Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Another frustrating go-around with the mental health care system

Dear Mental Health Care System:

We turned over our daughter to you last September. Actually, we didn't turn her over to you -- she attempted suicide and called 9-1-1 for the umnpteenth time. Once that happens too often, the system steps in and says hey maybe we should see what's wrong with this person. M spent the required six-to-eight hours in the ER before being checked into the Behavioral Health Services, dressed in size XXXL blue scrubs and assigned a room with someone who screams all night. Over the weeks, she was put on hold and had to go through a series of court hearings which we had little or nothing to do with since she is 21 and an adult. We could visit for an hour each evening. She wasn't happy but as the time marched on, through the first snow on to Columbus Day and into Halloween, we awaited word from the professionals about the mental state of our daughter and her future prospects. The State Hospital was talked about as a destination. M said she attended groups during the day and received some one-on-one counseling, but we detected no change in her behavior and outlook. The cast of characters changed on the ward. M remained. The mysterious docs put her on some heavy-duty drugs that seemed to offer some stability. Was she feeling better about herself? Did she still have thoughts of self-harm? What about her underlying psychological disturbances? Were we going to find her dead at home some day? That was one thing about BHS -- the staff kept M safe. They were and are, for the most part, caring individuals. Case managers would pull us aside and say, "She doesn't belong in here. She's a talented kid. Talkative, Funny. She doesn't walk the hall like a zombie as happens with many of the patients." She did have a zombie phase early on, when she received too much Seraquel or Latuda or Lamictal or Trazadone or Cymbalta or good ol' reliable Prozac, my drug of choice. It is tempting, I know, to dose the patients and hope they go to sleep for 20 hours instead of banging their heads against the wall while they recite "Howl" in its entirety. Some of the patients here are right off the streets or out of jail or graduates of the juvenile justice system But others? During visiting time, I see people I know. A state legislator. Local business people. A couple of wayward Democrats. They are visiting other patients, engaging them in conversations, laughing it up. At times, I've visited friends at BHS. They are no crazier than I am, than M is. I look them in the eyes and they look in my eyes and we all know what's going on. "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked...." We know that this is just a holding pen for those with mental health challenges. It is not a treatment center. The order is to stabilize the patient and get him or her off to the State Hospital, a halfway house, a homeless shelter, or home, which has its own hazards. I use "treatment center" loosely as there doesn't seem to be such a place, at least in Wyoming.

More after I catch my breath....

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