A Mental Illness Unhappy Ending, Difficult Questions

By Evelyn Donnell … “The doctors just don’t know what’s the matter with me,” he said, “and it’s a cop-out by saying it’s mental trouble. There’s nothing the matter with my head.”

Our story does not have a happy ending, but in the telling maybe someone will find some help or consolation.

Mental Instability, Yet High Achiever

Robert, our son, accomplished so much in spite of the demons in his head. The signs of instability didn’t appear until he reached high school age. Unfortunately, as his parents, we only slowly accepted the idea that he really did have serious problems.

A high achiever, Robert gained acceptance into a fine university. We never knew what to expect from him when he returned home on a break. After college, he made several moves away from home; we saw little of him. While he was living in the same town with his brother, we learned of the spells of bizarre behavior — hallucinations, time spent in the psychiatric ward.

Fear Of Mental Illness Stigma

Able to rely only on phone conversations, we tried the best we knew how to coax him to accept treatment. He refused to acknowledge his problems, adamantly rejecting medical help as he feared the stigma attached to mental illness.

We had learned so much from the twelve-week “Family-to-Family” course provided by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But even though we understood that the episodes would probably get worse with time, nothing prepared us for the call from a New York detective. A body had been found in the East River, and it was suspected to be Robert’s. The worst had happened.

Could there have been a way to persuade him to accept help? Where is the solution? Like so many others who have a similar story, we still have so many questions. And we may never get any answers.