Around the same time 2 weeks ago during the Houston Texas Community College shootings, Nehemiah Griego, 15 years old, shot his family to death in Albuquerque New Mexico. The young man allegedly murdered his family with two rifles (a 22-Caliber and a semi-automatic military style rifle). Griego is currently facing child abuse and murder charges.
A very real part of living with or dealing with an individual with a severe or untreated mental health disorder is loss and grief. For the rest of us, unexpected change can usher in feelings of loss and grief.
Cognitive distortions are distorted or dysfunctional ways that we think about events in our lives. For many of us, engaging in negative thought patterns (whether we are aware of them or not) often result in fatigue and high levels of stress.
For many families, caretakers, and friends of individuals with a severe or untreated illness, negative thought patterns often lead to depression and high levels of stress.
Many families often say that living a life with schizophrenia is a long journey for everyone involved. For many, the journey feels like blindly walking through a forest where many trees block the view of the road ahead. As discussed in the previous article, schizophrenia is often viewed as “a diagnosis with a poor prognosis.” Some studies show that schizophrenia can be improved with appropriate and timely treatment. Medication adherence is often the most important part of treatment. Sadly, because of the symptoms and behaviors involved, it can be very difficult for individuals to remain on their medication. For this reason, schizophrenia has a poor prognosis.
As a therapist I have seen a variety of inpatient hospitalizations, some voluntary and others involuntary. Colleagues have had individuals who were removed from their homes by the police and taken to the ER of a psychiatric hospital. The reality of this often shakes the core of family members, caretakers, and friends. If you are a therapist, I’m sure this reality affects you too.
Severe or untreated mental illness is extremely difficult and it often appears that everyone involved is the victim. Families suffer as a result of lacking support from the system, caretakers feel uninformed or alone, and friends often don’t know what to say or do to help. In some cases, the hands of a therapist are also tied.
As you read the headline I’m sure you questioned what relevance Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr serves to the discussion of severe or untreated mental health. Rarely do we ever hear people emphasize the importance of following the example of Dr. King in our “fight” against society’s lack of knowledge about severe and untreated mental illness. But Dr. King embodied so many sophisticated qualities that add such a rich tapestry of cultural legacy and inheritance to my own life and society in general.
Watch these short clips from the Treatment Advocacy Center on Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) and why we need legislation to seriously consider the need for AOT.
Why consumers need assisted outpatient treatment
A family’s journey toward saving their daughter
Taking control over a loved one’s mental health care is extremely important. Families or caregivers of an individual with a severe or untreated mental illness often believe that they will automatically have the legal authority to make decisions on their loved one’s behalf in the event they cannot make decisions themselves. The reality is that parents, families, and caregivers have limited to no legal control over an individual by the time they turn 14. In many states, an adolescent as young as 14 years old can make legal decisions on their mental health treatment and refuse to be compliant.
It is quite an honor to be given, by Psychcentral, a broader platform to speak about the issues that plague lives in this nation. We have so many issues to discuss, reflect upon, and reform. It is disheartening that we, as a society and as mental health professionals, only think in-depth about mental health treatment and severe or untreated mental health when something tragic occurs. It is usually when the tragedy strikes at home and the fear of becoming a victim of violence strikes at our innermost being that we react.
Most of us know someone who has mental illness. For some of us, it is a loved one or a family member. For others, it may be a friend, classmate or co-worker. People who suffer everything from depression and bipolar disorder, to severe anxiety and even schizophrenia.
Some of us live closely with such folks, responsible for their care and lives.
All too often, there just isn’t a lot of resources or support for such caregivers. Or the information and support out there is lacking. I hope this blog by Tamara Hill, MS can change things.
This blog is primarily about the challenges facing family, friends, and caregivers who have a family member with an untreated or severe mental illness.
Here’s an example Tamara will talk more about:
In the state of PA (where I am), it is VERY difficult to get an individual with a severe, untreated mental illness involuntarily committed if that individual has not threatened harm to him/herself or another person. In the case of John Shick at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (the man who opened fire on staff in 2012), he was turned away from the hospital a day prior because there weren’t enough beds. Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) laws may have prevented the incident.
The blog is intended to help offer social service resources and inform family, caregivers, and friends about challenges and holes in the system. Tamara says, “I will use a lot of videos, news reports, and questions to stimulate discussion.”
“I’m of the firm belief that knowledge is empowering and many families lack knowledge, which leads to a lack of empowerment,” notes Tamara.
I couldn’t agree more. Please give Tamara a warm Psych Central welcome!