Opinion

Fla. mom of mentally ill son understands Calif. tragedy: ‘I don’t need a study, I live it’

A South Florida mother who cares for her mentally ill child said she understands all too well how mass shootings can happen, like the one that broke out recently on a California college campus.

Michele Poole told BizPac Review that her heart breaks when she hears the conversations  surrounding the Santa Barbara tragedy, when a 22-year-old man murdered six people and injured 13 others before killing himself last week.

Michele Poole girls
Poole’s daughters, Gabbi and Shell

While cries for more gun control have already begun, Poole said the problem lies not with weapons but in dealing with a mentally ill child — a challenge she’s lived with for 44 years.

In a recent interview with BizPac Review, Poole said she took custody of her twin granddaughters after her son was incarcerated for shaking one of the girls and nearly killing her. She later adopted the girls when their mother was unable to care for them.

Hoping to change the debate about mass murders like those that have occurred in the past couple of years, Poole posted this message on her Facebook page:

So I am looking at Facebook and there it says what is on your mind? So this is what is on my mind. I feel so much pain for the families in California and all over our country who lose their love ones to mass murders. I understand the pain of losing a love one, because as many of you know my Gabbi’s life was changed so much after being shaken by her father, my son.

Now some will say, “What does this have to do with mass gun murders?” It is all about mental illness. This happened 20 years ago but I still find that today, my son, who has suffered all his life with mental illness, there is no place in this country for parents of a child with severe personality disorders to get help. You can’t lock them up, drugs are expensive and can’t be forced on them after 18. Look at the homeless problem in our country. Subtract the homeless that are there because of the economy and count the chronic homeless and we all know that many suffer from some form of mental illness. There are vets, adult children that families can’t manage, and addicts which for the most part are just self-medicating.

We can blame guns and Hollywood and politicians, but the fact of the matter is there is little or no answer for these individuals. I have been fortunate my son continues to commit crimes and goes to jail for two and three years at a time, over the past 25 years. But he has been out now for about five. I tried, against my better judgment, to help him one more time after totally isolating him for 15 years, and I let him stay at our home in the Carolinas. What a mistake. I can hardly go there because his insanity makes it difficult to visit. This past weekend he had another episode and threatened to burn our home down. I had him arrested and for the next 10 days I have peace that he is locked away. I have told everyone that he is dangerous and needs to be locked away. But there is nowhere to send him. Unless he commits a crime they can’t lock him up. Oh, they said they could make him get a shot each month and that may help. But really, after 25 years of developing survival behaviors in jail?

During his first 15 years, I took him to more counselors than I can think of, but nothing, nothing works. We need to develop a system to identify these individuals that even we parents can use to turn them in, and then identify those that can be treated. And those that can’t, lock them up. Forget until they commit a crime. Forget their rights, forget you can’t force them to take medication, or the cries in California of “Not One More” will be a cry in vain. I don’t need a study, I live it every day.

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