It has been about 16 years since we last spoke. In part, that is because I went away to college and we drifted; in part, it is because you took a life, then took your own, thanks to a severe mental illness. As I’m reading a call between Katie (RTC’s executive editor) and Dr. David Haase (one of our book clients), I begin to weep. Dr. Haase is talking about one of his patients, a 19-year-old who carries the genetic markers for schizophrenia, and the side effects of anti-psychotic medications, and as I “listen,” I see your face. I see the boy I once knew, and I wonder if the world will ever learn to open its eyes and demand that we do more for those who need it – those who suffer from mental illness.
Dr. Haase said, “What I want to say to people is don’t give up. Don’t stop where you are. Keep pushing the medical profession. Keep asking questions. Be your Dr. MaxWell. You are your best advocate. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t take low function for an answer. Do not accept less than who you are as a person. Do not accept less than who you could be as a person.”
If I do anything with my time on earth, I will always be my daughter’s biggest advocate, just like your mother tried to do for you, despite what happened. If I do anything with my time at RTC, I will be sure that we continue to promote awareness of mental health issues and help to decrease the stigma around them.
I hope that wherever your soul is, it is free from mental illness. If this letter ever gets out, I know people will judge me, but some part of me thinks that you are in heaven. Part of me has to believe that the boy I once knew – the boy I grew up with, went to senior prom with – is there with his dad and that the brain illness that caused such a traumatic course of events is gone forever. I hope you are getting the chance to be the person you wanted to be.
Despite the fact that the world did not do you justice, I hope that we all open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to make a positive change in this world. Your story is one of many, but it’s the story that makes me want to be an agent of change.
With deepest sincerity,
To read the tragedy of Mike's story, click here.