Mental Illness

As a child, I had books of baseball and football cards.

In one of those albums was a card of San Diego Chargers quarterback Jesse Freitas.

Freitas attended Stanford and San Diego State universities, and played for the Chargers in the 1970s.

Last Thursday, Jesse Lee Freitas was committed by a California judge to three years (max) in the Atascadero State Hospital.

The sixty-two year old former football player has battled mental illness for years.

This won't be his first stay at a psychiatric hospital, as Freitas was ordered there in 2012 as well.

Over the past several years, he has been arrested for a variety of crimes including theft, arson, hit-and-run, violation of protection orders, and has been under a variety of court-ordered supervision methods.

He has a reputation for refusing to take his doctor-ordered medications; even flushing them down the toilet while incarcerated.

During a 2012 court hearing, he told the judge he was through not taking his meds--that he wanted change.

Sadly, he was not able to deliver his promise, and his erratic and violent behaviors continued.


The US criminal justice system is well populated with those like Freitas.

Individuals struggling with mental health issues.

Individuals that families have tried unsuccessfully to help.

Individuals that police are then called to deal with at 3 am on a Saturday.

In an attempt to better educate police about the mentally ill, an important training session was held in February in Virginia.

At that class, former firefighter James Gibson told his personal struggles with mental illness to officers from Chesterfield County.

Gibson reminded officers how life can change in an instant, and discussed how his behavioral problems resulted in him being committed to a secure psychiatric facility.

I hope other police agencies in the US consider innovative training like Chesterfield County did.

Officers can then improve themselves for future encounters with the mentally ill.

And better support citizens with loved ones battling these illnesses; as the families of Jesse Freitas and James Gibson do on a daily basis.


Rachna Chhabria said...

Feel bad for sports people like Freitas who battle mental illness and are unable to get back to normal.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

It's sad that he has battled for so long. This is my field, and I take great interest in the laws. Virginia's governor passed some laws last fall right before he went out of office that were detrimental to people who struggle with mental illness. All of us in the field are hoping that those laws will be revised or reversed for the better.

Pat Hatt said...

Mental illness can be a challenge for all, especially when the person who has it doesn't think they have it.

Stephanie Faris said...

Yikes. While I feel bad for people who struggle with mental illness, I wonder if there's some way to force them to take their medication. A shot somehow, like those shots people get for birth control? Then the medication would be administered as needed? Who knows what technology will have in store.

Mary Kirkland said...

It's really sad that so many jails and prisons are full of mentally ill people in need of help and they won't be getting it because our system isn't cut out for that. There aren't enough hospitals for mentally ill patients and not enough judges to see that they need help not incarceration.

Brian Miller said...

the saddest part of all this is that they make it so hard to receive services for mental health...until we get tot he point of hospitalization...

terri said...

It's so sad to read about someone who knows they have a mental illness and how they have to fight it every day of their life.

Although, James Gibson seems like what could be considered a success story. Good for him for using his illness to help improve the lives of others.

ladyfi said...

Prison doesn't sound like a good place for people with mental health issues. Such a sad story.

Miss Caitlin S. said...

It's such a common tale when you shed the NFL and the fame from it. Living downtown since 2011 has really brought me face-to-face with the homeless population: They are all over my neighborhood, right by my job, etc. The ones who really upset my heart are the ones who you can see are clearly struggling with a mental issue. I often think of their loved ones, who is this person that someone cares about so much? Why couldn't they get enough help? Certainly difficult indeed. Thanks for highlighting another example. And thank you for your nice note!

Carma Sez said...

It scares me to see young kids playing football. What will the future hold for them in terms of traumatic brain injuries. Glad my son only had a passing interest...

debi o'neille said...

A very informative and important post, albeit sad.

Out on the prairie said...

Sad when this happens. I have attended many hearings for people being committed and med error is responsible for most.

lisa said...

Mental illness is a very misunderstood area. I've always been fascinated by the brain and its ability to be rational or distorted. It's such a mystery how and why it happens. I've started watching Black Box, a new show about bipolar disorder. I think it's really going to open some eyes.