CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WRIC) — It has been thirteen years since Justin Myers took his own life, and his mother Pat Myers still remembers how helpless she felt as she watched him struggle.
“You just don’t know how to even start the process of helping,” she says.
When Justin started college, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an illness that caused him to spiral out of control.
“To have to call 911, to have to go to the magistrate, to get a temporary detention order to have your loved one hospitalized for evaluation is one of the toughest things I as a parent had to do and any of the people who attend our support groups have to do,” Pat explains.
She co-founded the program Family Advocacy Creating Education and Services (FACES) to offer support to other people who have a loved one with a mental illness and give them help wading through the system.
“Often the person with the illness is too sick to understand he or she needs medical care,” says Kathy Harkey, Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Central Virginia.
Harkey adds families cannot legally intervene unless individuals are a harm to themselves or others. By then, it is often too late.
“We need to change our attitude instead of just looking at this as an expenditure,” says Delegate Peter Farrell, a Republican representing Virginia’s 56th District. “We really need to look at spending more money as an investment.”
Del. Farrell is a member of the Joint Subcommittee on Mental Health led by Democratic Senator Creigh Deeds, whose son’s 2013 suicide prompted lawmakers to closely look at the system.
Farrell says it all comes down to resources. “We need more people helping people in our system on the front end with preventative care.”
Pat realizes the need for more preventative care every day when she thinks of Justin and how hard it was to get him an appointment with a psychiatrist when he needed it the most.
Justin was only 20 when he died, so now she is determined to use FACES to create a promising future for others.
“For his legacy to not be what happened to him but what has come out of it,” she says.
Tonight on 8News at 11, 8News Anchor Amy Lacey has a more in-depth look at some barriers patients and their families face and how Virginia legislators and local nonprofits are working to offer resources.