Dear Ann Landers, I must respond to the letter from "Sad Sister in N.C.," whose schizophrenic brother refused to take his medication. My heart goes out to her. In your response, you said those who refuse to take medication might have to be forced to have their condition monitored by a doctor.
My son was struck with this illness at age 24. He was newly married, with his own business and a beautiful home -- and he lost it all. I was told he was an adult and I could not hospitalize him without his permission. He refused to get help because he didn't think he was sick. In desperation, I called the police and said my son had threatened me with bodily harm. They put him in a mental facility that did nothing but hold him for a few weeks and then let him go.
After four long years, I filed a conservatorship for my son and turned him over to the state so he could receive the medical attention he needed. He was put in a state facility for six months, where he was taught about schizophrenia and the need for lifelong medication. I bless the doctors and nurses at that hospital for giving me back my son.
The laws need to be changed to get these young adults the help they need. They are often not able to make this decision on their own. I hope your column will trigger a move in the right direction. -- San Marcos, Calif.
Dear San Marcos, You deserve a medal for being so persistent and putting your son on the road to recovery. That column created quite a firestorm among my readers. Here are some of the responses I received:
From Chesapeake, Ohio: I suffer from depression and went voluntarily for help when I was in my late teens. I was bullied and threatened by the very staff that was supposed to help me. Forced medication is not the answer. It will only leave victims more vulnerable, and the number of deaths attributable to overmedication will increase.
Canfield, Ohio: When I was married, my husband had me hospitalized and forced me to undergo shock treatments for alleged postpartum psychosis. As it turned out, my problem was multiple sclerosis. I have suffered brain damage as a result of the drugs I was forced to take. How many other husbands would do this to their wives if they could get away with it?
San Jose, Calif.: Schizophrenia is a man-made diagnosis, and doctors make mistakes. A lifetime of being warehoused with people you don't like (and who might be dangerous) could be a disaster. The old man you see on the street whose tongue twitches didn't get that way because he was given compassion. He probably was restrained, drugged and dehumanized by a system that was supposed to help him.
Kerrville, Texas: I work for the Assertive Community Treatment team, which assists people with severe, persistent mental illness. The majority of our clients have had multiple hospitalizations, and most of them have failed after numerous attempts to stay well.
Our team's goal is to keep these individuals in the least restrictive environment required to maintain their independence. Case managers deliver and monitor medications to assure compliance. We also provide assistance for housing and employment, as well as classes on socialization, anger, stress management and symptoms management. We have a 24-hour crisis hotline people can call when things become too stressful.
Tell your readers there are resources within each community to assist mentally ill individuals and their families. For information, readers should contact the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 200 N. Glebe Rd., Suite 1015, Arlington, Va. 22203. The phone number is 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264), and the website is www.nami.org.