|Mark Speaks of the peril ahead, at a mental health summit, April 29th|
"Society cannot ignore this problem,
and if it does so, it does so at its peril.”Those were words Mark Costello declared from the rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capitol. His words became reality this week. His own peril was something he spoke little about. He did not want to add to the stress his son never really got relief from.
I was with Mark and a statewide group of mental health advocates on April 29th. We were coming together to draw attention to the severe problem that exists in Oklahoma and is made worse by poor leadership at the state level.
I am the president of NAMI Tulsa and lead one of the largest local affiliates in helping Oklahomans deal with the mental health challenges in their families. We also address the community impact and we advocate for more sensible policies to restore our loved ones, and our state.
We saw little media coverage that day. Yes, the governor spoke with us, but Mark Costello asked to have a moment to add his call for solutions. He rarely talked about his son, even when just the two of us spoke alone. Mental illness has a way of consuming all the emotional energy from a family and when you have an opportunity to get a break from care giving, you really don't want to ruminate on the subject very much.
|David Van Risseghem
Sooner Politics Publisher
NAMI Tulsa President
From The Oklahoman News Service:
At an April state Capitol gathering, Labor Commissioner Mark Costello told advocates they help others understand that when Oklahomans see people in need
"we are looking to the image and likeness of Christ and that we must be humane.".Almost exactly four months ago, in now what seems like a chilling speech, Oklahoma State Labor Commissioner Mark Costello thanked mental health advocates for the help they gave to him and his family.At an April state Capitol gathering, Costello told advocates they help others understand that when Oklahomans see people in need
"we are looking to the image and likeness of Christ and that we must be humane.
"And we must be understanding and understand that society cannot ignore this problem,
and if it does so, it does so at its peril.”Only 116 days later, Costello was dead after his son, Christian Costello, 26, allegedly stabbed him at a Braum’s restaurant in Oklahoma City.For more than five years, the Costello family tried to find quality, consistent mental health treatment for Christian Costello, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and has suffered from paranoid thoughts about his parents, a family spokesman and a source knowledgeable about Christian’s medical history said.
Many struggleSchizophrenia is a chronic, serious and disabling brain disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. People with the disorder might hear voices other people don’t hear, or they might believe other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts or plotting to harm them, according to the institute.In most cases, they are not violent to others.
“Most individuals living with mental illness are not violent, but when substance abuse is also present or treatment is not available, risks can increase,” Mary Giliberti, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Traci Cook, executive director of NAMI Oklahoma, said in a joint statement. “Mental illness can involve many challenges, both for individuals struggling with its effects and for families as a whole. There is no one solution.”
Traci Cook - NAMI Oklahoma DirectorOklahoma ranks No. 2 in the nation for the highest rates of adults with serious mental illnesses, according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Meanwhile, the state ranks No. 46 in the U.S. for the amount of money the state spends on mental health, according to Kaiser Health Foundation.In general, too many Oklahomans struggle to find access to care in the early stages of their mental illness, said Jeff Dismukes, spokesman at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Additionally, after an Oklahoman suffers from a mental health crisis, finding follow-up care at the community level also can be limited.
“This is a situation that impacts all of us, regardless of whether or not we have private health insurance,” Dismukes said.“We need to address the need for a comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment system. These are issues that have long been of great concern among behavioral health advocates and treatment providers. It is a discussion that should be had, but it should be done at a more appropriate time and in a way that does not cause additional pain for the Costello family.”
'A difficult thing'Since October, Christian Costello had been in and out of involuntarily commitments at local psychiatric facilities — the crisis center and St. Anthony’s Behavioral Medicine Center, a source knowledgeable of his medical history said. He had received medication through NorthCare, an Oklahoma City-based community mental health agency. Since 2010, he’s also had multiple run-ins with the police.
The Costellos did the best they could to find care for Christian Costello, a family spokesman said.
The Rev. Stephen Hamilton, of St. Monica Catholic Church in Edmond, said the Costellos drew on their faith as Christian struggled with mental illness. “They’ve tried to be strong in faith throughout it all, asking others they know and friends to pray for Christian,” Hamilton said.
Rev. Stephen Hamilton - Costello family's minister
“They would ask people to pray for Christian, to pray for the situation, pray for his well-being.”Part of the difficulty was with Christian being an adult, his parents couldn’t make choices for him like they could when he was a child, Hamilton said. “They tried to navigate as best they could with trust and faith and by seeking support from the broader community,” he said. “It was a difficult thing for them to try to approach and get him help for.”Mike Brose, Mental Health Association Oklahoma executive director, said families regularly face challenges in trying to help their adult children, especially when those adult children aren’t stable and might not realize they need help. “When you become a legal adult, you can or any of us can make a choice on whether we want to participate in any kind of treatment or not,” Brose said. “And if we chose not to do so, then that’s our choice. We have a right to do that, unless it begins to interfere or threaten to interfere with the rights of someone else.”If an Oklahoman is considered an “imminent” threat to themselves or others, then they might be able to be involuntarily committed to treatment, Brose said. But that’s not ideal. Ideally, a person would go willingly. And ideally, they wouldn’t get so sick that they would need to be involuntarily committed. And — ideally — Oklahoma would have enough community-based treatment that residents could get an array of mental health services, long before they’re ever in mental health crisis, Brose said. “This state has got to come together,” Brose said.“(State mental health Commissioner) Terri White goes over to the Legislature every year and talks about (needed services) to the point where I don’t think the elected officials are listening to her because they’ve ‘heard it all before’ and don’t have the political will to make the hard funding and allocation decisions that have to be made to fund something like that, but this tragedy is going to highlight that issue.”
'Family worked hard'
Cathy and Mark CostelloIn his April speech, Costello said he’d noted late in life that “there are a lot of mysteries, some of them beautiful.” “My wife is a mystery to me still after 33 years,” he said.But he said he’d discovered, "some of the mysteries involved mental health, they are incomprehensible until they affect friends or family."Joshua Harlow, the family’s spokesman, said;"the Costellos faced barriers to finding Christian Costello care, much like many families throughout Oklahoma with loved ones with serious mental illnesses.The family worked very hard in order to get him the treatment he needed, and when he would work with the family, things would progress for the better,But having access to consistent, quality options — sometimes that’s lacking in our state.”