38 Comments

  1. Stacy D-Reynolds

    Beautifully written, Leisl. I can’t begin to imagine how much heartache you and your family experience from day to day. And unless the people you send this to have hearts of steel, I can’t imagine them not being motivated to make some change happen. Much love to you.

  2. Leisl:

    You and Cody have been on my heart. Thank you for being the kind of parent that you are – desperate for a change and hopeful. While I will be praying immediate and full healing for Cody – I will also pray that options become available. You are an amazing mom and advocate.

    • admin

      Allison! Thank you so much for your message. I am so grateful that you read my letter. Your prayers are appreciated and I am blessed by your encouraging words. I hope that you are well. I love your warm heart and vibrant spirit. You are a joy!

      Blessings to you!
      Leisl

  3. This is a terrifica, compassionate piece. I have a son like yours who has just graduated from a residential treatment facility. Were it not for money from extended family, we would not have been able to afford to send him. My prayer is that politicians and lobbyists will prioritize. We do not need more tax cuts for the wealthy. Everyone needs to pay their fair share to we can serve all our citizens. Mental heathcare must be accessible to everyone. As a single mother of an explosive child, I empahtize with you 1000%.

  4. Leisl, I am that person with the adult bipolar, schizoaffective. My son is 42 years old and is that person that you are worried about. Last year my son stopped taking his medication, and started talking about people conspiring against him, then he included me in this. From his therapist recommendation we went to the prosecuting attorneys office and filed a report on him and they picked him up and there was supposed to be a hearing to decide whether he needed to be hospitalized. Instead a therapist that the court uses decided in 5 minutes with my son that he didn’t meet criteria and released him. Even his own therapist said that she never read his files and they were available to her. He has since tried to attack me and beat up my husband who was trying to protect me, kicked in the side of my car and has sold everthing he owns left the state and has threatened to kill me. I have a restraining order against him. He now calls himself by another name and believes that I kidnapped him from the hospital when he was born. My son, also is a loving respeful man when he is himself. I haven’t seen my son in almost 18 months. He calls to threaten me once in a while. I fear for the phone call that I will get one day saying that my son is dead or that he has done something horrible.

    • admin

      Thank you so much for your message. I understand completely. While I know that my child is safe right now, I fear the situation that you are in. I dread the phone call with bad news. I will be praying for your son and for your family and I pray that if we all work together, we can make some positive changes to the system. Blessings to you. Leisl

    • Charlotte Smith

      I also have a son who is Mentally ill. He is 24 and in the hospital right now for a self inflicted injury. I have seen my son go from a healthy happy young man with a bright future to someone who is harming himself and out of control. He is Bi-polar with psychosis.

      He was diagnosed 2.5 years ago and his behaviors have gotten worse. He is harming himself but I am worried about what is next. He is very lucky that he did not die from his self inflicted injury this time.

      I have been in the same boat about not being able to get or give information when he is in the mental hospital. He cannot come home this time because I want him to get long term mental health counseling and help.
      I am unsure where to turn because there are no long tern care facilities in the state where I live. I would love any advise on where I can turn.

      This is a National problem and it is not going to go away.

  5. S Peters

    As a member if a family facing these same issues I just pray for you and your son. There are no answers just many many questions.

    • Lillian Prilutski

      I have a similar story. My son 34 now our family has and still does live this nightmare. Lets start an organization for lobbying for change!!!! Lets not let those precious children and their teachers die in vain!! Lil Prilutski @ diamondlil012000@yahoo .com

    • admin

      Oh My Goodness, Katie! Thank you for including it in your blog. I felt the same way about the other post and I prayed, and did not get much sleep last night, worrying that I may have demonized my child. Your words are a huge blessing to me and such an encouragement. Your blog is wonderful! Thank you so much! I pray that by working together and speaking out for our children (in a positive way) that we can begin to make some necessary changes. Blessings to you,
      Leisl

  6. Jennifer Kaloti

    I am very moved by your letter Leisl, as I have a similar situation with my 23 year old son. I want to know why Gabby Giffords has failed us in seeking help from Washington. With your well written and poignant letter, I hope we can march to Washington. After Friday’s events in Newtown, Conn, mental illness must be addressed. I am with you all the way! Thank you and I am praying for you and all of us affected by mental illness.

    • admin

      Thank You, Jennifer!
      I am writing to my state representatives now! I pray that we can get the help that we need for our beloved children. I will be praying for you and your family as well. Blessings, Leisl

  7. Zoe Fitz

    Thank you for writing this, especially as a parent. We also live in CA and next door to a family of five (two parents and three kids) and have watched their son, who was six years of age when we moved in, develop into a truly frightening 12-year-old, so much so that we are moving away for what we believe will be our own safety someday very soon.

    At age six he frightened us. He threw batteries over the fence to feed to our dog “to see what would happen when she ate them.” He disassembled a building scaffold across the street (while dad called to him stop from the porch and did nothing) that fell and destroyed a car and some tree branches on the way down. We called the police as soon as we saw it but they didn’t arrive in time. Most recently, he set the back deck on fire and stabbed his twin sister in the leg with a kitchen knife. His twice-or-more daily screaming fits and the sounds that come out of that house are truly otherworldly. We fully expect that someday, the reporters will be here and ask “Did you see this coming? Did he exhibit any signs?” and we’ll say “Oh yes, since he was tiny.”

    We don’t know what to do (besides move, as we are next month). There is no help. Along with our downstairs neighbor, we’ve called the police multiple times. We’ve called and met with Child Protective Services multiple times. His siblings, parents and neighbors are in danger. And somehow, in a world of adults, everyone shrugs and says there is nothing to be done, there is no place for him to go. And we will, all of us, pay for this negligence later, after far worse things have happened.

    I admire you for trying. I support you. We do not have children and it doesn’t matter: I would rather see my tax dollars pay for mental health services for my neighbors and all those poor, homeless tormented souls on our street than for most things.

    • admin

      Zoe, Oh My Gosh! This is a horror story! You are absolutely right that this is a ticking bomb. The system is so frustrating. We have called for help as well and no one can do anything. It’s maddening! I am so sorry you have to leave your home, but I agree that is the smartest thing to do. I will pray for this family and pray that some changes will come about. I completely agree that if our tax dollars need to go anywhere, this is the place. We are talking life and death…literally.

      Blessings to you. Thank you for writing and for encouraging me in this venture.

      Leisl

  8. Lidia

    This is so inspiring. It’s about time we share our struggles and strengthen our families. Faith is the only thing that is keeping me strong with my loved ones episodes and I have to find support for me and my daughter. God bless you and thank you for sharing.

  9. Mike Robinson

    First and foremost my thouhts and prayers are with you and your son as well, as you stated your caught between a rock and hard place and once they reach the age of 18 that space becomes even more narrow…I live in Texas and it is my understanding that to even have an adult admitted in hospital for treatment it must be done by their doctor, and for a family member to do so they have to be evaluated as being a threat to themselves or others…you are so right in saying something almost has to be done on the federal level to help the families of people who have mental illnesses…again my prayers with you and your family as well as all those others who posted as haveing similar problems….

  10. Lea Anne Devega

    Liesl, I have already shared your story. You are such an inspiration to us all…I haven’t seen Cody for a long time, but I remember what a precious, kind little boy he is. We need to share this and keep it going. I pray for you and Cody constantly. Please be safe and know that we are going to help you all work toward a solution. We love you both.

  11. Anne

    Liesl, you are a beautiful mom with amazing words of strength and understanding. I will do my part to help pass along the information our representatives need to get this going. I have been trying to publicize it on my own through my own experiences as a teacher.

    We see these kids come through our classrooms. We see that they don’t learn to communicate. We see they have problems understanding life and we see the light switch flip back and forth. We see them hug, we see them scream and hit. We see them share and we see them bite. We fear, we experience, and unfortunately, we’re told to deal with it. If we call for help we’re often told “if you had better control of your classroom!” Principals (not all, I promise, just too many) can’t call parents because too many parents just don’t want to hear it. They threaten to sue for discrimination. I’ve have friends kicked, scratched, bitten, and spit at and still the child is in their class, never having been dealt with. (By “dealt with” I mean anything- talking, counseling, disciplining/attempting to change behavior in an effective way. I can’t think of a better word right now.) We need more counselors. We need counselors counseling parents in the situations that can be taken care of at home. We need counselors counseling parents in the situations that CAN’T be dealt with at home. We need more education, more resources, and more people understanding that some families have tried everything. Shrugging and saying “boys will be boys” is hurting everyone. Some of these boys grow up with parents in denial still saying “boys will be boys” when they should be starting to show signs of being men.

    Liesl, keep up the fight! Don’t ever let it down. Kids and parents and families are counting on you. They are also counting on all of us who have so supportingly responded to your wonderful letter so I hope we’ll all step up and help fight this fight.

    Hugs to you!

  12. Thank you for sharing your story. It was way more well written and well presented than the other piece that is making the rounds, although I do not criticize Liza Long for also telling her story.

    I hope we can find a way to move past the stigma and start addressing mental health issues seriously.

  13. Lisa Ward

    Wow, you have so eloquently shared your story. You and Cody will be in my prayers and I hope that your message is heard by those in a position to make changes. God bless you for this letter and I will share your message.

  14. Janis Byars

    Leisle- That is so well-written. I know your family has been through so much… I’m so proud of you for opening your story for people to learn from, and I know your mom is proud of you too. I will continue to pray for all of you and hope this story gets to where it needs to go to make a difference. Love, Janis Wilson-Byars

  15. Leisl, I am a single mother of an adopted (at birth) 16 year old daughter who is exactly the same as your beautiful son. First let me say, my daughter is multi talented, very smart, kind and compassionate, deep and spiritual. But, I started to notice things at age 3 and have lived my entire life searching for the right psychiatrist, psychologist, medications, educators. I live in a small town where there are few resources and have fought for her IEP every year of school. This year I was forced to send her to a wilderness camp followed by 9 months of therapeutic boarding school. It was the first break from screaming, tantrums and violence I’ve had in years. She is recently home and has already dropped out of school to do on line school. I finally, this week, started receiving free mental and behavioral care for her, after battling the system for 5 years, because I am self employed and make too much money to qualify, yet am too poor to pay for care not covered by my insurance.

    It can be a dark hole of despair and I appreciate your story and all that you are doing for our kind of kids! You are in my prayers.

  16. I am so proud of the parents of these children who will speak out and let the world know of the ‘craziness’ surrounding the lack of widespread care for the mentally ill. The legal community has beset the system to protect the rights of the mentally ill to a fault. In California, we used to have a large network of mental hospitals but the ACLU has undone that and now so many are on the streets and as adults, cannot be cared for by their families. It is a much larger problem that many realize. I know two families dealing with older mentally ill children and for them, there appears to be no help, no light at the end of the tunnel…no future for their children or their families or for anyone who might be affected by the actions of their children. May the happenings of late bring focus to this situation and may our country focus on a solution to this problem that is right in our midst. Prayers for all who are dealing with these problems.

  17. Lesli, I’ve reposted your blog post on my facebook page and I hope it spreads like wildfire!

    Our nation received a failing “D” on it’s report card for mental health services. I am ashamed that my own state of Texas ranks near the bottom for serving some of our most vulnerable citizens.

    Everyone in some form is affected by mental illness whether it’s a friend, neighbor, co-worker…or a physician (who, due to stigma is afraid for anyone to know.)

    Educating the public about mental illness is a tremendous step in the right direction. Thank you for your well-written piece. I hope it motivates others to learn about mental health issues and to get involved.

    My family has been hit especially hard by mental illness. I’ve lost a brother and three cousins to suicide. I am involved with NAMI in educating others and adocating for those with mental illness.

    As you know from personal experience, having someone you love suffer from mental illness is heart-wrenching. No one in this world should have to face mentall illness without resources and support.

  18. Joelle Tate

    I am joining your prayer warriors, Leisl. I will also be praying for you. I know the emotional toll this takes on your heart. God bless and keep you.

  19. Missy

    Have you tried neurofeedback? Here is the place we went to when I was at a complete loss for what to do with my violent, angry, etc., etc., child. http://braincoreofkennesaw.blogspot.com/ You can do a search for other practitioners to see if they’re in your area. Here’s another resource that may help, but he’s more expensive. http://www.amenclinics.com/
    My son seemed to have been born angry. I was the mother who swore her kid would kill her, and everyone else would be saying, “but he is such a nice boy.” After the neurofeedback, it was like a miracle happened. My child is now a joy to be with, is never angry, no longer violent, and he’s the good-day boy that I wanted to have 100% good days. We went almost everyday to neurofeedback for 30 days in 2011, and have not needed anything since… no counseling, no medicine, no anything. While I’m not an expert & I never got my son an official diagnosis (because all the counselors we had been to varied from “we have no clue” to “it’s all your fault”), I think that this option is worth a try for anyone.
    God bless you.

  20. I know you have your own doctors and everything, so I hate to suggest things since I am not a psych and don’t personally know your son. However, I will throw out there that for many people a change in diet helps manage their illness. I can manage my bipolar through strict diet, exercise, and sleep. My son does not have mental illness, but we did notice that every time he ate corn products he would have a depressed mental breakdown a few hours later. When we stopped eating corn, his episodes stopped. Sugar and wheat are big triggers for many people that increase mood cycling and behavior issues. As is corn, soy (especially for tweens and teens due to the hormones), and artificial sweeteners. Really an elimination diet works best. We had allergy tests done on my son for asthma and no foods came up as an allergy but he has reactions to corn, onions, and a few other things. It has been trial and error for us but if you look you can find doctors who will work with diet and lifestyle to help with mental illness.

    Blessings!

  21. Slapsters

    I work in a profession where I come into contact with the mentally ill and I have observed that the following factors seem to aggravate the situation of someone with mental illness:

    1) Living in a home broken up by divorce.

    2) Lack of discipline during the early years of the child’s life.

    3) Depending on psychotropic medication to parent a child.

    4) The child be raised in a home with one or no siblings.

    5) Not having the child read the Bible on a regular basis.

    6) Not reading the Bible to the child when he/she is young.

    7) Not having a father in the home with the child.

    Again, these are things I have seen that really aggravate what might already be a challenging situation.

    • admin

      Dear Slapsters,
      Thank you for your comment and for your insight. I value your input.

      I would like to say, though, that while the factors you listed may exacerbate the challenges, there are situations, as in mine, that the illness actually contributed to or even caused some of those problems .

      When a child begins presenting dangerous and volatile behavior at such a young age, I can assure you it takes a toll on the marriage. In many cases the marriage cannot withstand the stress of the situation. The mental illness itself contributes to parents divorcing. Heartbreaking but true.

      It is also incredibly difficult to discipline a child who is violent and coming after you with a knife. There were many, many days when I would put Cody to bed at night without having taught him manners, the alphabet, or anything else. Utterly exhausted, I would finally get him to sleep at night and I would thank God that we were all still alive and breathing. This is not an exaggeration. There were more days like this than not. Discipline, while necessary and desired, is not that simple when dealing with a mentally ill and irrational child.

      We put Cody on medication at a young age. The first time we tried a medication, I distinctly remember calling his name and he actually turned around and acknowledged that I had spoken to him. It was spectacular! He stopped and turned! The medication helped! He was able to hear his name, respond in a more rational manner and we were able to begin parenting more effectively. It has never been the whole solution, but without the medication I have no idea where any of us would be today.

      Cody is adopted. We had wanted three children and planned on adopting a little girl from China when Cody was about two. When Cody began presenting such difficult, dangerous, and exhausting behavior, we made a conscious decision not to adopt another child. We believed that Cody would require all of our attention and it would not be fair to him or to another child to adopt again. Was that a mistake? I don’t know. I do know that Cody has been the equivalent to having six children and I would not have felt responsible putting another child in a potentially dangerous situation. Cody is a loving person and he would have loved having a younger brother or sister. However, I know how exhausted I have been over the years driving to and from therapy, doctors appointments, occupational therapy, picking Cody up early from school because of behavior, and simply trying to maintain some order in our chaotic and challenging home. I can’t see how bringing another child into the home would have been a responsible choice.

      I am a youth pastor and I work in a church. I can assure you that Cody has been raised in a Christian home where God, Scripture, prayer and worship have been key elements to his life. In fact, without the church and the support of our faith community, in addition to our faith in God, I do not know where we would be today. I completely agree that faith is sustaining and a church community is a tremendous blessing to families like ours. With that said, despite the prayer, and Cody’s upbringing, he still struggles. We live in a broken world and mental illness is a part of that, just like cancer. God has been faithful to us every step of the way and Cody loves God and prays to God regularly. Scripture or no Scripture, when the mind is not functioning properly, despite a person’s faith, they have no control over their behavior. This is why the issue of mental illness MUST be addressed.

      I do not want to create an argument or a debate and I agree wholeheartedly that those circumstances you named play a role in exacerbating the situation. I just wanted to clarify that, at least in my case, it has been the mental illness that has caused every single one of those circumstances. The mental illness itself is the root of those problems.

      Thank you for your insight and for your comment. I appreciate your work with the mentally ill and I pray that together we can all bring the issue of mental illness to the forefront of the conversation so that we can help these tormented individuals and families bringing peace to everyone.

      Blessings to you, Leisl

  22. Carla

    Leisl,
    I am a graduate student, studying to be a therapist. I also work for a non-profit agency where I work with youth who are in the system (department children & family services/probation). I am so happy that you are advocating for your child. I too feel that we need to stick together and advocate for change. I am looking forward to being a therapist and learn about these metal illnesses that take over people’s lives. I pray and hope that we can make some changes and better the lives of all. You are not alone!

  23. mother of bipolar son

    I have a mentally ill bipolar son of 37, currently was just released from the hospital but is dangerous to himself and others. When level he is a shining light, extremely intelligent and caring, when on the dark side — well it’s not a pretty picture. He was diagnosed at 16 and our health plan paid for two or three hospital stays (amounting to no more than four days at a time). At 20 I had to apply for ss disability for him to get him on insurance. In 18 years despite numerous serious episodes he has never been treated for more than seven days. In Tennessee we have no residential treatment programs, no state mental facilities (except for criminally insane), and outpatient treatment if close to totally unaccessible. If he is lucky he sees a doctor once every two months. With his last hospital stay they sent him to a hospital six hours away and released him in the middle of the night. I am 64 and had to drive 14 hours to get him as I could not afford gas and a motel. He needs serious treatment for at least 60 days with him being medicated and gotten level. He needs access to a home of his own (his father has Parkinson’s and the constant turmoil is making him sicker. As for myself I had open heart surgery for five leakages and two heart attacks, the constant stress with no respite is putting me in a early grave. I had to quit work to be here for his safety and the safety of others. What does our government expect of middle class to low income familiies in this situation? My husband’s 38 year retirement money is gone, I had to quit my job to take care of my son and lost my retirement pension. Your letter was well written and right on point. I obviously am jealous that you got some respite with residential care because you were in California and my state cut out all funding back in the late seventies and early eighties. We need national help for the mentally help and their families. No one should be expected to take this burden on alone. My oldest son has written us off because he does not want the burden of his brother and does not want his children exposed to this environment. I, too, was a strong church going member up until a few years ago. Now, I am bitter and hateful. I want the best care for my son possible, but I also want to enjoy my life and let my husband have peace in his old age. I guess he and I will both get it when we are buried. By the way in Tennessee 70 percent of those in prison are mentally ill because we have no mental facilities available. My son is level 80% of the time and a sweetheart when he is, but when he gets sick he needs help (a hospital) not a jail cell.

    By the way we all know that insurance companies only pay mental expenses at 50%. I just received my son’s latest medicare payments for this quarter they paid his psychiatrist $.98 out of a $99.00 allowable visit. I’m sure his doctor will be dismissing him as out of four visits they only paid $22.00 and we have to pay $400.00. This was his only help with hismedications and this doctor was taking his case on a charity basis and is an excellent physician. Now he will be going to the local clinic where they are seen once every three to six months for five minutes and pay on a sliding scale. I’m on ss disability and we have lost most of our resources due to my husband’s illness, my illness and my son’s. I cannot afford to pay $100.00 to the psych doctor for my son, but somehow out of my $900.00 a month I will have too, one last week we eat a month.

    Why are those who are most vulnerable ignored and not taken care of? By this I mean mental patients not seniors or children as we have many programs in place for the latter, but none for the mentally ill, at least not here in the south where I live.

Leave a Reply