No one was supposed to help Liz that night at the crisis center.
But a doctor pulled her aside and told her the next steps she needed to take.
Schedule your son a doctor's appointment. He'll need a psychiatrist. And try to keep him on his medicine.
At the time, it felt like the doctor was saying, “I'm not supposed to tell you he's psychotic or that he needs a prescription or that he should see a doctor ... and I'm not going to keep him either.”
Liz quickly learned that she had no legal rights to know anything about her adult son's medical records. No one was supposed to tell her what his treatment plan was.
Rather, after her son had spent about two hours at the crisis center, he and Liz were sent home. He was prescribed two weeks of pills.
That night was her son's first of five visits to the crisis center. It didn't matter that he was paranoid and didn't know who he was. For him to be held against his will, he had to be a danger to himself or others or unable to meet his own basic needs.
Liz started contacting psychiatrists' offices the next day. It'll be at least six weeks before we can see you, each administrative assistant told her. What was she supposed to do for the four weeks he didn't have any medicine?
Before that night, Liz had never considered her son might have a mental illness. Growing up, he was a happy child who had a lot of friends and loved to play soccer.
“With his above-average IQ, I thought he would be able to pursue any college degree or career he wanted — now he works minimum wage,” she said. “With his good looks and loving nature, I thought he would have friends and girlfriends, but he is isolated. I thought my son would have the same opportunities as everyone else.”
Liz's son has since been diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder, a condition in which a person experiences a combination of schizophrenia symptoms — such as hallucinations or delusions — and of mood disorder symptoms, such as mania or depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.
“And now here we are, three years later,” she said. “Now we have the history of noncompliance with treatment.
“There have been periods of time when he was compliant, but mostly, he doesn't want to go and see a therapist. He doesn't want to take his medication.”
Three years later, Liz has replaced her questions with empathy, loving her son while challenging the system.