She told her sister that she’d danced that day for her high school counselor.
     Not hardly the truth, I reasoned.
     Calling the school the following day, my daughter’s counselor said not only had she danced but she had climbed on his desk to do so.
     “And you didn’t telephone me to tell of this unusual behavior” I asked in bewilderment.
     “No,” he answered without even a bit of hesitiation and went on to say, “that’s how these kids act.”
     These kids?  My 15-year-old kid spent her life in the school library, the public library or Vroman’s Bookstore roaming the stacks and the aisles reading, reading, reading.
     That’s how these kids act?  My kid even  read every bit of printed words on every cereal box that came out of the cupboard for breakfast.
     Dancing?  She’d never even gone to a party. And back to her reading, ever since the 2nd grade she’d be in her bed hiding under covers with a flashlight  hoping no one would detect her reading after the  household “Lights Out” announcement.
     The counselor was the first, but as my daughter’s mental illness progressed, he was simply one of the many professionals who stood in the way of our recognizing and addressing her mental health diagnosis that, in those days, was called manic depression but is now labeled bi-polar.
     A mother’s word isn’t worth very much when it comes up against mental health professionals.
     When you’re low-income and a minority, it’s even worse.  It’s hell getting the mental health services that are needed.
     There’s no manual on the typical household bookshelf that warns a parent of mental health issues coming  into their household.
     Dancing for the counselor?  Looking for attention, I determined.
     Then came the sandwich she made with bread, grass from the yard,  cracked raw eggs with the shells spread attractively on the crust.
     The journey began.
      “She’s perfectly normal for a teenager,” one mental health professional declared.  Another reasoned that I wanted the perfect child.  Others said she was articulate and very intelligent.
      It didn’t help to finally find a service provider that accepted Medi-Cal because those  programs were totally inadequate.
     Finally, because I knew somebody, who knew somebody, who knew somebody at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, we were on our way.
     But not before another manic episode occurred and daughter was picked up by the Pasadena Police.  She was admitted to the State Hospital and was there while I worked to finalize her admission at UCLA
     The Director of the State facility discharged her, while still in a manic mode, due to, I was told, my “believing she should be somewhere better.”
     Getting help for those with mental health problems should be as smooth as finding a dentist – it isn’t.
     Patients don’t understand what’s happening to them.  Their family members don’t know either, and the search for adequate care is a perpetual nightmare.
     May is Mental Health Month – really?

This Post Has 10 Comments

    1. Shirlee Smith

      This shouldn’t be a sad story. But there are too many stories just like the one I’ve described here. #mentalhealth tragedies abound but who tells? Most people can’t

  1. Greta Pruitt

    Thank you for sharing that deeply personal story. The huge issue of homelessness has brought mental health issues on to so many of our streets, highways, freeway exits and front doors but we fail to connect these issues. Of course, when the great Ronald Reagan closed mental health hospitals he was cheered for his cost-cutting. How much more useful it would have been to increase local community support systems. I think that’s what they told us would happen. But, of course, it didn’t. Now we are repeating “early release” programs without the community support for re-entry. Prop 47 didn’t work either. Check out Jerry Brown’s budget! Why do we think mental health won’t cost taxpayer dollars? Democrats need to behave responsibly in this time of increasing poverty and disastrous mental health crises throughout LA County! Bernie speaks the truth.

    1. Shirlee Smith

      Greta- so on target. Los Angeles is a place for the #top1% and the #mentalhealthcrisis doesn’t knock on their door – or when it does they can get to and afford fancy mental health residential treatment facilities. #BernieSanders speaks the truth. Why aren’t we listening?

  2. Jean Troy

    The way our children are ignored is sad. It is like since we are limited on funds that our children better be healthy because otherwise nothing will be done.

    My Son though he had no episodes in High School did have something wrong, but know one took the time to help except for one councelor who gave me some insights. Now that He is older I see that He suffers from depression, but like you help was not available.

    I would have to self diagnose other wise since he was not a menace to the public He went untreated until now as an adult he is recieveing counceling. How sad this is.

    1. Shirlee Smith

      Help continues to be elusive. Why? #Blackmindsmatter is a movement that we all need to grab hold to as education for those with mental issues is a paramount concern when we talk about #BlackLivesMatter.

  3. Bill

    Dear Shirlee,
    Thanks for sharing your heartfelt personal saga that you and your family had to endure, in trying to get professional mental health services. Shirlee, you are a miracle-worker. ALL of your adult children are fine people.
    Such horrible plights of “contemporary ‘living'” that we must fight through; and fight for… in this world.
    The other comments were so truthful… and touching as well. For someone to have to wait until adulthood, before getting any type of help is absolutely disgraceful.
    “Do more, talk less.”
    —–Quote From Jamaica
    “Endurance pierces marble.”
    —–Quote From North Africa
    Both of these quotes pertain to the despicable state of affairs surrounding the serious issue of mental health in our society. First of all, we can’t do “more” about mental health issues, because we DON’T EVEN WANT TO “TALK” ABOUT IT in the first place. Secondly, it DOES take a great deal of ENDURANCE to pierce through the “marble of bureaucracy” in trying to get ANY professional and COMPASSIONATE help for someone with mental illness / depression / bi-polar, etc. Yes, our elected officials need to be much more responsible in addressing this problem. Boy, do we need Bernie.
    —–Bill Allen,Jr.

    1. Shirlee Smith

      Boy do we need #BernieSanders is more than just a comment here. #voters need to pay close attention to which #presidentialcandidate includes #mentalhealth in their platform

  4. April

    Within the last ten years, I think it is, CA passed a new law called “Laura’s Law”. It grew out of a case where it was known a person was mentally ill and often off their meds. They were also knnown to be unpredictable when off their meds, but the systems and observers were not able to effectively intervene and the person murdered someone — I’m trying to remember the case — I think it was a male who murdered his mother. At any rate, under Laura’s Law there is a method where a family member, employer, pastor or others act to get a hearing before a judge almost like a regular intervention outside the legal system. The subject has a right to testify too, of course. But the bottom line under that law is that the judge can order they have to take their meds and there’s some means of enforcement – maybe hospitlization if they don’t. I believe the law had a sunset provision, but I recall at some point LA County renewed it or something like it locally. I don’t want to detract from your points but at the same time maybe some of this information would be of enough interest that someone could check out the current status of that law. Many did not know it was available.

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