Obama Left Out Jared Loughner and His Mom

Obama gave a great speech Wednesday night.

But I wish he had some prayers and hopes for Jared Loughner and his family. People with mental illness and their moms need our prayers and support. Jared's schizophrenia wasn't developed enough where his parents could differentiate it from being a 'crazy' teen. But even had they known chances are, there would be nothing they could do.

I've met many a person with mental illness and many a mom of someone with serious mental illness. The moms would call me on the hotline at the local mental health group as things were getting out of control.

"My schizophrenic son/daughter thinks the FBI planted a transmitter in his head". Other variations include, "He thinks he is The Messiah" or "Extraterrestrials are telling him to stay put" or "He is working on a billion dollar program to save the world" or "He won't come out of his room because radio waves will get him".

These sons and daughters almost always have schizophrenia, occasionally bipolar disorder and are always off medications. They've almost always been abandoned by the mental health system that's supposed to serve them.

Let's say you run a mental health program and you have one slot left. And a young urban professional unhappy in her marriage who wants counseling shows up at the same time a psychotic person with schizophrenia shows up. Who are you going to let into your program? The asymptomatic professional who wants counseling or the psychotic who needs intensive help?

The mentally ill and their moms face this every day and when it gets bad mom calls me.

"What should I do?" Mom would ask. "The police won't help. The doctor's won't help. No one will". Other than the platitudes ("Give him his medicine" "Take him to a doctor", "Call your local mental health center", "Call the police", "Try peer counseling") -- all of which she'd already tried ad nauseum, there was nothing I could tell these Moms. I became one more person who didn't help them.

Mom's the new mental institution, given the responsibility to see their loved one stays well but not the ability to enforce medication compliance or get the mental health system to take action.

The law prevents treatment for their ill sons or daughters unless he or she volunteers for it. If you're too sick to volunteer, they won't let you in. The result is that the less ill people get in, while the most ill don't. The ability to get voluntary services is inversely related to need.

So Mom has to wait. Wait until after her child becomes "danger to self or others". The law requires violence, rather than prevents it. Since having a daughter locked in her room convinced she is The Messiah is not enough to allow the police to help, some Moms turn over the furniture, and then call the police, so when the police came, they would have 'proof' the person met the criteria of "danger to self or others".

I've met Moms who've done this. It was their only hope.

Mrs. Loughner never wanted Jared to become a headline for hate. This is the mental health system we have in America. It caters to the well not the ill.

So I hope that we will all do as Obama asks, and be more civil. But I also think we should think about people with very serious mental illness and the problems they have getting services and what we can do for them. And let's pray for some real heroes... their Moms.

DJ Jaffe
nykendraslaw@gmail.com

Addendum: Watch CBS Evening News tonight to see Dr. E. Fuller Torrey.