Friday, May 23, 2008

“Max Blake was 7 the first time he tried to kill himself.”

The opening sentence of Mary Carmichael’s article about Max Blake, a child with bipolar disease, is both disturbing and heart breaking.

The Blakes may have a rough road ahead. Max has not yet reached the age of majority, so his parents have control over his treatment plan. Unfortunately, the Blakes will face even more hurdles when it comes to getting treatment for their son Max when he turns 18. Like so many other parents whose grown children have a severe mental illness, they will try to get him help, but will likely encounter a harsh reality when it comes to treatment laws in their state.

In most states, a child (sometimes as young as 14) has the right to refuse treatment - forcing parents to resort to the commitment process. Many times the law leaves parents with no voice in the treatment of their son or daughter. Parents and loved ones of individuals with a severe mental illness are often the driving force behind compliance with treatment plans – they many times have to be for people with a severe mental illness who do not even recognize that they are ill. As it stands now, many states require that a person be immediately dangerous before they may be involuntarily treated, forcing many parents to wait in agony as their child deteriorates before being able to get them treatment.

The number of bipolar diagnoses in children is rising, which is just another pressing reason we need to continue to eliminate barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illnesses.