When a person is living with a serious mental illness, the whole family is affected. It can sometimes take years for someone to receive a proper diagnosis, and longer to receive proper treatment. Untreated, a person may make irrational decisions or experience emotional instability. Symptoms don’t always manifest until adolescence or later in life. Parents often mistake their child’s behavioral changes for normal adolescent immaturity. Over time, many people battling mental health instability discover drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms. It’s no surprise to mental health practitioners that over 45% of people in the adult mental health system of care also have a substance use issue.
The story of Margo Lopez is all too common. Her son, who has bipolar disorder, was first introduced to Interim 20 years ago through the Bridge House program. Bridge House is a treatment facility for adults with a mental illness and a substance use disorder.
Thinking back, Margo recalls his erratic behavior began in high school, but did not escalate until his early twenties. He graduated high school, went to college for a few years, and even got married. It was at that time his drinking became a serious problem, and his delusional behavior more pronounced. Ultimately, his marriage failed and her son returned home. Margo and her husband sought help when he finally came to them and explained what he was dealing with. A therapist they began seeing recommended a psychiatrist. Her son was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder around that time.
After some time, they began accessing services through Monterey County Behavioral Health and their son was referred to Bridge House to address his alcohol addiction and mental health recovery. Now twenty years later, her son works as an Interim employee and lives in permanent housing. Margo credits Interim with helping her son and her family manage his illness. “Before he was diagnosed and medicated, it was pretty scary. And he was also scared by what he was feeling and experiencing. Once he got on medication, it took a while to work. As we’ve progressed through the years, he’s done very well. I attribute it to all the services that Interim has provided for him.”
She feels that Interim is unique in that it doesn’t just treat the symptoms of mental illness. “[Interim] looks at the whole person. Each individual has different challenges. They look at each person with their own trials, illnesses and personalities. They definitely take that into consideration. It has not been an easy journey. At times, it has been very heartbreaking, because you don’t want any of your children to suffer. I think that we all suffered through that. It’s still not smooth sailing by any means. But we know we can come to Interim at any time, and he knows that as well… We’ve never been disappointed.”
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