I (Lindsey) spent almost a year in 2008 working with a consultant to create a business plan intent on navigating the healthcare system - due to experience working in different acute care hospitals early in my career - and to the very bumpy road I had experienced helping a "family member" access and use mental health services. I had borrowed against the equity of my home (to rearrange funds) and pay the mental health bills. This was before mental health parity (mental health fee payment by insurance).
When the financial problems of 2008 hit, I put the company on hold and returned to health IT consulting. At the same time, I silently vowed to one day launch the company I had envisioned.
The decade following the financial crisis, I spent working in health information technology (health IT) and "nutrition informatics".
In 2014, a very personal situation involving mental health services for that same "family member"-- upended my world. It is a story I cannot yet tell in detail but one that has created my own brain/mental health journey, and which drives my relentless passion to improve in some small way -our present, broken, mental healthcare system.
In September 2014, my oldest daughter attempted to "escape" from family with her three toddlers due to her belief that part of the family would separate her from her children due to severe mental illness (SMI). In brief, she stated that she gave my two youngest grandchildren to a friend to care for until she could meet them. It is so very complicated; my daughter is now at a Maryland Psychiatric Hospital, charged with their disappearance. Due to her "incompetence to stand trial", the case is in a brutal, ongoing holding pattern.
The situation has received considerable media coverage, however I am not sharing links to publicity due to the mixture of partial truths and troubling assumptions. My hope is to make others aware of my situation, yet not focus heavily on the situation. My role from the first few weeks forward, has been that of collector and curator of all available data, including text and e-mail messages of the family, for the months leading up to the situation (perhaps a good match for someone working in informatics).
Early on, experts in missing persons advised me "not to throw out anything." As the children and my daughter were at my home a great deal, this led to an abundance of disorganized, cryptic data, yet also provided enough puzzle pieces to construct a fairly accurate timeline of events.
While there is no forensic evidence; her diagnosis of a SMI prompted authorities to move the case to Major Crimes (homicide) within 72 hours. My determination to discover the truth has not waned during these past 7 years. I empathize with all involved; there are reasons to be hopeful.
My handling of this very public situation has been to keep personal and professional content in two separate "containers"-- for want of a better word. My intent to avoid placing colleagues in the uncomfortable situation of commenting on this unthinkable ordeal eventually evolved into my own struggles with mental/brain health. At some point, I will elaborate, but I can say that the brain is quite adept at modeling itself around pain and trauma; the simple presence of children's voices, seeing them run by in public -conjures up my subconscious (obsessive) attentiveness in that direction.
I have struggled if and how much to share of this situation, but think the knowledge of my experience with mental illness, coupled with working in health care, my unquenchable quest for mental health answers, and new work (and hope) in the plasticity of our brain best highlight my passion to make a difference.
My intent is to focus on understanding the many options for those with brain symptoms/mental illness. A staggering statistic is that 80 percent of those in search of mental health services have no idea where to begin. I hope to change that statistic.
For those wondering why I use "brain health" and "mental health/illness", brain health represents the recent designation of brain health to represent how our brain can be modified by a variety of factors. "Brain Health", although not officially defined in the health care world, represents a brain that is not yet burdened by illness, while "mental" infers a condition/symptom. One organization has been working on "Brain Health" -I am encouraged by their progress and research: The Center for Brain Health (University of Texas at Dallas)
In researching mental illness and brain health, I have been pleasantly surprised by the recent explosion of behavioral telehealth services and payment (due to COVID-19), new innovative approaches to treatment, and the abundance of new organizations tackling mental illness. At present, psychiatric medication and behavioral counseling are the foundation of care. Unfortunately almost half of those on medication discontinue its use due to their extreme side effects. I believe this renewed focus on individuals actions to change their symptoms is the driving factor of a "tipping point" for mental illness and brain health.
The publicity from Olympic athletes, movie stars, and Royalty is casting brain health and mental illness with a new lens. I am grateful for the many divergent factors driving a new glimpse of mental illness and brain health.