I’m struggling. I’m not sure I’m the advocate for serious mental illness (SMI) that I need to be. I’ve not been successful. I see no change in my brother's life. Another advocate suggested I not focus on the horror's of Mark’s story. I know nothing else. My husband thinks I keep pushing, pushing, pushing the ball up the hill and every time the ball slips back down. Crushing me.
I offer suggestions to others, but what do I know? Really? I’ve not been able to help my own brother In three decades. What good advice could I give? None.
Two weeks ago, several people witnessed Mark in the middle of the street. He was delusional, screaming, beating his makeshift cane in the middle of traffic with injuries to his face, eye socket, and hands. I rushed there and called Adult Protective Services (APS). I don’t know if they responded. Three weeks ago, Solano County deemed my brother "competent".
Two days ago, more people notified me that my brother was in bad shape. He appeared to have been injured or beaten. I called APS, again. They said, “Don't call us. Call Vacaville Police Department.” I did. The dispatcher said, “We could send an officer to check on him, but if he doesn’t want medical treatment or help, that’s his right.”
After all my advocating, I still can't initiate a welfare check on my brother, let alone a 51/50. People contact me and my twin and expect action. I may be inadequate for this task. The county has given us their final word. I’m lost right now. I can’t find the words anymore to make a difference. Love hasn’t changed anything. My love is not enough to change Mark’s life or the world he lives in.
Some people seem to be amused, skeptical, and doubtful that anosognosia exists as part of SMI. This is why we need HIPAA reform. Not to take away everyone's rights, but to allow families of the SMI to get proper treatment for the loved ones who cannot comprehend decisions or consequences with their own brains.
I’m exhausted trying to open and change minds on this matter. I’m past anger. I’m in complete despair. I can’t accept that this is my brother’s life, and people are okay with that. That alone weighs me down. We’re desensitized as a society.
Solano County says change must come from the state of California or from the federal government. Serious mental illness and brain diseases affect more people — professionals and the general public — than other diseases. It’s insidious. Society cannot afford to ignore it. Serious mental Illness will not be ignored. It doesn’t care what political party you favor. It doesn’t matter if you have the most loving family or what race or religion you are. It will infect you and has no qualms about affecting all who love you and come in contact with you.
I'm exhausted trying to open and change minds. The only minds we touch are of the families who already know the despair and pain of members they love with SMI. The ugly truth is, if people don’t have loved ones with SMI, they can’t hear us. It’s like we’re speaking a different language.
Society, we don’t need more awareness. We need more action!
Note: AB 1769 — This bill just died in committee. It would have appropriated money to be used to plan, construct, and operate two integrated mental health residential facilities adjacent to the county’s existing health and social services campus. There’s no mental health facility for Solano County.