Why Didn’t Someone Say Something?
Why didn’t someone say something? These are the first words you hear from people when someone in this country walks into a restaurant or office building and starts shooting or cutting people up. Those words are followed by the same conversations and words from the pundits on every news channel in America… Surely, someone must have noticed the person acting strange, if someone would have spoken up, this all could have been prevented. Well let me tell you America, that is pure NONSENSE!
If I knew each of you a little better, I might be inclined to use more colorful language, because the reality of how difficult it is to get someone who might be disturbed in this country help, defies all sensible rationale. Unless someone is willing to go to a hospital and ask for help, it is near impossible to get the law to hospitalize them. In fact, if you do not have insurance and need mental health care, forget about it, don’t waste your time.
One person I was trying to help a number of years ago, that had serious mental health and drug addiction problems, called me one evening at the end of their rope. I had told them many times if they ever reached the point where they were willing to admit themselves to the hospital, that I would take them and stay with them while they went through the admission process. They were ready to take me up on my offer. I was happy to get this call, they had been going through a rough time, and I had serious concerns things were not going to end well. Without going into all the details, I took them to FIVE hospitals in the area and not one of them would admit them for mental health care. We were told that unless they tried to hurt themselves, or someone else, there was nothing they could do.
I have known others that have dealt with this as well. I knew someone whose brother had some mental health problems, and when he was not on his medication he would do crazy things, like walk around his apartment complex with no clothes on. Someone would call the police; he would be picked up and hospitalized. Then, as soon as they got him back on his medication, they would release him. Usually within ten days, sometimes less. When he was on his medication, he was perfectly fine, but as is often the case, he would not stay on the medication long. He got progressively worse over the years and in his early thirties, he was picked up and hospitalized seven times within a period of just a few months. The eighth time he was picked up by the coroner, he had taken his own life.
I also have a younger brother, some twenty-five years younger than me, who is schizophrenic. His mother and father struggled for years dealing with him being arrested, hospitalized, released, repeat. He had never shown a propensity for violence, until one night he walked into their bedroom, picked up a camera on his father’s nightstand, and began smashing his face in with it. His mother woke up and tried to pull him off, then he turned on her and started to choke the life out of her. She was just about to black out, when for some reason he turned his attention back to his father, and continued beating the life out of him. Realizing she could not stop him, she used the opportunity to escape and ran to a neighbor’s house to call the police. His father survived, but spent several days in the hospital and the injuries took months to heal.
Often in cases like my brothers, when they find out they are mentally ill and unaware of their actions, it’s the usual hospitalize, stabilize on medication, release and wait to repeat. Since he became so violent this time, his parents were concerned they would release him again, like they had done a dozen times before, so they raised hell insisting that he be criminally charged. Somehow they managed to work a deal with the prosecutor and court appointed defense attorney and he was sentenced to twelve months in jail.
The mentally ill do not belong in jail, but because of this country’s terrible mental healthcare system, our jails and prisons are full of the mentally ill who do not receive the proper treatment they desperately need. This eventually leads to them being released to start the process all over again. I would venture to say you could talk to any Police Officer who works the streets and they will tell you that I am not only right about this process, but they most likely know at least one person in their patrol area they are going through this with. And of course, it frustrates them to no end.
I was inspired to write about this problem now, because I am again witnessing the mental healthcare system in this country fail a friend. This is no ordinary friend either; this is a brother Marine, a damn fine Marine who gave eight years of his life to this country. He is one of the kindest, friendliest people you would ever want to meet too. If you ever had a conversation with his mother, you would understand how he came to be such a fine man and Marine.
This Marine brother of mine, for whatever reason there is behind it, developed bi-polar disorder. When he is on the proper medication, you would never know there was anything at all wrong with him; you would know him as a kind, well-mannered man who would give the shirt off his back to help another human being. He displays absolutely no sign of being mentally ill. Unfortunately, like many who require medication to control their mental illness, he will stop taking his medication every so often. There are many reasons known for this, such as side effects, or after a period of time without any episodes, they believe they no longer need the medication, etc…. This is when the problems start.
For my Marine brother, it has been about three or four years since he was last in a manic state. A few months ago or so he began to talk a little strange, saying something bizarre once in awhile, but he is a Marine and to be honest, Marines all tend to say a bizarre thing or two from time-to-time, so I didn’t give it too much thought. Things started to change recently though and he went completely off the reservation. He was going days without sleep, taking adderall, a stimulant that some idiot doctor has been prescribing for him. One does not have to be a doctor to realize that giving someone a stimulant who is manic, is not a good idea.
As his condition grew worse, he began having visual and audible hallucinations. I was starting to get more and more concerned. He lives a couple thousand miles away from me and I was in frequent communications with him. Every time I spoke with him, he would just ramble on about things that made no sense at all, so I would continually try to suggest he be seen by a doctor for a checkup. I was afraid to call the police to check on him initially, because I have heard too many horror stories of them showing up with SWAT teams when they hear the words Marine and mental illness in the same sentence. Not wanting to take that chance, I contacted a veterans group and was able to have someone go check on him. They tried to convince him to go to the doctor, but that failed.
I was just about to call the police to see if they would do a welfare check, with the hope they would realize he was not well, and take him to a hospital. Then I decided to try one more thing. I called him up and after listening to him ramble for a few minutes, I told him sternly, “Marine, get your ass to the hospital now!” Much to my surprise, he asked, “Where do I report?” I about fell over. Fortunately, the veteran who went to check on him for me, had given me information on a nearby hospital, so I had a phone number and address in front of me.
After all the trouble we had getting him hospitalized, he was released one week later. The social worker said once he is able to speak rationally, they have to release him. He called me within minutes of being released, and did sound much better. When I mentioned something he was talking about before he went in, that was a little bizarre, he did not get as excited and ramble like he would have previously, but still seemed to have it stuck in his head. I was just glad he was not seeing and hearing things like he was before being admitted, and figured as he continued taking his medication, he would continue improving.
In 2012, my friend had a manic episode and threatened to take several employees hostage, and kill an executive where he was working. The police were called to his place of employment, and he was taken into custody and hospitalized. Not long after this incident, he was interviewed by a television network doing a segment on why people commit mass violence, following an incident that received national attention. In this interview, he proudly bragged about how he was able to fool everyone and that he would never take medication. He was rational at the time of the interview, but also seemingly aware of his condition and proud of his ability to conceal the severity of the illness.
Within two days of his release from his first hospitalization, it was obvious he was rapidly spinning out of control again. Within another few days, he was beginning to get aggressive with people when they would say the wrong thing. The wrong thing to ask him became things such as, “how are you feeling,” “have you taken your medication,” or “when do you see the doctor again.”
Over a three-day period, I was receiving a text or email from him every thirty to sixty minutes — non-stop. I was becoming more and more concerned that after being awake in high gear for so long, that when he did run out of steam, depression would set in and the risk of suicide would increase. Late one evening I received a cryptic message from him with instructions on how his personal belongings were to be handled, because he would be gone soon. That concerned me enough that I called the police in his area, explained the situation, and asked them to do a welfare check.
Doing that ended his confidence in speaking with me. The well-meaning police officer, who I suspect had little experience in dealing with the mentally ill, told him your friend, giving him my name, is concerned about your mental health. The officer then calls me while standing there with him, and tells me he told them he was just giving me a hard time because I kept calling his mother, essentially convincing the officer I was the problem. When the officer was gone, my friend called me to say a few choice words, bragging that he could fool anyone and to mind my own business.
About a week later, his family became so concerned that they began pleading with the authorities until they gave in and hospitalized him again. Would anyone like to guess what happened this time? Are you catching on to the song and dance yet? One week after hospitalizing him, he was released again. He is now worse than he has ever been, as his condition continues to decline. His family has become so concerned that they will no longer let him stay with them, and the authorities seem to want nothing to do with the situation anymore.
Chances are he will continue to deteriorate, until someone in public says the wrong thing. Perhaps he will be telling them about biting the head off a snake, or will try to get them to look up at the bell he hears ringing. Eventually he could wear down, transition out of his manic state, fall into a deep depression, and end things himself. Perhaps though, something worse will come of the claims he keeps making that everyone will soon understand, and the truth will be revealed… Who can be sure?
There is one thing I can be sure of though, if he does end up hurting someone… Those tasked with cleaning up the mess and putting the pieces of the puzzle together, trying to figure out why, will all be asking the same thing… “Why didn’t someone say something?”