By Carolyn Hetherwick Goza
As difficult as it was to read my “story” (“An advocate for parents whose children struggle with mental illness,” Aug. 24 when I wanted the focus on my “kiddos” and their parents, there are not words to express my deepest thanks to Diana Hefley and The Herald for bringing out the serious stigma and lack of services in our county, state and nation, for the children/youth/adolescents living with mental illness.
Yet, from all the supporting praises I have received, I realized that this front page “splash” may be just what our community and state needs to understand the tragic condition of our mental health system by seemingly putting our next generation at the bottom of all other priorities.
Indeed, I realize we also have serious issues with our veterans, our adult aged and physicality challenged, and our homeless, and some resources are available, but in just five days since the article was published, I’ve had one grandparent survive a physical rage by their adopted 16-year-old grandson punching holes in every wall and door in the house until a neighbor called 911 and, yep, nothing done to help de-escalate the youth’s situation, no counseling on anger management in any foreseeable future, and no counseling for the grandparents of how to handle these frightening episodes without walking on eggshells waiting for the next shoe to drop.
Another 14-year-old developmentally delayed child has a behavior contract where mom must have 24/7 “line of sight” of her at all times, holding mom’s thumb all night with her security blanket to sleep. Great life for a mom who is 68 and has health issues. And a Children’s Administration counselor in the team meeting at Compass asked me, “Well, are you going to care for her 24/7?” Please pray someone hears our pleas before she is seriously hurt or mom’s weakening health declines.
Very importantly though, I need to make everyone aware if it were not for the blessing of my husband helping not only with total support of me and this unending pain in our community, but also being on the Board of Directors of the Snohomish County National Alliance of Mental Illness, co-teaching and co-facilitating all our programs for these hurting parents and youth, and also physically hauling all supplies in and out of the church for every meeting, we would not be able to offer these classes and parent support groups. I know my late husband and precious grandson are so pleased that this is where their devastating deaths have led me and that now Michael is caring for me and helping fight this fight.
Lastly, one of my parents texted me in church that morning regarding the irony of the “boarding” problem of not enough beds for adults being included in the same edition of the paper.
You see, “my” youth/adolescents are not “boarded.” No, they are sent back home from the ER, often continuing to attack the parent all the way home, several youths even trying to jump out of the car going at freeway speeds. The parents are left to cope/exist at home with seemingly few resources until the next crisis. I cry as I hear these stories almost every day, realizing that if the children, youth, adolescents received help while they were young as mine did in other states, just maybe we would not have the mass tragedies or parents having to bury their children and the dreams they had for them after they too have committed suicide.
As our NAMI basics book explains, it is a catastrophic loss with which the parents must learn to accept. Please legislators, all this can change! All this must change! It hurts oh, too much!
Carolyn Hetherwick Goza, an Everett resident and retired special education teacher, counsels parents and grandparents of children dealing with mental illness. She also is a board member on advisory boards addressing mental illness.