Falling Through the Cracks: My Son's Battle with Schizophrenia, Part II

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This three-part article was written exclusively for Schizophrenic.com by Elise Amiet, a member of SupportGroups.com. Elise has become an outspoken advocate for better health care options for schizophrenics after the death of her son, Damon.

In this article, she discusses her family's struggle to deal with Damon's schizophrenia, the inadequate health care he received, and what she hopes people will learn from her story.

Read Part I here.

Following the dissolution of our marriage and family, Damon’s mental health workers placed him in many different accommodations. These places were mainly boarding houses in the community, but also included a couple of nursing homes for the elderly.

An Outcast

The boarding houses were full of drug addicts, alcoholics and people that had just been released from prison, a dangerous environment for someone who suffered a mental illness like my son. My son become prey to the unscrupulous people in these places. One of the landlord of a boarding house took his entire disability pension, while the boarders took most of his valuables.

I tried every avenue and resource I knew to help him find a better place to live and get treatment. I found several places that would have worked well for him such as “cluster group” homes, which offered support 24 hours a day. These places also provided recreational activities and helped people to find work or study.

Inadequate Health Care Options

However, these place would not take anyone with dual diagnoses, which meant that my son who suffered from a mental health issue and a drug & alcohol addiction, would not be accepted into their program. Unfortunately, many people that suffer from a mental illness often have substance abuse issues as well. This deadly combination occurs when mental illness sufferers try to self-medicate to relieve the emotional and physical pain they feel.

I feel that these issues often go hand-in-hand and that there needs to be facilities that can accommodate people like my son. The mental health system is being stretched to the limits, with overcrowding in psych wards, people in need being turned away due to lack of beds, and the “revolving door” system that does not allow patients adequate recovery time before being sent away.

The Silver Lining

Often, I try to see a positive side to mental illness and I realize that it is well documented that many of the world’s greatest geniuses suffered from some sort of mental illness. It is that X factor that made these geniuses different from the average person and allowed them to be the great artists and scientist they became.

In the last part of this article, Elise discusses what she believes family, loved ones and the community can do to help those in need of mental health care and the silver lining she sees in mental illness.