Challenges of having child with mental illness


OKLAHOMA CITY – There are some reports that the suspect in the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting struggled with Asperger Syndrome.

While investigators are still looking into all of the details, some are asking if he could have received help for his mental state earlier.

Experts said denial is one of the biggest challenges for a family to overcome when dealing with mental illness, whether it’s Asperger Syndrome or something else.

Dr. Willis Holloway, a psychiatrist at St. Anthony Hospital, said often times families don’t acknowledge how dangerous a loved one can be until it is too late.

Another challenge is funding for mental health care.

Doctors said something really needs to change when it comes to funding.

Each year mental health budgets are cut, yet the need is not decreasing.

A local family, who we’ve introduced you to before, weighed in about just how difficult it can be to deal with a mentally ill loved one and why it’s so hard to get the help they may need.

MaryAnn Puckett knows all too well the challenges of dealing with mental illness.

She said her 31-year-old son Stephen suffers from autism. 

WATCH: See her family’s story here

While it took years to get a diagnosis, her family knew early on something was wrong.

“When he was teething my husband picked him up to console him and he bit him and caused him to bleed,” Puckett said” He put him down and he said, ‘What is wrong with this baby?’”

Dr. Holloway said, “It’s not unusual that some of these kids show evidence very early.”

However, Dr. Holloway said many times families ignore the early signs.

He said, “There’s a tendency on the part of parents to say to themselves, ‘he’ll grow out of it.’”

But too often that doesn’t happen.

In Stephen’s case, the violence has only escalated as he’s aged.

MaryAnn admits there have been times when she’s feared for her life.

She even has a deadbolt lock on her bedroom door; a place she can escape to and call for help.

Dr. Holloway said another challenge is getting help.

He said often times insurance, whether private or state-funded, barely covers the necessary care, leaving families like the Puckett’s with very few places to turn for help.

Puckett said, “It is devastating for a family.”

Dr. Holloway and Ms. Puckett said the best thing those around these families can do is get educated.

Both said a lack of education tends to be why these families feel like they can’t talk about what’s going on and why sometimes the situation is out of control before anyone knows they needed help.