POWER IN NUMBERS by Heidi Franke

Day 5 of 90, maybe 56, for good time. My son's jail time that's left after being kicked out of mental health court. No more probation after his days served. No felony conviction, thank God. Misdemeanors only. That frees him. He is 22, soon 23. He started mental health court at age 19. It kept him alive.

 Heidi and Mitch

Heidi and Mitch

I'll never forget the night when Mitch called from his apartment in a panic. He was sure there were men in his house with guns. I told him to call the police immediately. He first took a baseball bat and broke open his bedroom window to escape and went to the neighbors' house in the middle of the night and called the police. He let them in his house. There was drug paraphernalia. We were trying to see if he could live on his own with his disability. He did well for almost a year, but the neighborhoods that those on disability can afford are drug infested. There were two heroin deaths in the apartment below my son's. But that was then.

Today, to get by in jail, Mitch imagines that jail is the only world that exists. If he thinks of his freedom, he says he will fall into depression. So, to him, there is no outside world. He says that helps him cope. I fear he will likely learn to be a better criminal. I want him to be a better person. They do give him his antipsychotic meds, but jail is no place for the mentally ill. They need to be in treatment. I worry jail will become familiar to him. Imagine a mentally ill person having to create an alternate universe for themselves because the one they are in feels so dangerous. How pathetic is that?

We send him money on his commissary account so he can buy food so he doesn't go to bed hungry. Ramen noodles are gold.

His last cell mate was a skin head. Swastikas were tattooed on his skin. Mitch said his cell mate's skin was peeling and landed like dust. The skin head's skin would fall into a pile on the floor. Mitch found the dead skin and this cell mate disgusting. He's so glad that one is gone.

His current cell mate talks to himself. The cell mate sits on the metal stool in the cell facing Mitch's bottom bunk just looking at him. That's now frightening Mitch and he wants to do something about it. I encouraged him to be curious and not confrontational. Mitch finds it creepy. Me too. 

I need to remember to send him isometric exercises for his shoulder which was recently surgically repaired.

Tonight, there's to be a movie for the pod. He says it's currently a good pod. But it's always changing.

That was Day 5.

Once done with his time in jail, Mitch's through with mental health court. He didn't graduate from it. They basically kicked him off because nothing seemed to help him. He was on and off his meds, on and off the streets, in and out of hospitals, and in and out of jail. People with serious mental illness live in their own world. The best we can do sometimes is to meet them where they are with delusions, paranoia, and attempts at self harm. They need love and support. Please help break the stigma of mental illness. Tell your stories. We do not gain in shame. 

One day at a time. Thank you to all the family, friends, and mothers I've met along the way in this journey. I'm forever in your debt for being a light in this complicated dark journey. I especially want to thank Sim Gill and the judges in the Salt Lake City Mental Health Court for their compassion. We must fund more programs for our seriously mentally ill and those with co-occurring substance use disorder. Keep peeling back the layers.

With all my gratitude, now on Day 6.

Thank you Adam OzunaTommy KrausRobert BoguesWendy Nielson ConwayAlec BangTommy J. Oberst, Laura Webb, Pamela MullinsSue Swaner, Carol and Richard EvansNicholas ShortCarol Anne Schuster EvansCaroline GilsonCarole StrongPaul GentnerCindy PhelpsDebbie Pierce St. ClairCarmen Kolyer WeaverMelody FlorezDebbie Moorehead ThorpeDede Moon Ranahan, Dr. Douglas Gray, soon to be again, Dr. Kevin McCauley, my mother, The Treatment Advocacy Center, and most recently, a few members of the LDS church and so many more for listening and not judging. For sharing your stories. Power in numbers. @abedinstead