Cries for help from readers

I get dozens of emails each week from readers who have read CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness. Most are from writers who are frustrated and desperate for help. Here are several examples.

The First Letter
The hardest thing for me is to convince other family members that our loved has little insight. It’s not that he’s stubborn, lazy, or means to be argumentative, or to even do risk taking behaviors. But, they don’t get it and don’t wish to read literature or research about the brain and how brain disorders affect the function of the brain – mood and thought processes. Nor, do they want to deal with him, because they don’t know how or don’t want to know how. They’ve their own lives and stresses as well. Yet, I ask, would we walk away and further stigmatize a loved one with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer (including brain cancer), heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and any number of illnesses including addictions that affect the brain? Would we expect a loved one to break his or her leg without helping them to get proper medical treatment? I’ve not heard from our loved one in two weeks. I’ve sent texts, private messages on Facebook, and called leaving messages, to no avail. The only thing that keeps me even keeled is my involvement with NAMI, and letting our loved one know that I’ve not abandoned him in any way.
 Another writer:
Like you, my son has had his issues of mental health and with the law. For the past several months he has been living on the street, refusing to see anyone about his need for services and finally getting numerous charges. Tonight, I had him arrested. There was a warrant out for him skipping a court date and he was hauled out of our house in handcuffs. This comes after he finally agreed to at least obtain the services of a community based mental health case worker, but that service is two weeks from taking shape….I am hoping he is not bonded out of jail. He just may come back to seek revenge.
The system sucks. It does little for those needing services, because they are the ones that can throw down the trump card and refuse services. Frankly, I am not sure I can continue to live under these circumstances.
And another:
I am a 37 year old who was officially diagnosed as mentally ill at age 13 after my first suicide attempt. I had long periods of depression and had my first manic episode at age 16. I was paranoid, hearing voices, unable to sleep or read. All I knew was that I was going crazy, but there were no words for it then or any real help. I was kicked out of high school after missing 15 days of school while I was too manic or depressed to attend classes. No treatment or help from the school system were offered (despite being a straight A honors student with advanced placement classes and not a single discipline issue) and I was told by my single parent to “get a job.” I was quickly fired for crying all day at work. Life went on, the depression came and went and I eventually got my GED (which I aced with absolute no preparation) and started community college at age 19. I went in and out of depression, severe anxiety, mania (non-euphoric, but sometimes psychotic) and developed anorexia nervosa to boot but was untreated. I married young, and despite severe episodes was able to have two children. I was mostly symptom free until my second child was two and then I went manic again. I tried to get help and was told to meditate and take yoga to calm down. It got worse, the eating disorder relapsed and no one noticed I was sick until I weighed 78 lbs. I was finally diagnosed in my 30s after the e/d was in remission and I met a psychiatrist who did a 100 min evaluation and took his time diagnosing me. My diagnosis varied from bipolar I or II to schizoaffective disorder. I had the typical issues with meds. Mood stabilizers did not work, I hated antipsychotics. I have been in inpatient hospital 3 times, day treatment 3 times and medical hospital 5 times for complications of the eating disorder when it relapses. Despite at one time being pre-med and having the passion and grades to meet this dream, mental illness ruined my life. I was just yet another person who slipped through the cracks. I am told if I was properly diagnosed 20 years ago my life might have been so much different. What good does that do me now? Reading your book was painful. I have been psychotic and run in the snow, barefoot in pajamas with my husband hot in pursuit as I raced to a bridge to fly, as my voices told me I could. I have had my husband pin me down and force antipsychotic medication down my throat. My husband has also at times been helpless to get me hospitalized against my will even as I tried to throw myself off bridges or in front of cars or trains or starve myself to death when the voices told me food was poison. I went 10 days with not even fluids when the voices told me water was poison and the hospital could only medically stabilize me, not put me in a psych ward. In my state we now have Kevin’s law, and my doctor and husband have thought about trying to force medication on me as my doctor (Bellevue trained) believes “forced medication saves lives.” Luckily over the years I have developed a trusting relationship with my doctor and I try to listen to him about meds when he sees me going over the edge. A good psychiatrist has been a god send. He spends 30 minutes doing med checks, makes frequent phone contact w/ my husband and has brought me nutritional supplements for him and me to drink together when I have been afraid of fluids. This week he said he’d beg me to go back on Haldol (atypical antispychotics have not worked) and because I trust him, I did. I am one of the lucky ones, really. My life was destroyed. My dreams were ruined. I am still a student (a junior after all these years, with a 4.0 GPA) but I have to take it very slow to not get overwhelmed. Reading your book I realized how blessed I am to not have ended up in a “bad” hospital, or jail. I’ve thankfully never been violent or committed a crime. But I realize, that’s just good luck, and perhaps a good husband who has kept such a watchful eye so as to keep me safe, and a perhaps milder illness that has not taken me too to the extremes others have been taken. Your book made me feel blessed and lucky, but so very, very sad. I wish this book was required reading in high schools or colleges, and for anyone seeking a psychological, social work or medical (or law!) degree. I have always been against forced medication until my psychiatrist told me how much he supports it and disgusted I asked how he could feel that way and he said, “Because it saves lives!” What more is there to say? He was right. And he, along with my poor, exhausted husband, have saved my life many times over.
Here’s one more:

I have come to the realization that this is my path. I have heard the call and I am answering. I am an aged out foster kid, who made it despite the odds. For me, experiencing the frustrations of raising two boys with mental illness, while trying to maintain my own mental health well being has been a true test endurance. I was diagnosed with severe mental illness before the age of 12. I have endured the pain of walking through darkness in my own story both past and now. 

In writing my story, my purpose has been to reach out to as many people as possible to share the message of hope. Because even through the darkness, it is important to me to show through my own experience that hope is real, healing is possible, rescue is possible and that recovery is possible. I have seen this in my own life….. and I am so very grateful that I am alive today; to tell my story, advocate for other people and to fight for my children who also suffer will mood disorders. I find that in sharing my experience is not only a way to increase awareness but also provides for me, a conduit to continue my own healing process. 

As well as having required educational backgrounds, effective advocates must have had a number of years of such experience. In terms of experience and education, I very seriously in joking way will tell people that I have a PhD, with honors, in life experience, at the college of hard knocks. As cliché as it sounds, the brutal truth is I did survive the harsh realities of growing up as a “youth in custody”, traversed through my teenage years submerged in the life and times of a gutter punk. I am a living testament that evidence based and community based services can work. It is through my own trials and tribulations; I have found the strength to diligently advocate for my children with in the capacity all systems of care.

The most important aspects of advocating for me are the values and beliefs that are based on respecting individuals and their rights. My philosophy and approach towards people and youth, carries a genuine system of beliefs that the voice of all people, old and young, all economic statuses and walks of life, should not only be heard but also considered. I believe individuals should have the right to be involved and encouraged to participate in the decisions being made about them…I believe there is power in each and every one of us, to make a positive difference in each other’s lives. Even if we make the smallest contribution to making a positive impact, this adds up to making a “BIG” in the life of another.

And here is a final note:

My son is so sick, his mind is so confused, that he believes everyone is trying to hurt him. I have had him involuntarily committed and because he is dangerous, he is sent to our state hospital — and released ten days later, just as sick as he was when he went in. Why is this happening? I had a doctor tell me that it would take at least a year of hospitalization for my son to become stable. Yet, that doctor signed his discharge papers, knowing that my son wasn’t any better.

How can we continue torturing our loved ones by forcing them to remain psychotic and roam our streets all under the politically correct guise of civil rights?

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. A heavy way to start my week.  I thank God every day that my daughter is in recovery, and fear every phone call that comes at an odd time…as recovery might be over.

  2. A heavy way to start my week.  I thank God every day that my daughter is in recovery, and fear every phone call that comes at an odd time…as recovery might be over.

  3. difficult to read and also uplifting in a strange way.  For a few minutes, the aloneness was pushed aside.  I keep reaching out to my son; being available and loving to him but the last six years have been so incredibly hard.  now, he is on the streets again, not able to comprehend that anything is wrong.  Still he finds his way to my door, knowing he will find love and acceptance from me as well as a hot meal and a place to rest.  I take comfort in that.  Some part of him knows that he has me in his corner.  Of course, anytime I bring up the reality of being diagnosed with schizophrenia, of having other ways of living his life–I risk being the enemy.  still I risk it when an opening arises.  As long as he keeps showing up, there is hope.