Friday, August 03, 2007

How many people can you beg to help you?

Yet another Pennsylvania family has been decimated by the loss of a parent at the hands of their child with a severe mental illness. Families like the Rafferty’s or the Scanlan’s – in each case the parents were stabbed to death by their children, victims all of a system that ignores the realities of severe mental illness and refuses to acknowledge that some individuals may need more than voluntary services to maintain their care.

Each tragedy details a system far too willing to abandon individuals who cannot maintain their treatment in the community. A treating doctor of Michael Rafferty lamented, “I feel it is pointless to keep him in the hospital for any length of time again and put him back on (medication), which he inevitably will stop taking, he will inevitable start drinking again and he will not follow up with me.” Roger Scanlan’s family said that he had cycled through psychiatric hospitals for more than 20 years; inevitably, he would stop taking his medications and become delusional. Kenneth Miller’s mother pleaded with treatment professionals to admit her son for treatment, explaining that “we know the signs; we saw him start to decompensate.” No matter how hard they begged, each was powerless to help.

Our hearts break for these families, and the countless other families facing similar situations everyday. The question that keeps coming up – how many different people can you beg to help you?

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