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Remembering Theo: Oklahoma City mother raises awareness in memory of son

Janet Anderson, of Oklahoma City, will walk Saturday in the Oklahoma branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness annual walk at Stars and Stripes Park at 3701 S Lake Hefner. She formed a team in memory of her son, Theo, who struggled with mental illness before his death.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: May 17, 2013 at 6:26 pm •  Published: May 18, 2013
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It was the middle of the night, and no help could be found in Oklahoma.

Every mental health facility that Janet Anderson called was full.

So, in hopes of finding help for Anderson's teenage son, Theo, the family packed up the car and headed from Oklahoma City to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

“He was so scared and upset that he said, ‘Mom, we just need to go,'” Anderson said. “So we picked up in the middle of the night and left for the clinic and didn't have an appointment or anything.”

Anderson is raising money in remembrance of her son, Theo, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Anderson will walk in the National Alliance on Mental Illness Oklahoma's annual walk Saturday at Stars and Stripes Park at 3701 S Lake Hefner.

Anderson's team, named In Memory of Theo Anderson, has raised more than $4,000. Her son died in November 2009 from a rare heart defect. He was 18.

When Anderson first found her son barely alive, she thought he had tried to commit suicide. They didn't know he had a heart defect until after an autopsy was performed.

Anderson was always in awe of how kind and accepting Theo was.

He was an overall happy child who played football and baseball, she said. But at 15 years old, things changed.

He began to act differently. At first, Anderson thought it was just normal teenager behavior. But one night, Theo woke her up and was speaking incoherently.

He was frightened, and Anderson knew something was wrong. Theo was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive illness.

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. It often develops in a person's late teens or early adult years. At least half of all cases start before age 25.

Theo never reached recovery from his illness. The medication never worked. Each time he got on a new medicine, Anderson hoped it would help her son, and there would be a week or so where Theo would think it was helping.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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At a glance

To join the NAMI walk

The Oklahoma branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness will host its annual walk Saturday at Stars and Stripes Park at 3701 S Lake Hefner. Check-in is at 8 a.m. The walk begins at 9:15 a.m.

About mental illness

Mental illnesses are brain disorders that often affect people in the prime of life. Without treatment, the consequences can be dire — unemployment, homelessness, substance abuse, incarceration and suicide.

About NAMI Oklahoma

NAMI Oklahoma provides free education, support and advocacy in hopes of raising awareness that recovery from a mental health illness is possible.

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