Monthly Mental Health Story: Irene Sherman
My son, Joe, now 56 years old, had such promise as a youth. When he was in elementary school, he made up board games that were very complex but also intrigued all the neighborhood children. He also organized dog shows, a summer weekly newspaper and an elaborate annual Halloween haunted house in our garage. He loved helping the teachers, volunteering during summer school, and said he always wanted to be a school teacher. Even now with his illness he claims he’s going to be a teacher. We have letters from the school district that recommended him for accelerated classes. He had excellent grades all through school.
Joe graduated from UC Davis and had a teacher’s degree and started teaching right out of college and that’s when things fell apart. He couldn’t take direction from administration, so consequently he lost one job after another. Attempts at real estate also led to failure for many different reasons.
Because of his behavior in public, he was arrested many times and only once or twice taken to mental health. But, he was never kept longer than the 72-hour hold. He missed a court date one time, and was arrested in Sacramento and jailed for 10 months. I talked to clinicians at the jail and they said they could get a court order and get him on medication. He talked his way out of taking the mediation after 42 days.
Over the years his illness has become gradually worse. He isn’t welcome in businesses, churches, friends and family homes; plus no one wants to talk to him on the phone as he talks non-stop. He won’t admit to his illness and says everyone else is ill, not him. He has worked some menial jobs, but loses the jobs or quits because of his paranoia. He also claims people talk in codes about him.
Because of his lack of insight to his illness, and that he lives on the street, I am concerned about his survival; especially in the winter months.
It is devastating that we don’t have the same level of care for those with brain disease, which we have for all other diseases of the body.