I am so frustrated, angry, hurt and totally pissed off with our mental health system.
Our hearts are broken as much as our son’s brain. He has had drug and alcohol issues for quite some time now, but over the past three years he has become addicted to P. Our son has turned into one of those poor unfortunate people who you see wandering the streets looking for smoke butts, talking to himself and probably several voices going on in his head. I guarantee he scares people, because if I didn’t know him I would be scared of him.
So our first dealings with our local mental health (MH) services was approximately 5-6 years ago when he was taken by the police because he was suicidal. At that time he had been on synthetic cannabis. It was so scary and sad to see him that way. He was freaking out saying he had lost his mind.
After him getting seen, he was sent home with us, as they said it wasn’t a mental health issue, it was a drug and alcohol problem. I tried to argue the point that the drugs had turned it into a mental health problem. They didn’t agree with that and they said all they could do is wait for an appointment with ‘drug and alcohol’ and get him some help.
When he finally did get to see someone, they told him he had to get himself together and have some goals in life before he could get residential help. He went to see a counsellor a few times but nothing good came of that.
When our son was going for counselling, I went with him to try and push for more intense therapy. I left our mental health services bawling my eyes out. I was so sad because it didn’t matter what I did, I still wasn’t getting any results. I even showed the counsellor a video of our son on P. He didn’t seem particularly interested. He just said “he does look a bit tired”. Even without any training, I’m sure anyone in their right mind could have seen that wasn’t normal or “tired” behavior. That was the last straw for me and I just got up and walked out.
Then our son met a 65-year-old gay man who rented him his house, which was directly in front of his own house. He told us he would try and help him get on track. Instead eventually he moved him into his own house and supplied him with alcohol and any sort of drugs he could get his hands on. The price our son paid for all this man supplied was basically his soul.
He promised him the world at the start when he had him so hooked on everything and he had isolated him from his family and friends from shame; he treated him no better than a beaten, abused animal. Making him do all sorts of unimaginable things to earn his fix. The more he had, the more he needed just to get through the day.
Our son would be there for a few months until he couldn’t take the abuse anymore. He would come home in such a state. He would be skinny, super-paranoid over threats from the other man, and basically just a mess.
Once again we would try to help him and get clean. Every time, just as we thought he was getting better, he would fall off the rails again. He had no control over his addiction and went back to the gay predator, where he knew he could get his drugs. This is what we have been dealing with for the last 3-4 years.
During this time we had a lot of days and nights dealing with MH and the police.
One night we had MH ring us and tell us he had taken himself there to get help. We got the phone call at approximately 11.30pm. They were ringing us to tell us they were bringing him back to ours. We were at our wit’s end at this stage and had decided we had to try the tough love approach. So I asked MH what would happen to him if they didn’t have anywhere to take him. They said they would just have to release him to the streets. So I asked them how many zombies do they release into the public to fend for themselves and risk putting the innocent public in danger.
So once again we bought him home knowing we could not live with ourselves if anything happened to him or the public. Still no real help, just counselling offered to him once a week for an hour or so.
So we know these people at mental health have rules to stick to and I am sure a lot of them are frustrated over the lack of facilities they can offer. But when you hear over and over that there is nothing they can do or you just have to wait for an appointment, you just start wondering why they have a mental health department at all.
So I am writing this letter that could easily turn into a book if I had the time to write everything we have been through. We are not going to sit back and get frustrated anymore. We feel we have to take part in this and get some results that are positive.
We are just an ordinary family from a beautiful little town. We have a son and two daughters and seven precious grandchildren. Our daughters have their lives sorted and have always tried to support their brother. Now their children are older, they have chosen not to be around him anymore as they are actually scared of him and they are protecting their own children.
Our son has two precious children who love him to bits, even though he has not been able to be a consistent part of their lives. We also find ourselves avoiding them because it is heartbreaking when they ask us if we have seen their dad. This has affected them greatly, to the point where his son is now seeing a psychologist and is on antidepressants. He is also often suicidal. His mother and stepdad are doing an awesome job of getting him all the help they can, but are also banging their heads against a brick wall waiting for an appointment to get him help through MH. Our grandson is only 11.
Our son also has grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins and friends who are also affected by this and are very concerned about his welfare.
I am currently away from my home town spending four weeks getting radiation treatment for breast cancer. Although this is a total inconvenience for me, I find this time away from home has given me the opportunity to put time into helping do something about this nationwide problem.
The people at the top are the only ones who can make the radical changes needed to change this situation. If they would open their eyes and ears properly and see the turmoil we and many others go through every day in REAL LIFE, maybe they would take this as seriously as they should.
The problem is, if these people at the top do have problems within their own families they have the connection and the money to be able to get help straight away.
So today I had an emotional breakdown while getting my cancer treatment. I have been so greatly supported by the nurse I spoke to, as well as the psychologist with whom she got me an appointment that same afternoon. So the ball has just started rolling and we are on a mission.
Our mission is to get as much support and back-up from everyone in our beautiful country who are suffering from the lack of support from the mental health system.
We are watching our son go through this horrendous ordeal and wanting to get help so badly, but it is getting to the stage it seems there is getting less and less hope of undoing the damage that has been done.
Sometimes I wish I could just give him a pill and let him sleep peacefully forevermore. It’s like he is dying right in front of our eyes.
So over the past 4-5 weeks our son reached breaking point from his abuse from the gay man. I had to get him arrested over a couple of trivial instances that could have easily turned into worse things happening.
So after I convinced police to arrest him, he was locked up for a week before getting bailed to an old school friend.
He went through major withdrawals while being locked up and was a real mess when he got out of prison.
We tried to tell his friend how bad he was mentally, but he wanted to try anyway. That lasted for about 10 days but his friend just didn’t know how to deal with his mental illness. Even though he felt really bad, his friend had to ask him to leave.
I could write many short stories of all the incidents we have had to deal with, but I haven’t got the time. I need to get this letter out there.
So it has been six weeks now since I first contacted mental health and they have assessed him several times in that period of time, still saying it’s not for them to deal with.
In these past six weeks we have dealt with police, his lawyer, his probation officer and everyone else I get a phone call from telling me what he has been up to. All these people have said it is a mental health problem. So how come everyone EXCEPT mental health can see that? I have to wonder why mental health is even there.
I have been getting treatment for three weeks and there is hardly a day goes by where I don’t get a phone call from someone telling me about the crazy things he has been up to. So right now he is wandering the streets some nights getting a bed from some very kind people. He’s desperately looking for accommodation, but it’s extremely hard to find someone who could deal with him.
I am currently working with his probation officer and a lovely lady from the Salvation Army who has offered to step in and help him. These two ladies are so awesome to deal with and are doing everything they possibly can to get him help.
I have also contacted the local MP who has also come on board doing what they can. My next step is going to the media, which is my intention when I get home from my treatment.
So I would like to finish with some main points I strongly feel the government needs to listen to and take action on immediately. The longer they wait, the worse the problem is going to be.
- Mental health services need to stop deciding for themselves whether each individual they see is a mental health or drug and alcohol problem.
- Drugs and alcohol will cause brain damage over the course of time, which in turn turns out to be a mental health problem.
- The whole country needs more lock-up facilities where people who want help can get intense therapy and medication when required.
- Police should have more of a say in what each individual needs in way of help, as they are the ones dealing with these people more intensely than mental health.
- Instead of employing people at mental health services with all the so-called ‘qualifications’, start employing real people who have been in situations like ours.
- Prevention is better than cure. There needs to be more education for the young ones before they even start doing drugs. Show them people like our son and see if they want to end up like him.
- There needs to be a zero tolerance for P dealers. No second chances.
So I will sign off now but I will not stop writing.
PLEASE start listening to us little people.
The author supplied her name and address and requested her name not to be published. The letter has been edited to protect the identity of the woman and her family.
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else’s mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757