Despite the rhetoric thrown about by the president and members of congress and communities-at-large after supposedly ‘mentally ill’ white males go on shooting sprees and murder people in schools, churches, concert venues, grocery stores, theaters and on-the-job, mental illness is not taken seriously in America. It is only given lip service when individuals have committed acts that garner international attention.
My cousin is a mentally ill adult who has been on every psychiatric drug you could name and his condition only worsens. When we lived in Minnesota, the psych meds he was on started causing him physical problems. He became diabetic, obese, his triglycerides increased as did his bad cholesterol levels. His kidneys were also affected. Of course, his primary care doctor then placed him on cholesterol medications, diabetes medications, high blood pressure medications and that list was endless. Suffice it to say, the man had had enough and discontinued all psychiatric medications. As his body lost the weight, his brain crashed as well. He started doing things that he ordinarily would not have done such as going into the woods and trying to live with the animals, staying out all night long, getting little sleep. His eating habits changed. He started becoming extremely paranoid but also highly open to suggestion. He had won a lawsuit and started going to mosques. The Somalis in Minnesota had my cousin hand over his settlement money and all the things he had purchased with said money. They told him that he had to walk, ‘the walk of shame'(which is non-existent) and the man walked all over Minnesota in the winter, after having given the Somalis his boots first where then he was struck by a car and hospitalized for a few days. Upon his release, he was sent home, loony as a tune and with no psychiatric follow-up care in place.
A few days later, he was picked up by the police because someone had called 911 and reported that a man was talking to birds and was clearly out-of-his mind. They took him to a hospital where he was placed in the psych ward, loaded down with psych meds and when someone finally notified me that he was there, I promptly rushed on over and the man was a zombie. He could not even lift his head up. His arm where his veins were were full of puncture marks from the needles they had shot him up with. I almost landed a spot in the psych ward myself because I immediately threw sixteen fits about his condition. The man’s arm looked like a pincushion. They released him from the hospital after three weeks back to his home. I begged them to find a suitable group home or facility for him because he was just too far gone. His brain was basically, soup. They did not listen and so he continued to get into trouble and finally, a civil commitment commenced. He was still allowed to live in his own apartment and the court appointed mental health case manager and crisis teams were supposed to do home visits. They asked me to attend the first home visit. I had to reschedule an appointment that I had already made just to attend the home visit. The day of the home visit, I was standing at my cousin’s apartment door at the appropriate time, knocked on the door only to hear my cousin say, “Come back later, or don’t come back at all.” I knocked on the door again, and heard the same message even though I could hear female voices coming from the apartment.
The next day I called his case workers and demanded an explanation and was told that if my cousin did not want me there, that was his right. HUH??? They were there by court order and so his word should have carried no weight. It was their call. The next thing I know, I get a call from my cousin’s doctor asking me to find out why my cousin was not taking his medications since she had seen him and he was not doing good. I contacted my cousin’s case workers and that is when they decided to go in with the police and have him committed to the hospital. When the police entered my cousin’s apartment, he was in the act of attempting suicide by cutting his wrist with a knife. He was taken to the hospital and kept for another three weeks and was so hostile, I was called and the case workers begged me to see what I could do with him. Yeah! Karma is a bitch! This time they needed my assistance and yet when I arrived, I was cussed out and sent home with my feelings hurt. He was then released to his apartment. A few days after his release from the psych ward, he was put out of the airport because he had gone there requesting to get on a flight to Saudi Arabia in order to “fight the anti-Christ.” A few days after that incident, he was arrested for biting two security guards in the Somali mall after he had stripped naked and brandished a sword screaming out of his mind about how no one in the mosque “was praying right.” He was taken to jail, tazed and placed in a cell. He was then taken to the hospital and placed in the psych ward. He was released pending a court date for a civil commitment hearing. Before the hearing, he boarded a Greyhound bus and went to Washington, DC where he promptly jumped in front of a train. As a result, he suffered a fractured skull, broken neck, broken back and broken right leg. He was released from the hospital with an aluminum walker into homelessness a little over a week later. He called me and said that he was seeing “flying saucers” and that “people were after him.” The next time I heard from him, he was calling me from a psych ward. He had thought about jumping in front of a truck, but called the police instead and they took him to the psych ward. He was then placed in some sort of home for people who have nowhere else to go and the person operating the home was not feeding him. He called me and informed me of his living conditions. I left Minnesota and found him a place to live in Maryland. He was gaunt and still walking with the use of a walker.
When he was hit by the train, it was August, 7, 2016. By the time November 2016 arrived, my cousin’s mental state was rapidly deteriorating again. I contacted the crisis line, hospitals, psychiatrists; the whole nine yards. I was told to call the police to which I stated that seeing as how we were in Baltimore, the police would shoot me as well as shoot him. I left to go seek help and that is when my cousin, while in the midst of a a mental breakdown, walked into a store, purchased some knives, sat down on the curb of a sidewalk by himself, saw some birds and produced the knives and began, in his words to, “direct the birds.” The police rolled up on him even though he was just sitting and had laid down the knives and the police proceeded to bark orders at him. My cousin did not understand what was going on and the police shot him 6 times. He bled out at the scene, but somehow survived. Witnesses stated that he looked like he was mentally ill and that he did not bother anyone and that the police had no reason to shoot him. I was not there. I can only go by the news accounts I read. He spent a month recuperating from multiple surgeries to repair the damage done by the bullets and of course, he was still recuperating from having jumped in front of a train. He was also transferred to the psych ward at Johns Hopkins Hospital whereupon he was released about a week and a half later. He received injections every week at Johns Hopkins.
My cousin then became fearful of living in Baltimore as was I and we moved. He started experiencing sleep deprivation and after begging his psychiatrist for help and receiving none as months and months of sleepless nights came and went, on January 22 of this year, he took some knives and went to the railroad tracks, placed his head on the tracks in hopes that a train would come through and crush his skull. A passerby saw him and called 911 to report a possible mentally disturbed man on the railroad tracks. The police/SWAT arrived and a 15-hour standoff commenced. I know my cousin and when he did not come home when he usually does, I immediately checked the local news and of course, saw where there was a standoff with a mentally ill man. I called 911 and told them that it was my cousin involved in the standoff. They sent me a picture of him and of course, that was him. Later that night, in an attempt to get him to drop the knives and surrender, the police showed up at our door and had me on the phone while they produced a bullhorn of some sort to try and get through to him. It was to no avail. The standoff continued and only ceased after my cousin had been shot with bean bags and pellets that hurt so bad, he had no choice but to give up. His body is still covered in bruises, but at least he is still alive. He was transported to a local hospital for evaluation and then transferred to another hospital where he was placed on the psych ward for 5 days. He was given an injection, trazodone and gabapentin and then a taxi was called. He took the taxi to the police station whereupon they gave him his knives back(knives that they had taken from him after the 15-hour standoff). He came home with a bowie knife and a machete and several pocketknives. How that is even possible is still a mystery to me, hence the title of this blog post.
As a caregiver for the mentally ill, I can honestly say that it takes a toll on ones mental and physical health. I am not the person I used to be and I blame the mental health care system that is failing mentally ill people, those who care for them because no one else will, and society as a whole. I have tried to bring attention to the seriousness of the problem by writing letters to my local newspaper, to the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Guardian, The BBC, USAToday and yet not one of those entities is interested. Shows you just how much concern they have over the headlines that make the news regarding mentally ill people when they have killed 9 or 20 or 50 people. So long as they are basically perceived as a threat to themselves and to those who must care for them, who cares? The fact of the matter is that mental illness that is neglected or mistreated is more likely to result in a catastrophic situation. And those in the mental health care field are not doing their job. I can attest to that. Even those who are involved in the civil commitment process are not doing their job for if they had, my cousin would never have made it onto a Greyhound bus, but because his mental state was never taken seriously, this led to a horrifying chain of events.
No one is being held accountable for any of this, not the courts in Minnesota, nor the mental health care professionals who were responsible for the mistreatment of my cousin’s mental disorders. Those in Baltimore, MD were never held accountable for the fact that his mental illness was not taken seriously even though by then, he had a long history of attempted suicides. And where we are now, even though I have filed two complaints against his doctors and two investigations have commenced, I cannot get the results of the investigations and no lawyer will help me. AGAIN, this is why I say, “Mental Illness Is NOT Taken Seriously In America! None of you can ever know the extent to which this man has suffered and I as well. Be thankful every single day that you are not going through this because I would not wish this on my worst enemy and though you may think that there are resources out there, can you honestly believe that I have not tried every avenue? I am not one for simply whining. I have exhausted myself to no end in trying to come up with solutions and where to find help. There is none. I am left to care for someone who scares me since he has come at me with knives before. I sleep with my door bolted and with a chair up against it. My health has deteriorated to the point where I am always sick. Even as I type this, I am on an antibiotic because I cannot shake an attack of sinusitis. If a person can sue over hot coffee at McDonald’s, think of the irony of the fact that I cannot sue to obtain the results of investigations that were initiated because of complaints that I filed with the medical board that saw just cause to initiate said investigations. How much sense does that make when a person can sue because coffee is hot, but no lawyer will help me gain access to information that should not be shielded from the public over doctors who can witness their patient’s mental decline and sit somewhere and do nothing about what they are observing? Our cries for help went unanswered. A mere twelve days after we both begged and pleaded with his psychiatrist for help with his sleep deprivation, my cousin was involved in a 15-hour standoff with police/SWAT. How is that even possible when the signs were everywhere? And yet, were deliberately ignored.
So the next time a person is in the news for going off and shooting up 25 people, don’t expect anything to be done beyond what is being done, lip service about thoughts and prayers. They’ve certainly not helped my cousin or me.