Family feels “beat up” by mental health care after almost losing daughter to suicide

Posted at 5:21 PM, Aug 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-19 18:35:58-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – A Grand Rapids family said their 18-year-old daughter is slipping through the cracks of the mental health care system and they feel beat up. Now she is recovering in the hospital after two suicide attempts in the last two weeks.

Shari Richardson is the mother of daughter who was diagnosed with a learning disability at two-years-old that’s grown into a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Richardson reached out to FOX 17 in hopes that sharing her story may help change mental health care.

“I’ve struggled with Tianna,” said Richardson. “She almost lost her life. They weren’t sure if she was going to wake up, and me and her dad sat there for a couple days wondering if she was going to wake up, or wondering if we were going to lose her. All we were trying to do was get help for her.”

On Aug. 3, Tianna’s father Kelvin told FOX 17 that he called 911 when she threatened to drink cleaners. Grand Rapids Police said Tianna agreed to go to Network 180 for an evaluation; but Tianna’s parents said the evaluation only led to their daughter being released back into harm’s way.

“I asked (the social worker) why did they release her? She said that they felt she was okay,” said Richardson. “And I asked, ‘you paid her to leave your facility and you didn’t even know where she was going.’ ‘Well, we made sure she had a safe place to go.’ I told them you didn’t have a safe place.”

Richardson said Tianna takes several powerful mental health medications including seroquel and klonopin, that only Richardson and Tianna’s father Kelvin administer to her. When Tianna was taken to Network 180 her parents gave the medicine to the receptionist; but Richardson said Network 180 released Tianna with those medications and cab fare to her Richardson’s home.

Richardson told FOX 17 that she had no idea Tianna was coming and that she had her medication. Then three days later on Aug. 13 Tianna tried to take her life again, when officers said she took six bottles of pills.

“I was in room dancing with my grandkids and the boys come through and said, ‘Tianna just threw up in the bathroom,’ and she walked out of the door and she said, ‘I’m going to die in 15 minutes, but don’t tell mom,’” said Richardson.

Due to HIPPA regulations, Network 180 could not comment, but said they are looking into this incident. Management told FOX 17 that they see this miscommunication and difficulty often among families once teens turn 18 and parents do not have legal guardianship.

“Whether you’re rich or poor, you’re supposed to get the proper service, the proper health care,” said Richardson. “Me and her father have taken care of her since day one, 18 years. If a parent comes through and they’re concerned that their child is going to take their life, you would think they’d take that into consideration more and take it more seriously.”

Richardson said sometimes she feels too exhausted to complain, but feels sharing her family’s story is part of the way to fix the mental healthcare system.

“I highly recommend to all those parents: don’t give up, don’t get too tired, because you’ll get more help for your child in the end if you let the public know what’s happening and how you’ve been done wrong, so that we can make changes,” said Richardson.

Tianna’s parents said they have applied for legal guardianship of Tianna.

They are also worried that once Tianna does come home from the hospital, she has no safe place to go. They continue to work with social workers but stress that they do not feel that there is an adequate support system for both the family and those with mental illness.