On the news again, another attempted murder-suicide, but this time an elected official was involved. Too often these days, we read or hear of the mentally ill killing, or trying to kill, innocent people. Whenever I learn of something like this I stop and say a silent prayer of thanks. Thanks that this time it didn’t involve my son. You see, in 2002 he was arrested for breaking and entering when he was off his medication for the serious mental illness from which he suffers. Less than 36 hours earlier his dad and I had been at the emergency room with him, trying to get him admitted. This was not a problem of no available beds, it was a disbelieving doctor who kept him from treatment.

Most who know me also know that my younger son, Kevin, has Bipolar Disorder. He was diagnosed right after college, but didn’t accept it for seven more years. He has now been on his meds for six years straight. Until then he didn’t think he really needed to be on them because he didn’t feel any different on them. On the other hand, I always knew when he had stopped taking them. It slowly became obvious to me. It’s not unusual for the mentally ill not to be able to discern that they need medication.

I’ve spent hours in waiting rooms of psychiatric wards, driving across the county to visit him, and making frantic phone calls seeking help for my son. All that was worth it, though, because he is now again a contributing member of society. In fact he works for Fairfax County as a Peer Recovery Specialist in the Jail Prevention Program. He loves his work, and his co-workers love him. Because of his experience he is able to reach clients that trained professionals cannot.

Last week he and his dad were on WUSA (channel 9) news, discussing the problems with the mental health system in VA. He is very articulate on the subject. Today he shared his latest music on Facebook. It’s a Hip-Hop piece, his preferred venue. It is titled, “This is My Brave,” and is part of a larger project of the same name that has as its goal bringing awareness to mental illness.

I remember when he was first diagnosed a couple at Floris reached out to me in support, and it really helped me as I learned to navigate our way in the mental health system. Now, nothing pleases me more than to see him giving back as he reaches out in so many ways, bringing awareness to the often silent battle with mental illness. There is no doubt in my mind that God is using him as an instrument to spread the word.

-Submitted by Barbara Hunter

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