Mother of mentally ill son reacts to recent tragedies

Matt Grant

Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Mother of mentally ill son reacts to recent tragedies

CREATED Dec. 25, 2012

CAPE CORAL, Fla. - The mother of a mentally ill son is calling the state of mental health care a "national disgrace" that's "failed people with mental illness."

Authorities believe the man who set a trap and killed two New York firefighters had mental health issues. It's something we've heard about the Newtown shooter, the Aurora shooter and the list goes on.

"It's a national disgrace," said Daleen O'Dell, "that we're not taking care of our mentally ill."

As the mother of a son with schizophrenia, she cringes when she sees the faces of other people's sons who became a danger to more than just themselves.

"This is a mental health issue," said O'Dell. "This is a lack of treatment. This is getting people help when they needed it, not waiting until it's too late."

She knows the pain of being a parent who's powerless to help.

"The hardest thing I've ever went through in my life," she said, "is dealing with a son who needed treatment and I couldn't get it for him."

O'Dell believes many of the shooters in these national tragedies were suffering from delusions, something her son suffered from when he went un-medicated.

"You start to believe things that aren't true," said O'Dell. "This is what can cause danger to yourself and others."

According to the Keiser Family Foundation, Florida ranks 48th in the nation in mental health spending. O'Dell worries the state will cut back more.

"There's not enough money to provide adequate services," she said. "They try their best here in Lee County. But there's only so much they can do."

She says preventing tragedies like the ones we've seen starts long before a person ever gets his hands on a gun. But she adds that can't happen without early diagnosis and treatment from a system that's been cutting back for years.

"The system's definitely failed people with mental illness," she said.

O'Dell's son has never been violent to others. She points to statistics that show mentally ill people are more likely to be victims than perpetrators.

If someone in your family needs help you can call the Lee County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at (239) 337-9024.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com

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