Thursday, July 31, 2008

None of us are immune from the effects of Mental Illness

None of us are immune from being affected by mental illness.

Posted from the blog : Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center

An Update on My Friend

Earlier this month, I told you all about my friend "Jim" from high school who had shown up at the CJC looking for me after a six-year absence. If you will recall, Jim had some serious mental issues that had arisen from years of drug use, and had now manifested in a deep sense of paranoia. The target of Jim's paranoia was his father.

I had called Jim's dad after Jim left the CJC and just let him know what was going on. For all I knew, Jim's dad could have been looking for him. Jim's dad was keenly aware of all of Jim's problem, but like me, he had no idea what to do about it. He was frustrated and saddened, and had no idea why his son had so much hatred for him. He also had no clue as to what to do to help his son.

I talked to him for awhile about civil commitments and mental health warrants, which I know virtually nothing about. I told him to talk to a family lawyer, or even a psychiatrist about what could legally be done about Jim.

Jim's dad called me last week and told me that Jim had shown up at his home, demanding that he (Jim's dad) accompany him to the police department to take a polygraph examination about the plot against Jim's life. Jim's dad obliged him, and they went to the police station.

Once they explained the story to the police, Jim was taken away to a psychiatric hospital for a 72 hour observation. For some reason, the hospital released him in about 12 hours.

Yesterday, I got another call from Jim's father.

Jim's father had been closing up his business for the evening and was the only person there, when Jim showed up at the lot.

"Either you're going to die tonight, or I am," Jim told him. Jim's dad tried to walk away, but Jim attacked him and assaulted him. He was able to call the police and Jim, yet again was arrested.

This time, there's a Class A Misdemeanor of Assault-Family Violence charge against Jim.

Jim's father has no desire to see his son punished for attacking him, but he doesn't know how to protect himself or help his son anymore. Sadly, it's getting thrown to the criminal courts to deal with, and nobody has ever really given the criminal system a Gold Star for dealing with the mentally ill.

But at this point, I don't know that any of us have any other options in mind. Hopefully, Jim will get sent away for an evaluation, and maybe somebody will force him to get some help. This time he doesn't have the option of walking away from the psychiatrist like he has apparently done in the past.

We shall see. For now, I'm just glad that nobody was seriously injured.

That's a blessing in and of itself, because inside of Jim's car, the police found a hammer that he had purchased a few minutes before arriving at his father's business. Thankfully, he left it in the car.

I'll keep you posted as things develop.

1 comment:

Hastonorwood said...

For what it's worth, the son was let out because someone determined he was not a danger to himself or others. An emergency detention order could be sought through the county attorney's office based upon the threat of harm, though some county attorney's offices might not think that's a clear enough threat. Even then, as soon as the psychiatric hospital says he's not a danger to himself or others, he'll be released again.

The attorney representing the son should interview the son regarding his ability to assist him in his defense and to rationally understand the proceedings against him. TCCP 46B sets out six factors for a psychiatrist to consider in deciding whether someone is "competent to stand trial." If the attorney believes he's not, usually because the client is off his meds, then he files a motion for the exam and prays the appointed psychiatrist agrees. A commitment to a forensic unit in Texas is initially up to 120 days and can be extended.

As to what to do, first and foremost, contact the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, NAMI, there's a local chapter in Houston. There are regular meetings of relatives whose loved ones are suffering from debilitating mental illnesses. This can be invaluable to handling these crises.

My prayers are with you.