California Forum

Another View: Families need to be able to help mentally ill children

My daughter Stephanie had her first manic break when we were both re-entry students at Sacramento City College.

Stephanie accompanied me as I was interviewing people for a class project. She walked into one woman’s place and walked out with a can of beer. She announced that she was changing her name to Aquarius and asked what I thought. At that moment, our lives changed.

Mania took over for several months.

In the beginning, her friends found her exciting and interesting. Then, she became disorganized. Eventually, she fell into depression.

I explored every avenue to find help. Even though I couldn’t afford it, I paid for group therapy. I took her to a psychiatrist who specialized in homeopathic treatment. Nothing made a difference until she had another manic break.

When she was manic, she drank. On one occasion, the police found Steph lying in the road wearing nothing but a fur coat.

I took her to a psychiatrist who put her on Haldol, an antipsychotic medication. For a while, she seemed normal. The medication treated the symptoms but left her feeling dead inside, so she stopped the medication.

From that day in 1975 when she wanted to change her name until the day of her death in 2013, I never stopped trying to help Stephanie. Even today, families are still hitting the wall when they strive to care for a loved one who has schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder in combination with anosognosia.

As long as medical care is denied by a law written before the amazing advances in understanding the brain, people who lack self-awareness will be denied their civil right to prompt treatment, and the family members who love them will be shunted aside, all but helpless to step in.