.......but those people need to come up with a plan of action and share it with the rest of us!
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  9. welsummerchicks

    welsummerchicks Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 26, 2010
    Hopefully now, people who so glibly say, 'why didn't the parents do something' will have a clue.
  10. PineappleMama

    PineappleMama Chillin' With My Peeps

    Precisely Wel... even if we moved in with her we couldn't force her to take her pills without going to jail... which would put her right back to being on her own with no meds... the way the system is currently there's just not a whole lot that a family member can do to help someone who refuses to help themself.

    Great big snarly mess.
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