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Brain Illness + Broken System = Hurting, Confused People

There’s been a situation at and around my workplace this week that has created a great deal of concern and frustration. A brain ill adult with schizophrenia has been camping out in and around our parking lot, coming and going for the last several days.I was away from the office when most of the action occurred, but got a full run-down from our associate pastor yesterday at staff meeting.

Our pastor has had at least one conversation with the ill individual. He has also talked with the man’s father, who shared that the ill person had been asked to leave his home due to violence and substance abuse. He left behind a wife and small child. The father wants to offer love and support, but is struggling with issues of boundaries and safety. The ill gentleman refuses to enter into any kind of treatment. The police have been contacted, in an attempt to find a way to get the gentleman some help. They advised our staff to keep our doors locked and to call again if he returns; he can be arrested for trespassing and put back into the system. The county mental health agency has been alerted, as well, and a representative even came out to talk to the gentleman, since he’s already in their system and on their radar screen.

Bottom line, there’s pretty much nothing that anyone can do, unless this gentleman decides to enter into treatment. But, of course, one of the hallmarks of his illness is a refusal to follow through with necessary medications. The cycle – arrest, brief treatment with enough improvement to allow him back out on the streets, then stopping prescribed treatment – will probably continue until disaster strikes, in whatever form that might be.

More than one of us on staff has personal experience with mental illness in a family member. And those of us who do not still feel great empathy and concern for all involved in this impossibly sad situation. We grieve that arrest and jail are the only option. We grieve that the safest course of action is to keep our doors locked against a potentially violent man. At the same time, we want to protect our employees from danger or even just from the emotional upheaval of a confrontation with an irrational person. We want to reach out to help, but we’re forced to operate within the confines of a system that doesn’t work.

It’s a painful place to be in for those of us who work and do ministry here. And a couple of us who work here understand all too well what an exponentially more painful place it is for this gentleman’s loved ones.

It makes me ache for the time when all will be made well and perfect in the love of a creator who is grieving right alongside us.


2 Responses

  1. You didn’t mention where you live. In the US treatment, including the criteria for forced treatment, varies among states. I live in NH and testified at my son’s committment hearing. I suggest the man’s father (if you can get in touch with him) checks this website: http://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org to find out the laws in his state. Good luck.

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