I wrote this on Aug. 1, 2016. It was published on my anonymous blog. I Tweeted it at Dr. Eric Hoskins. Of course, HE NEVER RESPONDED. This is VERBATIM. I haven’t changed this. This was a whole FOUR MONTHS before my husband went missing AGAIN and wound up getting arrested in Ohio.
To the Hon. Dr. Eric Hoskins,
I’m writing this letter to express my extreme disappointment in the healthcare system that is currently under your watch.
Let me make it clear — there are many things in the system that do work and have worked for other family members (i.e. my mom who has Stage IV cancer). There are a lot of people involved in this particular story who I was extremely grateful for. My experience isn’t necessarily any of these people’s faults, either.
The sad truth is their hands were tied by a system that is slow to change to the growing needs of the population.
Schizophrenia runs in my husband’s family. His mom suffered from a mental illness that gave him a 1 in 10 chance of inheriting it through genetics. His eldest sister was also diagnosed — I’m not doctor but I believe that would make it even more likely for him to develop it at some point.
I understand the need to protect everyone’s individuality, dignity and right to choose. If you knew me, you’d know that I am all for liberty and freedom, and I believe in democracy. I certainly wouldn’t want to take away the rights of any individual to make healthcare decisions for themselves. However, the options for those in a mental health crisis seem to dwindle if they are not physically violent to others or themselves.
I’m sure you’ve heard this analogy many times before: If a man was bleeding profusely, everyone who sees him would believe he needed a doctor. However, if that same man had an internal issue — a mental issue — they are less likely to receive help in a timely fashion.
Without getting into the particulars, my husband suffered another episode in what we can only surmise as possibly schizophrenic in nature. He believed something that wasn’t true. This isn’t the first time it happened, however, this time, he truly believed it and was ready to tear his entire family apart.
He went “missing” (it turned out he was with friends, but it could have been far worse). He was suicidal. He also stopped eating. By the time he came home, he smelled like he hadn’t showered for days, was sweating profusely and was clearly in distress. Incoherent things were suggested that were disconcerting that could be interpreted as a threat.
Because he refused to see a crisis worker, I decided to go to the police station to ask them what my options were. The police officer at the desk was EXTREMELY helpful. He was so understanding and reassured me that anything they would try would be to HELP him, not just to arrest him and have him handled like a criminal.
They sent police officers to our house to asses my husband. By the time the officers left, they seemed to think that we were just suffering a domestic dispute and that there was not enough there under the Mental Health Act. They said, “Try relationship counselling.” I scoffed inside.
Just as the previous episode, they also recommended that I file a peace bond or restraining order, ordering him to stay away from us. If he broke that order, then he could be processed through the criminal system and receive help that way.
Maybe others see this is a perfect plan. I, however, DO NOT.
WE NEED TO STOP ACTING LIKE IT’S PERFECTLY NORMAL TO TREAT PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS LIKE CRIMINALS.
Maybe it’s easier for family members of the mentally ill to blame the patient for their behaviour and cut them out for not getting their act together. I thought long and hard of this suggestion and decided that it could have far worse effects than if I could just convince him to willingly go and get assessed.
My next step was to call a crisis line. Unfortunately, their first suggestion was exactly what I had already done. Have my husband assessed by a police officer.
Their next suggestion was to have him voluntarily go for assessment (which he wouldn’t, obviously, as the cops already made clear).
The last suggestion, which was not only suggested by the call centre, the police AND MY FAMILY DOCTOR — was that my husband would have to be a danger to me or himself before they could act. Let me get this straight, he would have to PHYSICALLY hurt somebody first to get help sooner?
Again, I can see how this is in place to protect the rights of those who are NOT mentally ill, however, what this does do for the current crisis?
That the little things that I have gone through: Being kept up late at night, being followed around, having degrading things whispered in my ears — apparently, all of it is not evidence enough to give him help because he’s never PHYSICALLY hurt me, my children or himself. The whole physical aspect of this equation goes back to how people view it. They can’t see him bleeding so they won’t give him help.
That is sad.
I certainly don’t have an answer for how to make this better.
I certainly don’t envy the position you are in to have to make decisions regarding issues like this.
But I feel very strongly — strongly enough to write this letter — TO REMIND YOU THAT THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN AND IT NEEDS FIXING.
The abandonment I felt throughout this last episode was so heartbreaking.
My friends didn’t understand it so they didn’t know what to do. His friends didn’t understand it so they didn’t know what to do. The professionals could only do what the law told them and that law told them they could do nothing — or treat him like a criminal.
What about me? Because of my experiences, I strongly suspect that even I now have panic or anxiety disorders, depression and possibly PTSD. Now, we will BOTH be a burden to the system.
If he received the help he needed sooner, imagine how we could have avoided all the events that have led me to be mentally ill, as well?
SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE AND I URGE YOU TO TAKE A GOOD LONG AND HARD LOOK.
THERE ARE FAR TOO MANY MENTALLY ILL PEOPLE IN THE PRISON POPULATION. After the suggestion I was given by police this weekend, I can see why.
Without meaning to sound self-righteous, I have to point out that not everyone has a wife who is willing to get their loved ones help. Not everyone has someone willing to put up with the episodes and see them through. This is how we have mentally ill people who are homeless and mentally ill people in prison for things they should NOT be serving time for.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE FIX IT.
I don’t know how, but please try and fix it.
P.S. — Once the episode was over, and thank god it ended — he agreed to get help. But for some people, the episode lasts longer. And for some, the help never comes. Hopefully, now that he is a WILLING and COOPERATIVE patient, he will get help. But this is not always the ending for other people. Please remember that.
Oh, and yes. While he was willing to get help, what do we know today? HE DIDN’T RECEIVE IT.