By: Odell Dixon
When my daughter was 13-years old, she was diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses beginning with obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and then later Schizophrenia. Over the years, the list has grown and so have our problems as a family. Even though my daughter is now 30 years old, due to her mental illness she often acts like a child.
I am 66 years old with a history of stroke and other serious health conditions. I do not know how much longer I can keep up with caring for my daughter. This causes me great emotional stress each day of my life. Because of my daughter’s mental illness, it is very difficult to maintain a relationship with her.
Sadly, she has been incarcerated four times due to her symptoms, from either not receiving the support she needs and/or not being on her medication. This last time my daughter served time in jail, she was placed on probation. The judge sent her to Eastern State hospital where she was held for 30 days, during which time she finally received the services and medication she desperately needed. I try my best to keep her on medication so that she does not return to jail, but I cannot force her to take her meds. I am the one that drives her to the courthouse, pays her fines and outstanding bills as well as solving her other issues. This of course has resulted in a tremendous financial burden.
It is incomprehensible that my daughter once worked as a receptionist at a medical office, was married and managed a normal life. However, she failed to stay on medication and lost her job. Her mental illness worsen. Now, I never know what will happen next. Sometimes my daughter will ask to live with me, but then she will disappear for months at a time. I never know if she will end up in prison again. Or worse, that she might disappear from my life for good.
My daughter is in great need of ‘mental health’ services that will provide her the help she needs to stay on her medications. When she was court ordered to Eastern State Hospital, the support and treatment she received helped. However, 30 days is not enough time. As soon as my daughter was released she was back to her old ways. Jail is not the answer! We should not have to resort to locking up people with mental illness; there should be a better way.
I am getting older and fear that when I’m gone my daughter will become homeless. I feel that if more was done to implement effective mental health services for those that are like my daughter they would have a chance at a normal life. More money is needed for support services and less for sending people like my daughter to jail or prison. Please, help these individuals by providing what they need. They do not need to be in jail and the money spent on sending and keeping them in jail is NOT effective treatment, but is a complete waste of taxpayers' money.
Published and produced by friends of The ‘Change Mental Health Laws in Kentucky’ Project, February 2012. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED!