Mental health help not any better than what it was a decade ago

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Our son passed away May 28, 1992 and he was only 22 years old. For seven years, he suffered a mental disorder, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Even with daily medication, his everyday struggle was an ordeal, but still he managed to function normal enough that most people were not aware of his illness.

What is easy for most of us was difficult for Gerardo. Regardless of how stable and “normal” he appeared on the outside, he was emotionally distraught on the inside.

When Gerardo was diagnosed as schizophrenic, he automatically adopted a stigma for life. He had to deal with the fact that it would be difficult to find and maintain a job with his illness. A social issue that troubled him so was that of finding the “right girl” that would be willing to understand and deal with his mental disorder.

Perhaps, though, his most difficult task was trying to lead a so-called “normal” life while being tormented by the “voices “he would hear.

Some days were worse than others, but never did the voices completely disappear. They would only fade away and soon be back to again confuse him.

He had questions that most of us have, but are usually afraid to ask. Questions about life and why certain things happen. Unlike most people who accept and deal with the inevitable parts of life, he wanted specific, clear-cut answers.

That was all that he wanted, just answers.

Despite his illness, Gerardo had many friends and most knew about his schizophrenia. They accepted him as he was and enjoyed his company.

He had fun like most young people do, but it was only a temporary thing. After the fun, reality would set in or the voices would start up. Again, schizophrenia would get the better of him.

The word schizophrenia itself is an intimidating term. Many people have no idea what it means. Others assume that it’s another word for “crazy” or “insane.” And, yet, there are even people who have never even heard the word schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia, in simplest terms, is defined as a major mental disorder of unknown cause most typically characterized by the inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and is often accompanied by delusions, hallucinations and peculiar behavior.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that does in fact exist in our Tri-community. This illness is not confined to the urban areas such as Tucson and Phoenix. It exists here, amongst us.

It is said that one in every ten individuals has some form of mental disorder. That means that our chances of knowing, working or having to deal with someone who has such a disorder is not as far-fetched as it may sound.

There is help available, however. The Tri-Community Counseling Services, located in Oracle, is a resource that should be fully utilized if the need for any kind of counseling should arise. However, Arizona ranks as one of the worst in the United States in programs and funding for mental illness services. This factor obviously affects the Tri-Community Counseling Services center. Their funding is limited.

In our Tri-community, we need to become more aware of mental illness. It’s an illness that cannot be ignored.

Perhaps had Gerardo not had schizophrenia, he would have been able to cope with life’s troublesome times, and perhaps also he would have made a rational decision and not taken his own life. We, his family, do not by any means condone his suicide, but rather we try to understand his pain and suffering during the last seven years of his life in an effort to try to help others understand, or at least become aware of schizophrenia.

/s/ Mr. and Mrs. Gerardo C. Alcaraz and Marisa

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