Katie: Finding Help from the Mental Healthcare System

Before Katy and her husband had children, she spent much of her time helping her brother navigate the mental health system. She also tried to educate her mom who did not want him to be hospitalized because of her fear he would receive harsh treatment in psychiatric units. Katy felt great responsibility for finding treatment for her brother.

There were many times where I brought him to the psych ward and would update the whole family. I talked to doctors about meds and made sure he was on the 72-hour hold and had court dates. I’ve done that so many times. And pleading, please keep him in the hospital. . . I learned if he’s not threatening his life or someone else’s you can’t get him into the hospital. It’s been a lot of taking this all on myself and feeling like I had to be a martyr.

Note: A 72-hour hold, authorized by state law, refers to the legal decision to hold an individual who is mentally ill, developmentally disabled, or chemically dependent and is in danger of causing injury to self or others in a treatment facility for 72 hours (excluding holidays and weekends) for evaluation. The facility must release the individual within 72 hours unless a court order is obtained to hold the individual for a longer time period.

Katy observed there are a lot of unknowns in the medical community about severe mental illness such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, how to treat it, and how to prevent it. She pointed out that the lack of government funding and resources is not the fault of doctors or therapists. She has encountered helpful mental health staff.

I realize people are taking on jobs that are not easy--social workers, mental health caretakers—they didn’t go into to it to make money. They went into it because they cared and wanted to make a difference. Maybe being into it for a while has tainted their view, but they’re good people trying to make a difference. I’ve always put that at the center of everything. Because it’s not an easy job. I feel, for the most part, anytime I have called to get Kevin help, we’ve been helped. We’ve had people who seem like they legitimately care. We’ve always gotten the help we need from social services. Part of it is because my brother and my mom live in a small town. People know them—the police, social services, people who run group homes. They know Kevin struggles and they want to help. I’ve always had positive experiences, and I think part of that is because of my attitude and reverence toward people who have chosen this career path.

More of the Story: New Understanding