Coping with a loved one's mental illness

On June 24, I received a text message from my wife: "Problem with Gabe. Come home." When I reached home a few minutes later, my worst nightmare became a horrible reality. Gabe had jumped from the balcony of his apartment on the 59th floor of Marina City. Our beautiful, loving son was lost to us forever.

Gabe Mitchell was an artist and filmmaker. He was "handsome, smart, honest, kind and gentle." And throughout his adult life, he struggled with a brutal, self-destructive illness – schizophrenia.

Mental illness takes a toll on those who suffer from it, as well as their loved ones. Today on The Obit Report, we look at Gabe Mitchell's life and his struggles with schizophrenia – as beautifully and movingly related by his grieving father.

The Mitchells' story is not uncommon. According to Mental Health America, "Most people believe that mental disorders are rare and 'happen to someone else.' In fact, mental disorders are common and widespread. An estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year."


The National Alliance on Mental Illness shares the following, sobering statistics: 

  • 1 in 4 adults experiences a mental health disorder in a given year.
  • 1 in 17 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression.
  • More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder.


"Most families are not prepared to cope with learning their loved one has a mental illness. It can be physically and emotionally trying, and can make us feel vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others," says Mental Health America on its website. It's important to remember that there is hope and help.


Click here for information and tips from Mental Health America on recognizing and coping with mental illness in your family.


Image: Flickr Creative Commons/COCOMARIPOSA

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Comment by Starr Batis on July 30, 2012 at 1:18pm

Mental Illness can be so powerful . When I was 7 years old my mother married a man who had Bi Polar Disorder . He would say things that no one could really understand or level with . I felt bad because I knew he felt frustrated and misunderstood at times . Ultimately he lashed out , out of frustration and my sisters and I were put into foster care multiple times . Many times when we weren't in foster care , the police were called  over and over again . Now I am older and I only wish we could have understood him more . Tragedies like Gabe's should raise awarenesses in families with loved ones who have a mental illness . Get information on how to interact with your loved ones and how to assure them that you are there for them . And even by remembering scriptures like Proverbs 15:1 which says An answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up. The bible can be A most valuable tool in helping families as well with mental illness . I will pray for Gabe's family in this difficult time. 

Comment by Lisa M on July 26, 2012 at 1:44pm

I am guessing this piece of art is something Gabe has done? I think it is BEAUTIFUL!  I have a younger brother who suffers from schizophrenia. It affects our whole family. Worst of all our Mom passed away suddenly in March 2012, and he lived with her.  He is still in the apartment, and we are all (siblings 3 of us) take turns checking in on him. He also is an artist; painting, musicial-drums, guitar, flute..he is amazing.

I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for your loss...I know the soul of someone who suffers from schizophrenia---Beautiful Soul...we really are lucky to know them.


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