Seek Help for Our Children: Before I See Them in Jail
It just does not seem to stop these days. As I am going to work this morning I am reminded of the tragedy and horror of the events at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Closer to me, in Topeka, Kansas, two Topeka Police Officers were killed in the line of duty, after a shooting near a grocery store. My blog posting on October 1, 2012 was also about violence and death.
Two young men with weapons, both about the age that adult chronic and persistent mental illness begins to creep into your life, are deceased. Another is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison. Many more inmates, with mental illness, are housed in our U.S. jails and prisons.
When you begin to feel different, whether you suffer from auditory or visual hallucinations, mania, depression, or other symptoms of mental illness, I suspect it is frightening. Symptoms persist without explanation and don’t go away. You begin to have problems concentrating at school or work. You stick to yourself at home so that nobody can see that you are experiencing problems. Even if they see and suggest you go to the mental health center, you don’t want to face the reality that something awful is happening to you, so you don’t go. As the illness progresses untreated, your symptoms worsen and your denial strengthens. You tell yourself that you are really alright. You really are not different than your friends.
Many people with mental illness get into treatment. With the new generation of medications on the market we talk to people about getting well and we teach wellness. For many, a mental health diagnosis is a disease with a cure. But, according to the 2006 US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics about 24% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners suffer from a mental illness. Don’t forget your family and friends in prison. They need you, they need your understanding, they need your support. The holidays are a very lonely time for men and women in jail and prison.
I am not a parent but I remember when my best friend’s grandmother at age 80 told me how horrible it was that both her daughters were deceased before her. How she could not understand why she had been left to live without her children, why her children’s lives had been cut short. I can only imagine that the young parents of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School don’t understand this either. The wives and children of the two Topeka, Kansas police officers don’t understand and the widow of my client’s stepfather does not understand either.
What I am trying to say in this blog is, don’t ever stop loving your children. Get them the help that they need before a crisis occurs. Don’t worry about how mad they are at you, call the mental health center and get help. Call your local police department and get help taking your child to the hospital for treatment. Talk to your child’s teachers, search your child’s room for contraband, it is your home and you have the right. Lock up anything that can be used as a weapon, yes I am including butcher knives from your kitchen. Most of all continue to love your children, even if they make a mistake. Try to understand them, try to support them, try to help them get help, before they become one of my many clients living in jail, prison, or a juvenile facility.
Nancy White is a counselor who has spent much of her professional life working in corrections.