Mental Illness Part Two 

In part one of this series on mental illness we took a look at two cases of people suffering from mental illness causing harm to themselves or others.Those cases raised the question, why does it seem we wait until it’s too late and the damage is already done before those with mental illness get the treatment they need? Dr. William Nelson is the head psychiatrist at Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusuta. I asked Dr. Nelson if somebody is indigent or homeless or unemployed who needs help with a mental illness but can’t get it, why are they the ones falling through the cracks? “Well the solution is money I suppose at the end of the day,” Dr. Nelson said.There are 100 beds at Riverview and people are waiting to get in.Dr. Nelson says the average stay for a patient sent here after committing a violent crime is around four years. After that, patients can qualify for an early release.Dr. Nelson says Riverview has what’s called an “ACT” (Assertive Community Treatment) team that supervises the patients after they’re released, visiting them on a daily basis and watching them take their medication. But he says medication alone isn’t always enough. “People have to learn to self manage. they have to learn more about there own illness,” Dr. Nelson says. “They have to learn what might be triggers for them. They may have to learn the early warning signs that they’re having a relapse. So that they can get into their doctor and have their medications adjusted.” Dr. Nelson says putting mentally ill people to work can actually help them. “It’s sort of an old fashioned idea but work therapy, putting mentally ill people to work, helps them organize their day. helps them take more responsibility for managing their own illness.”But he admits there’s no magic bullet. “There’s no easy solution you’re right. We know there are unmet needs in this state,” Dr. Nelson says.Dr. Nelson says through public education and advocacy and programs like act, perhaps some progress can be made on Maine’s mental illness problem.But that does little to ease the minds of the victims of the long list of crimes that seem to leave most of us shaking our heads. Victims like Sandra Goodrich, who’s son killed her husband and brutally attacked her.She’s still unsure about what she’ll do in about seven years when her son, Perley Goodrich Junior, is released from prison. “I won’t ever be able to have him as far as living in the same house,” Goodrich says. “I don’t even know if I’ll want to stay here when he gets out. But one day at a time.”