On January 26th of this year, 60 Minutes correspondent, Scott Pelley, told the story of Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds and other parents who the American Health system failed when it came to their children who were in crisis. The story focuses on the small portion of the mentally ill that are violent, and a danger to themselves or others. But, Pelley stresses that the vast majority of people who suffer from mental illness are not violent.
“I really don’t want Gus to be defined by his illness,” Deeds repeatedly says throughout the interview. “I don’t want Gus to be defined by what happened on (November) 19th, Gus was a great kid…It’s cleared the system failed Gus, and killed Gus.” He goes on to say that Gus could have been saved, if he was hospitalized that night instead of being sent home because they couldn’t find him a bed in a psychiatric ward.
In 2011, after being diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder and dropping out of school, he got back on medication and eventually returned to school. All seemed fine, until the Fall of 2014 when his father noticed some weird posts on Gus’ Facebook about his teachers. When Deeds reached out for help for his son, it’s then that he realized it’s harder to find someone than in any other medical field.
Teenagers in crisis today only have one place to go: the Emergency room. In some Emergency rooms, a teenager in crisis would have to wait days or even weeks until a bed in a psychiatric ward is open. Insurance companies only pay for the stay for as long as the patient is in ‘immanent risk’ of harming themselves or others, even though many patients need treatments for months or years.
Later, Pelley sits down with a Support Group set up by mother’s of children with mental health issues and their struggles with Insurance companies paying for their care. They said that they lack the sympathy that parents of children with cancer or other diseases, which is a major reason they formed the group for each other.
“The system failed my son tonight,” Deeds said on the night before Gus attacked him and later killed himself. The powerful story that Deeds tells of the morning when his son attacked him is heart wrenching, and holds a mirror up to the failure that is the American health system for those with mental illness.