Mother’s armchair diagnosis feed stigmas of mental illness

My town is synonymous with the golden glow of the Sunshere, erected for the 1982 World’s Fair, and home of the Tennessee Vols college football team. We live in a beautiful valley surrounded by The Great Smoky Mountains.

Like most mid-sized cities, we certainly aren’t immune to crime but we are well protected by The Knoxville Police Department’s force of over 400 dedicated officers. If you read my blog with any regularity, you know I’m a police officer’s wife, so it really burns me up when the police are blamed for the criminal actions of their citizens.

One of our local news stations recently  published an article on its website  in which a mother blames the police and lack of mental health resources for her son’s recent arrest.

The man, Dale Jefferies Jr., was arrested for threatening to kill everyone in Knoxville with a bomb on Thanksgiving Day.

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I scrolled through his Facebook page the day before his arrest. It’s apparent the man suffers from a mental illness. That point isn’t being debated by anyone. He is a veteran who obviously needs to utilize mental health resources.

His repeated cries for help are loud. 

His mother, however, lays blame at the feet of everyone but herself and Jefferies for his lack of treatment. She doesn’t want to see the alleged fault that lies with herself and her son for things progressing this far.

For me, the real rub lies in the armchair diagnosis of her son. I know mental health services can be scare but to not even be able to obtain a real diagnosis is a stretch.

She is quoted as saying, “He’s PTSD, traumatic brain injury and he also could possibly be bipolar”.

Could possible be bipolar”? Really? What’s your basis for this accusation, lady? I would be willing to bet she turned to online diagnostics for this one.

Dr. Google strikes again.

Not only is it irresponsible for her to have said this, it’s also a real blow in the public eye to those of us who genuinely have Bipolar Disorder. The news station ultimately fed the stigma by publishing such an accusation. And so the stigma of those who have Bipolar Disorder being violent or potentially violent grows larger.

The truth is the vast majority of us pose others no harm at all. We often implode rather than explode.

“He just wants to escape and that’s part of his escape, the blowing up. If he could just get rid of and it’s not Knoxville, it’s not the bomb. If he could just get rid of the illness, get rid of the problems, he’ll be okay,” added Charlotte Jeffries.

Well Ms. Jefferies, if this is your criteria for your son’s healing, I’m sorry to say he is doomed. Mental illness is not something people can just “get rid of”. If he does indeed suffer from Bipolar Disorder, it is a lifelong illness and no such cure exists. Our illness doesn’t exist because of “problems” rather it exists due to the chemical and physical wirings in our brains.

From me to Ms. Jefferies: I suggest a deeper understanding of mental illness and it’s true underlying causes before you begin to dole out advice for a cure. It is vital to your son’s recovery that YOU understand what his illness truly is before you can even begin to cast blame in the direction of mental health providers and police.

And to the news station: Please think twice before publishing material that harms such a vast amount of the public. As a former journalist, I know better than most the responsibility that is placed on your shoulders to get it right. Familiarization with mental health stigmas doesn’t take long to understand. Please put in the work to be part of the solution in ending stigmas rather than being part of the problem.

Quotes were taken from the article “Knoxville Mom Says System Failed Her Son Before Facebook Threat Arrest”

 

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