My name is Tucker Corprew. I am the mother of three sons and the owner of two retail consignment shops in the Ghent area of Norfolk. I am also a member of the Norfolk Chapter of the National Association for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).
My middle son, Chas, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and psychosis in his early 20’s. He was prescribed lithium but, despite taking his medications, he became more paranoid and psychotic. Even though the police were called on multiple occasions due his threats to himself and/or others, he was never taken to a magistrate. This past fall, at age 34, he suffered a nervous breakdown.
His wife and I went with him to the emergency room at Norfolk General Hospital for voluntary commitment. We spent 32 hours before a psychiatric bed was found on the 8th floor.
Chas stayed at the hospital for three weeks and was released before his medication proved effective, while he was still psychotic. He attempted suicide. This time, we went to the emergency room at DePaul Hospital. After 12 hours, the staff at DePaul sent him to Virginia Beach Psychiatric Hospital.
He stayed at Virginia Beach Psych for two weeks. The staff worked very hard to find a long-term bed for him at Eastern State. There were no beds so he was released.
On November 14, he hung himself in the home he shared with his young wife. His father found him. Several passages from the Psalms were found near him on the floor in the room.
Mental illness is a genetic disease. It is chronic and incurable. The victims certainly never cause their disease nor do they ask to be born with it. For those who are willing to take it, medication provides considerable relief. However, if a bipolar or schizophrenic person is not on medication, they can be an extreme risk to themselves, like Chas; or to others, like Cho, who committed the horrific crimes at Virginia Tech.
Unless there is more state funding for hospital beds; long-term treatment; and community outreach programs from the Community Services Boards, my fellow NAMI members and I fear that Virginia’s ranking as 39th in the country for mental health services will go even higher.
We know that the commonwealth is ranked number 1 in the country for business. However, is this ranking at the cost of support for our most vulnerable and helpless citizens.