Laura Crooks, director of Rehabilitation Medicine, shares how losing her son, Chad, sent Laura and her husband on a mission to eliminate the stigma around mental illness.
My son had mental illness.
It seems so strange to write those words. Instead, I want to write that he was creative and loving and gentle. I want people to know him as a big brother and a son who lived in a large and loving family. I want him to be famous for his dream of inventing bold new means of space travel. But today, the part of Chad’s life I am compelled to share is that he had mental illness.
Chad was diagnosed with schizophrenia in April 2015. One evening, not long after telling his father and me that he had been hearing voices, he became suicidal.
I remember that night like it was yesterday. I remember taking him in the car, his dad holding him in a blanket at 21 years old, just so he wouldn’t jump out of the car as we made the trip up Interstate 5 to the University of Washington Emergency Department.
I remember coaching Chad on what to say once we got there: to tell them he wouldn’t make it through the night if they let him go. I remember how hard it was as a mom to tell my son to say these things. But I also know the truth about limited resources for mental health, and that this was the only way for him to truly get help and to keep him safe.