Fearing that their child will become a victim of violence or self-harm is realistic. We’ve cited before that a person who lives with mental illness is statistically more like to harm themself than others. A parent once told us that when their daughter was unwell, she’d wander out into the night, wanting to help people. A young woman, incoherent, wandering into the park in the middle of the night is at risk.
Unfortunately, victimization of people experiencing psychosis is often, and documented, at the hands of police officers who are not adequately trained to de-escalate situations involving a person experiencing delusional thinking. Over the years, we have posted a few blogs on this very subject including these two:
On March 23rd, Daniel Prude was experiencing delusional thinking. Mr. Prude showed up at his brother, Joe’s home in Rochester, New York and was checked into a hospital but soon released–a scenario we have also heard retold by parents all too often (and discussed in this post from 2016)
The Prude brothers returned to Joe’s home and enjoyed a few hours together. But Daniel left the house and disappeared into the night. Joe searched for Daniel but couldn’t find him. Knowing that Daniel was not thinking rationally, he called the police for help.
In the body camera video of his arrest, Mr. Prude is naked, face down on the pavement, light snow is falling and there are at least five officers including the camera-wearer. Prude is ranting, but not violent. He is obviously delusional, speaking but not making sense. Prude speaks crudely and also praises god. He is cooperative when he is cuffed. At some point, an officer notes that he’s been out in the cold, naked, for at least 30 minutes. No one makes any gesture to put something around him to keep him warm. The officers stand around, watching him from a distance, ostensibly, awaiting an ambulance. When he tries to sit up, an officer tells him to stay down. At some point, an officer asks Prude if he has HIV. Officers are heard laughing at him. Prude starts to spit, not in the direction of anyone. An officer puts a “spit” hood over his head, which changes Mr. Prude’s affect and he becomes visibly and audibly more agitated. Only one officer is wearing a mask.
After the hood is put on him, he becomes agitated and he is pushed to the ground. It is during this time when his oxygen is cut off, causing his pulse to stop. An EMT revives him, but he ends up in the hospital, on life support. An autopsy report confirms he suffered asphyxiation during the arrest and was brain dead by the time he arrived at the hospital.
Mr. Prude was delusional, but he was not acting violently toward any of the officers. He can be heard saying, “Give me your gun. I’m going to kill yall” and praising god. With four officers, his hands cuffed and naked on the ground, the scene was contained until he started spitting. Even so, he wasn’t spitting at anyone.
To say that there is no other way but to use force to handle situations like this is factually incorrect. Elin and I both live in communities where police officers are trained to de-escalate situations involving individuals experiencing delusional thinking. We’ve witnessed officers handle a delusional person with calm and patience. In fact, in my town, there is an officer dedicated to helping with the nearly 90 percent police calls that are strictly mental health-related altercations that are resolved through de-escalation tactics.
Parents who have an adult child experiencing psychosis often need help to make sure their child is safe. In many cases, a psychotic person runs away because they are afraid. Their brain is churning strange and scary thoughts. Tessa often fears that her son, Riley, will encounter an officer who is untrained in de-escalation. Once, in an adjacent town, a friend of Riley’s was psychotic and killed by an officer. A slight young man, he was not carrying a weapon.
Joe Prude is quoted as saying, “I called the police for help but that was the wrong thing to do.”
For years, we’ve been telling parents that if they need to call the police for help with their loved one, request an officer who is Crisis Intervention Trained—A CIT officer. This designation can save a life. If your local law enforcement doesn’t have crisis trained officers, lobby your civic leaders to insist on it in the next budget review. It can save a life.
We’re not being political. We want to lobby for what we know can save lives. Mental illness doesn’t care about political affiliation. People experiencing psychosis can be helped and parents want them treated with dignity.
For a full accounting of Mr. Prude’s case, including audio:
Post by guest blogger, Alice Tanner.
We are honored to present a post by guest blogger, Alice Tanner, Addiction Recovery Consultant and Intervention Specialist, founder of Bay Area Intervention. Because more than 60% of individuals diagnosed with a serious mental illness are dual diagnosed with substance use, we know this is a critically important topic for discussion.
Ever heard the saying, “The family that plays together stays together?” Well, here’s a twist: “The family that recovers together discovers together!”
As a “family” disease, no longer do clinicians and mental health practitioners believe that “the problem” lies solely with the person who lives with addiction and, or substance use. Today, we know the disease of addiction has an equally strong and destructive counterpart, co-dependency, which is the role families and loved ones play. We now understand that those closest to the person diagnosed with substance use have also unwittingly become unwell in the downward progression of addiction. The maladapted coping tools developed to deal with the behaviors and attitudes of the addiction don’t work. An example of a weak coping tool is when a family member tries to control substance use by getting rid of the chemical, or by nagging, threatening, or pleading for the using to stop. These tactics may work for a while, but soon substance use resumes, often more hidden and escalated. Over time these ineffective and unhealthy coping skills become entrenched. When a family finally seeks professional help, usually through intervention, they begin to learn that addiction is not just Joe or Jane’s problem, that it is a family disease and that recovery must involve the whole family.
Recovery from addiction takes a lot of time and effort. It requires total transformation, changing from the inside out. This transformation is not intuitive, easy, or passive. We are quick to understand the need and desirability for a person who abuses substances to change, however, not so quick to understand or believe the need for the family to change. The source of the constant codependent pull is the belief that, “If John stops drinking and creating all this trouble, I won’t have to be so ______________________ (controlling, watchful, financially helpful, etc). The myth is that if the substance user gets well, the family and friends can get back to a “normal” life because the bad behavior and resulting consequences will stop. Nice idea, but it’s not the way it works. Truth is, without family recovery the codependent coping behaviors continue; they just manifest differently.
Families, blind to their own need for recovery, are content to let their addicted loved one do the recovery “thing” while they get back to “business as usual.”
Families are often challenged to understand that recovery is a family affair. Just as it was once incomprehensible that life could ever get as bad as it did for an addicted loved one, or that family life would be disrupted by the chaos of addiction, families frequently do not quite believe they need their own recovery. They must come to accept the necessity for systemic change in the same painful way they accepted a loved one’s addictions. Families, blind to their own need for recovery, are content to let their addicted loved one do the recovery “thing” while they get back to “business as usual.” At best, this path is a detriment to solid recovery and, at worst, a derailment to it.
How families engage their own recovery is not an easy or simple question to answer or navigate. In general, families successfully do so by addressing unhealthy attitudes and behaviors that were cultivated in order to cope with the addiction that was taking over their family. For example, families learn to stop cushioning the consequences of their loved ones drinking and drugging. Family members willing to learn about addiction and co-dependency can begin the recovery process. When loved ones implement coping tools and behaviors just as their addicted loved one does, it creates supportive relationships in a difficult, but necessary, transitional time. Over time, the whole family changes and grows. The family enters recovery together. And, they all come to understand that recovery is not a spectator sport for the addict . . . or the family!
What does the family that recovers together discover? Hey, go for it and let us know!
More information about Alice Tanner and Addiction Recovery services can be found at: http://www.bayarea-intervention.com.
As always, your comments are valued.
Good parenting means your heart breaks in a million ways. When your son or daughter strikes out at bat, is ditched in the lunchroom, ignored by a “best friend,” or stood up by a boyfriend or girlfriend, a parent feels it. These incidents make any parent want to put their child in a bubble, surround them with goodness and light. And then your son tells you how much he hates you, your daughter ignores everything you say, and they leave you in a hundred different ways. It hurts when that child you held for hours in the night and kissed from head to tiny, little toe acts as if you don’t know them. At some point you really do need to get to know them in a whole different way.
Part of good parenting, and also dreadfully painful, is letting a child fail and learn to pick themselves back up; giving them the space to discover that one can survive after a so-called-friend declares they have moved on. Flubbing a line in a school play is not the end of the world.
While witnessing their mistakes, all we can do is provide support as they navigate through the problems and solutions. We must show that while we cannot live their life and their problems, we love them unconditionally. Yeah. No problem right?
As if that is not challenging enough for a parent, it becomes a hundred times more complicated when a child begins to use substances. Or, when one’s child suffers through a crisis related to mental illness, particularly when the crisis appears self-inflicted as in the case when a person binge drinks, or goes off medication. Here’s the rub. A person who lives with mental illness needs a reliable advocate, who usually and most effectively is a parent. But parents of those living with mental illness usually agree that their child achieved recovery only after they took control of their own life. A parent’s guidance is critical, but sadly, it is only part of the solution. There is hope for a person with mental illness, but only if they own it.
Parents with adult children diagnosed with mental illness, and this includes addictions, must walk that razor thin line of allowing some failure and not allowing their son or daughter to hit rock bottom. David Sheff, acclaimed author of Clean, and father of a son in recovery from addictions, (http://davidsheff.com/clean) advises against the mythology of the past of allowing your loved one to hit rock bottom. There’s too much danger in that, including the very real risk of death, and further, every relapse becomes more profound than the last.
So parents, we walk the line.