I wanted to bring to light a topic that affects me and my family; the topic of mental health. Now as I stated before in my intro I have a child who has ADHD. This is not something that is bad parenting or I need to teach my kid to sit down. This is a real issue and it affects our whole family.
There are others with more severe mental health issues but since I don’t live with someone who has anything more severe I can only speak on my experience. My son has to take medication. It was a decision I struggled with for a long time and something I still wonder about to this day. I worried about the stigma that follows someone who is on mind altering medication as well as what it would do to him. I didn’t want to lose my mind to some zombie shell of a child I used to know. I also didn’t want him to become dependent on medication to help him get thru every day life. But luckily my son is young enough that I get to make the well informed decisions for him and he isn’t forced to decide on things himself just yet. And fortunately my son only has ADHD… his brain is just too fast for him to handle. With his medicine and therapy he is working on getting everything under control. Some people aren’t as lucky as I am. One of those people is Senator Creigh Deeds.
Many think that those in Congress have the best health care and I am sure that is correct seeing as we pay for it, but even the best health care couldn’t help save the Senator’s son. Gus as he was called by family and friends was a 24yr old college student who had taken some time off school when he succumbed to his mental illness. His father had tried to get him help but due to faults in the health care system itself and with mental health laws, Gus could not defeat his battle over bi-polar disorder.
Shortly after Creigh Deeds made an unsuccessful run for Governor of Virginia in 2010 his son Austin “Gus” Deeds took a turn for the worst. According to friends and family he no longer seemed like himself and would go from one extreme to the other. He submerged himself to the extreme into studying religion when he wasn’t at school and at some point he told one of his friends that God had spoken to him and told him to go to the Pacific. So he did. He drove cross country and didn’t tell his parents who divorced after his father lost the gubernatorial race where he was going or when he would return. Just like that at the drop of a dime. His parents tried their best to get him help but being that he was over the age of 18 there is only so much you can do. As time moved on, Gus started to get somewhat back to normal. Everyone would say he never went back to the old Gus but they could see him emerge on occasion. He went back to his summer counseling job in 2012 at a nature camp and it was there that he really opened up and seemed to be ok. In the summer of 2013 he went back to the nature camp and even received an award for his hard work over the summer. Things seem to have been on the mend with Gus slowly over those couple years. But in the fall of 2013 Gus decided to take a semester off of school.
In November of 2013 Creigh had noticed a decline in his son and on November 18 he finally tried to do something about it. He took his son to the hospital to have him admitted into the mental health ward to try and get some help. He had noticed his son writing and drawing about guns and became worried. When he got to the hospital he was told that they could only hold his son for 6hrs since he was an adult. If in at the time they found him to be a threat to himself or others they would try to find a bed for him. As the end of the six hour window approached it was clear that the Senator would have to take his son home. On the drive home it was easy to see that Gus was upset. According to his father he was trying to diffuse the situation and calm his son down before taking him home. He tried more than once to get him to a public place so that he could hopefully calm him down. They pulled into a gas station and as a kind gesture the father asked his son if he would like a soda or candy bar. Gus wanted a coke and snickers. The Senator filled up the gas tank and brought his son the treats he requested. A little further down the road he told his son he was hungry and asked if he wanted to stop somewhere and grab a bite to eat. Gus refused dinner but did tell his dad that he could stop and get something if he wanted to. It was obvious there was no way to calm Gus down. He wasn’t going to go into a public place with his father. Creigh grabbed himself a sandwich and they went home. While they were sitting at the table together Creigh tried again to reach out to his son who was sitting at the table writing furiously into his journal. Gus wasn’t really participating in the conversation. The Senator kissed his son and told him he loved him and went to bed.
On the morning of November 19, 2013 Senator Creigh was getting the feed bags ready for one of the horses when his son came up to him. He asked his son how he had slept but looking back on things now the Senator doesn’t think his son slept at all. It was then that he felt two blows to the back. He was being stabbed by his own son. As his son continued to stab him puncturing a lung, stabbing him in the face, and stabbing close to his spine, the father told his son he didn’t have to do this and that he loved him and not to make things worse than they already were. At some point Gus stopped stabbing his father. To this day the reason is unknown. The Senator wants to believe that it was him telling his son he loved him. He says it could have also been the extreme amount of blood loss. He may have believed his father would die or maybe that his father was dead. Whatever the reason, Gus then went to the front of the house and used the only weapon the Senator had not taken apart (he left a shotgun in tact because there was no ammo for it in the house. He didn’t feel like it would be an issue. To this day no one knows where that one bullet came from) and shot himself in the head. The Senator dragged himself to the front of the house and called upon a family member who lived across the street for help. When the ambulance arrived they tried to save Gus’ life but he was pronounced dead at the scene and the Senator was rushed to the hospital.
The day the Senator took his son to the hospital to get him some help he was told that although they deemed him in need of psychiatric care there were no beds available for him. He was sent home after the 6hr hold and they would let him know when a bed was available. Creigh never believed that his son would turn violent however, due to a faulty reporting system it turns out that there were actually beds available the day that Gus was taken to be admitted. What pushed Gus over the edge will never be known. He never left a note telling anyone anything. He, like many others fallen victim to faulty healthcare. Even thought, his father is a Congressman, he still could not get the care that he needed.
I know we all joke about mental illness and those who suffer from it think that they are faulty. We need to stop casting a black shadow over those who are affected by ailments of any kind. Mental illness can kill someone as easy as or faster than cancer can; even though this is through no fault of their own. This is not a fault of their parents. As a matter of fact it is not a fault at all. Those why tend to suffer from any kind of mental illness tend to test high on the IQ charts, they tend to be very talented, or they can adapt very quickly. They just need a little help no different than you need help if you get a headache or if you fall and break your leg. Don’t shun those who have a mental illness. Instead embrace them. Learn from them. Try to help them. Our country turns its back on those who have a mental disorder and make them second priority. If I suffer from a mental illness and go to the hospital they will take those with physical ailments before they will take me. That isn’t fair. The only way this will ever change is if we change it. That is what the Senator is trying to do now. He is trying to raise awareness for mental health reform. He refuses to let his son’s death be in vain. It is a shame that it takes a tragedy before people will open up their eyes. Yes I know that everyday people die all the time from mental illness and it shouldn’t have to take the son of a Senator to make a difference, but at least a difference is being made.
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