Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘mental illness’ Category

Guest Blogger: Family Member Asked for a 5150 for Mentally Ill Loved One

Posted by Marcia on March 31, 2011

Our guest contributor has a family member who is mentally ill. In this post, “Linda” describes what it is like to take care of “Joe” and the time she had to request a 5150 for him. The 5150 is an involuntary psychiatric hold that I wrote about previously.

Marcia, you always have a very helpful nonjudgmental commentary that can be very useful for people struggling with tough decisions, ethical dilemmas, and multi-layered situations, and thanks for that.

I wanted to say a few words which I think may be helpful for some to hear, although opinionated as is my nature. I have a family member, “Joe”, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia and taking anti psychotic meds.

I admit it is hard to be “your brother’s keeper” even for loved ones. Their outbursts and behavior can wear you down and make you feel unappreciated, angry, and sometimes even unsafe around them.

And just like addictions, brain disorders are something that one seems to want to have a lot of empathy for those who fall prey to, but it’s not always easy. I sometimes feel guilty if I do something that makes Joe upset or can feel like I’m violating him with my firm “it’s good for you” nature.

I have had to 5150 my family member not by my authority but by insisting the boarding house where Joe lives call it in. In fact, the attending physician who monitors my relative’s case in this county said it’s not illegal for patients to decide to stop taking their meds so the psychiatrist could not compel him to do anything including taking his prescriptions to avoid severe symptoms such as hearing voices and deep paranoia.

I was frustrated because I felt the system was doing nothing preventative; it was going to be all punitive. I felt that the professional caregivers were doing nothing to avert an impending disaster. I knew in my heart that Joe needed to stabilize on medicine and get a restart in a controlled environment, and my fear was that Joe was going to hurt someone or get arrested, both of which has happened in the past.

I tried to convince Joe to self-commit, but he refused. So I discussed the behavior with the home, and we concluded there was danger to others and Joe needed to go into a hospital for a short stay. It was not to teach him a lesson or mess with him – which is sometimes hard for the afflicted to perceive – and then they go ballistic.

But after months of visiting Joe’s social worker and medical team and trying to intervene and lean on the team to suggest group therapy and talking to the licensed board and care residence to monitor the medication better, it didn’t seem that I was getting anywhere and all the advocating can take a toll. (I might add that I do not have a conservatorship and Joe needed to sign a waiver at the clinic, so they would discuss the case with me. He had signed it during his “better days” so it was in effect later when he was not agreeable.)

Just like Charlie Sheen who seems to have an ongoing struggle, my family member has repeated incidents, and it burns me out. Many people call Charlie Sheen a jerk and let me tell you, people with these problems can be, but they do deserve our compassion, not help avoiding the consequences of their actions, and if you have the strength to give, they will be better off with your efforts on their behalf.

Even though we don’t want to let our love ones down, I want to tell people out there that it is ok to take a breather; turn your back if you can’t deal with their problems at that moment. Long after Joe got out of the hospital from that particular 5150 in better condition as a result of the stay, he continued to manifest behavior that violated me, so I made the decision to cut ties. I needed to for a few months not to talk to him, to concentrate on my life, and rejuvenate so that I could come back more refreshed and in a healthy state of mind for myself.

I didn’t know if or when I was going to come back because I felt a lot of anger over the way I was treated after I had “helped” him repeatedly, and I felt abused when he was so hostile in return. It was emotionally painful to do this during the holidays and his birthday, causing me guilt because I do feel a responsibility to contribute to better his quality of life and safety.

After “the breather” though, I’m not angry anymore, and I just called up to see how my family member was doing. There was no apology from him, but I didn’t need it. I accept that’s who he is and now with my new self protecting boundaries in place, I can be kinder and able to offer advice that may be well received or not, but continue to be a support to him by just showing my love and concern.

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Posted in conservatorship, family difficulties, family violence, Involuntary commitment, Involuntary Psychiatric Hold, mental illness, Troubled teens | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Information About the Involuntary Psychiatric Hold

Posted by Marcia on March 14, 2011

I have blogs and websites with tools to analyze traffic, see what terms people are using that lead them to my sites and my book. I use analytics to learn more about what information you’re seeking, and I occasionally use that along with discussions, emails and calls to determine topics to present.

Due to the ongoing discussions about Charlie Sheen and similar or more extreme experiences of others, this article is devoted to a difficult subject: the involuntary psychiatric hold or commitment. Involuntary commitment is when a person is placed in a psychiatric hospital or ward against his or her will. This must be in compliance with the mental health laws, is usually limited in duration and requires regular reevaluation.

I will direct you to some informational websites to help you or your friends as I am not in a profession that deals with these matters: I simply know how to research.

A Wikipedia entry at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Involuntary_commitment#Alternatives has a good overview of the history of involuntary commitment and some information about the process in different countries.

In California, Section 5150 allows a qualified officer or clinician to evaluate a person and have that person involuntarily confined. There are specifics as to who is qualified to evaluate a person and what circumstances would lead to this decision. Generally speaking, the person must be a danger to self and/or others and/or be gravely disabled. There is a Wikipedia entry regarding Section 5150 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5150_(Involuntary_psychiatric_hold).

There is a brochure describing the California involuntary 72-hour and 14-day hold that explains the process and a person’s rights under the law. This informational piece was created by the California Network of Mental Health Clients in Sacramento. The brochure is at http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/502401.pdf and their number is 916-443-3232. They have provided additional resources if you need them.

The last topic I will mention is “conservatorship” or “guardianship.” You can read an explanation at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatorship. In order to be another person’s conservator, you must have clear and convincing evidence that it is necessary to provide for the other person’s “physical health, food, clothing, and shelter” or that the person cannot “substantially manage his…own financial resources or…resist fraud or undue influence.”

I started this article by mentioning Charlie Sheen. It’s terrible to watch and I can’t imagine what this is like for the family and friends who love him. What would I do if I were in their shoes? I don’t know, and it’s hard for any of us to know from a distance exactly what’s going on and why. I can say this on the basis of my research – you don’t have to stand by and watch, and you don’t have to walk away because you don’t want to be enabling the behavior. A good psychiatrist and/or an attorney can help you sort through the options.

For those of you living in these extreme situations, I hope this has given you some information to consider and the courage to act. You will absolutely need courage and resolve.

Posted in behavior of someone using drugs, conservatorship, danger to self, enabler, enabling, estranged, family difficulties, family violence, Involuntary commitment, Involuntary Psychiatric Hold, mental illness, mentally ill teen, meth addict, out of control teens, parenting adult children, Parents and teens, restraining orders, Section 5150, teen and addiction, teen intervention, Troubled teens, violence in mentally ill people, what drugs cost, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Parenting Troubled Adults and Notes about Charlie Sheen

Posted by Marcia on March 7, 2011

Even if you don’t read tabloids or view gossipy entertainment shows, it’s hard to avoid the train wreck that is Charlie Sheen’s current situation. The headlines generated by his behavior are dominated by stories of drugs and alleged violence.

I have seen several of his movies and watched Two and a Half Men occasionally. There’s no doubt this is a talented actor who can easily master drama and comedy and do it with style and charisma.

He reminds me of another actor with range, style, charisma and a terrible history, Robert Downey, Jr.

Information provided here is drawn from Wikipedia entries that have citations.

Both were born in 1965 and were born into show business families, and both started acting careers as children.

Downey has said that his father was a drug addict and introduced him to marijuana at age 6 and the two did drugs together, eventually Downey also drank alcohol to excess. He dropped out of high school to pursue acting. He was arrested several times, was put on probation and was sentenced to serve time in the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison. He went through rehab and rehab programs repeatedly until it “took” in 2001.

Sheen has been married three times and has five children. He was expelled from high school for poor grades and bad attendance. He has overdosed, been sent to rehab, allegedly threatened or hurt women in his life and created havoc in his life and in the lives of his ex-wives and children.

Last year, I heard an interview where Martin Sheen, Charlie’s father, said he found himself planning Charlie’s funeral at a certain point: the situation was serious and his son’s life hung in the balance. As a parent, that thought just struck me through the heart. It’s got to be one of the biggest fears of family members.

Sheen’s latest escapades have been blasted all over the news and he has been calling in or appearing on various radio and TV shows. It’s mesmerizing and appalling, and it’s sad to think that this dangerous situation serves as entertainment to many.

I’ve wondered how a person like Charlie Sheen can get into so much serious trouble and not have their children removed from the home. This did happen last week, but look at his severe and acknowledged history of substance abuse. At what point does social welfare step in and protect the children? Perhaps one of the social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists or attorneys who read this article can provide this information.

I have also heard talking heads who have not met Charlie Sheen speculate that he may be bipolar. (A good explanation of this disorder is available on Wikipedia. It doesn’t seem professional to speculate on someone you don’t know and haven’t examined.

Might there be underlying reasons for the extreme drug abuse experience by both Downey and Sheen? Maybe some of the same reasons we see in other addicted individuals.

I would look to their early years for behavior and decision making, see if they were in some pain that they wanted to dull or treat by taking drugs or alcohol. Some people who have disorders self-medicate to help get through the day, while others simply love the feeling of escape and find themselves addicted.

Addiction is complex and difficult, and I know from meeting recovering addicts that treatment is not easy and it truly is “one day at a time.” It’s helpful for family members to seek their own treatment, to understand how they are only in charge of their own feelings and reactions. You can’t change another person, and enabling another isn’t helpful to anyone. (Please see my post on enabling.)

How do you stand by as a parent and watch your child spiral out of control? Have you experienced this? What did you do? What worked for you and what did not work? Do you comments or insights to share?

Posted in behavior of someone using drugs, enabler, estranged, forgiveness, listen to family problems, mental illness, out of control teens, parenting adult children, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

How to Listen to Disclosure of Family Estrangement or Difficulties

Posted by Marcia on March 2, 2011

In my last post I wrote about the process of deciding to share difficult information about one’s family. This post is devoted to receiving this information.

Some of the richest and most heartfelt conversations I have had have been when someone decides to confide in me or when another person listens to my story.

When your family member or friend is having family problems and decides to share these issues with you, it takes a lot of courage, hope and trust that you will not judge, will listen carefully, offer help if asked, will not gossip. This is a confidential and difficult conversation.

Truly listening means that you turn off distractions: this is not a time for watching TV, texting and taking calls. Turn off your phone and give that person your attention. Listen with your head and your heart. Don’t ask a lot of questions, just a few to clarify the situation if needed.

Don’t change the topic unless you’re very uncomfortable hearing this news, and if you are, it’s better to just say you’re uncomfortable.

This conversation is about the other person, not you and your family, unless you’ve experienced a similar situation. Then it’s appropriate to share but limit your input: this person has a lot to say.

Be private and confidential. If the person wanted all of the family and friends to know, there are many ways to alert everyone. It can hurt the person’s feelings if you talk about this to others and damage your own credibility as a confidante.

Don’t judge the people involved. You’re hearing a part of the story and you’re hearing it for the first time. It may be shocking news, but all of it is in the realm of the human condition: the things that happen to people and the decisions we make.

Ask if there is anything you can do to help and provide resources if you have them. One woman called me regarding her son and after listening to her story, I asked if she wanted resources or how I could best help her. She was looking for resources and I gave her a few places to start, indicating there were additional resources in my book and on the blog if she needed them. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re already dealing with a stressful situation. I also keep in touch, ask how things are going, and remember her on Mother’s Day and Christmas, two really hard holidays for her.

When you see or talk with the person in the future, ask about his or her child. I know from personal experience that the concern people show is helpful. It helps me to know that they haven’t forgotten I am a parent, and birthdays and some holidays in particular are really difficult.

Keep in touch and show concern and compassion. That’s the best way you can help anyone.

Posted in adopted kids, apology, behavior of someone using drugs, changing parent's behavior, cope at the holidays, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, estranged, estranged from dad, estranged from father, estranged from parents, family difficulties, FASD, feelings about Father's Day, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, file restraining order against son, forgiveness, juvenile hall, kid on meth, listen to family problems, mental illness, mentally ill son, mentally ill teen, meth addict, missing our son, Mother's Day avoid, Mother's Day dread, Mother's Day sadness, orders of protection, orders of protection against son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, restraining orders, return adopted child, rewarding good behavior, sadness at the holidays, signs of drug use, step-parent, teen and addiction, teen intervention, teens and consequences, Troubled teens, truancy, truancy and penalties, violence in mentally ill people, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Do you know the next Jared Lee Loughner?

Posted by Marcia on January 24, 2011

I haven’t posted for awhile as I wanted time to mull over the January 8, 2011 shooting in Arizona.

Like many people, I feel that the yelling and disrespect shown to others creates a climate in our society that is not only unpleasant: it’s dangerous.

That said, I do not hold anyone responsible for this shooting except Jared Lee Loughner, the 22 year old charged in this shooting that killed 6 people and injured 14 others, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

As the news unfolded, we began to get a clearer picture of Jared and his mental illness. The life incidents that happened to Jared would, in an emotionally and mentally healthy person, be a chance to demonstrate resilience, to learn and grow from being hurt, being fired, being rejected.

Jared’s parents are Randy and Amy Loughner, an apparently very private couple: even their neighbors didn’t know them and no friends have come forward. Jared dropped out of high school and started developing behavioral problems with a change in his personality. (It is logical to assume his problems led to his dropping out of school, but I don’t know this as fact.)

High school classmates saw his life unraveling: he abused drugs and alcohol and his behavior and conversations became bizarre. A friend’s father felt uncomfortable around him, friends turned away.

Court records indicated he had 2 offenses in 2007 for possession of drug paraphernalia and defacing a street sign, and he completed diversion programs for each.

In 2008, the U.S. Army rejected Jared as “unqualified” for service. During the application process, he had admitted to marijuana use on numerous occasions.

Jared started taking classes at Pima Community College, and from February to September 2010, campus officers talked to him on 5 occasions as he was disruptive in class and at the library. A teacher and a classmate indicated they were fearful he would commit a school shooting.

In September 2010, college police discovered his YouTube video in which he said the college was illegal according to the United States Constitution. He was asked by administrators to leave school and return only if he obtained a mental health clearance. They wanted a professional to say that Jared did not pose a danger to himself or others.

Jared had a job at Quiznos but was fired: the manager said Jared had a change in his personality. Jared volunteered at an animal shelter but was asked not to return.

Even with this pattern of deep problems, rejections, being fired, being told he needed help, Dr. Laura Nelson, deputy director for behavioral health at the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the state had no record of Jared seeking mental health treatment in the public system.

The night before the shooting, he left a message on his friend’s voicemail along with a Myspace post saying goodbye.

With all the signs: problems at high school and community college, drugs, drinking, being fired from a job and volunteer work, rejection by the Army, disturbing private texts and public videos, friends and parents of friends seeing problems – how is it there was no help for Jared?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thinking a lot about all of the people murdered and wounded that day and the ongoing trauma to their families. I’m also thinking that if Jared had professional help, this may have been prevented.

One interview with a psychologist was asked about Jared’s parents, and she said there could be a few scenarios at home but we’re not sure what happened. In some similar cases, there is mental illness in one or both of the parents. Another possibility is that the parents took him to therapists but he stopped at some point. The final option is that the parents didn’t know what to do, were at the end of their rope, maybe they were afraid of him.

I don’t know what was happening in Jared’s home and none of us know that part of the puzzle.

Just three years earlier at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (“Virginia Tech”), Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many other people before he committed suicide. Some of his history seems similar to Jared’s. The Virginia Tech Review Panel said Virginia Tech administrators failed to take action that might have reduced the number of casualties. The panel also pointed out gaps in mental health care and privacy laws that left Seung-Hui’s condition untreated.

Wouldn’t you think that following Seung-Hui Cho’s rampage, all schools would be alerted to do more to protect the greater society? Sometimes the schools have to step in when the parents can’t or won’t.

It’s surprising that we haven’t seen more shootings like this. Unless we deal frankly and effectively with the heart of the problem, we are all endangered. A percentage of our population is seriously mentally ill and they are underserved with resources. Family and friends do not always know how to help, when to report someone, where to turn.

Some of the parents who find my book and blog and write to me need to stop and think about their own kids. Is there something you need to act on or are they facing normal teenage angst? There is also a difference between the angry teen who yells and punches the wall versus the mentally ill teen who is rambling incoherently and has inappropriate verbal outbursts.

If you’re seeing bizarre behavior, when that’s combined with drugs and/or alcohol, when your child’s friends drift away or if you have warnings from school, you must take action.

If your child’s friend is going down that path or your student is acting in a bizarre fashion, use the resources at hand. Don’t be afraid to speak up: you may be saving the life of that child and the lives of others.

I have a list of resources on my blog and encourage you to review the list, make the call if you need to on behalf of your child or your child’s friend.

Posted in enabler, enabling, family difficulties, Jared Lee Loughner, mental illness, mentally ill son, mentally ill teen, out of control teens, violence in mentally ill people, worried parents | 5 Comments »

 
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