Turned Away From the ER

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BRIAN BRIESKE
Living life with a mental illness at times is calm, and at times can be very turbulent. And that was the experience we had with my brother Joe.

I had five brothers, one sister. We all grew up here. Jim was the smartest one of the bunch. As kids growing up, we weren't in the house a lot. We used to play constantly in the neighborhood park. But he was real smart, a good athlete. He was social, he was very happy. And he was a good guy. He cared about other people.

In 2006, he had an episode. He was picked up because he didn't have any clothes on. He was running across a golf course, and that's when he was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He has been hospitalized probably three times since his diagnosis.

There is the depression side of it and then there's the manic side of it. The depression side of it, those were the times when he was subdued enough where he would ask for help. The manic side, that was usually he would stay up all night long and doing who knows what.

May 23rd of 2016 was the day that he committed suicide.

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Later that evening, we know that he had wandered down to the river and met a guy down there fishing. He proceeded to walk up on the bridge, climb up on the railing, jumped into the water. The guy fishing ran over to see if he could help him, and by then the current had taken him over the dam.

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When we found out about that, we were, like, in shock. According to the reports that I have now, he was not a difficult patient.

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LESLIE LIPSON: I am a civil rights attorney, and I work with people with psychiatric disabilities. Hospitals typically have a protocol for people who come in expressing suicidal ideation. Most of them would have a very escalated response, supervision, urgent treatment evaluation by a psychiatrist. Often our culture, we think about gunshot wounds or heart attacks as being the situations where people come to an emergency room or a hospital seeking treatment. But the rate of death for people with significant psychiatric disabilities is alarming.

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BRIAN BRIESKE
Mental health needs to be taken seriously as an emergency because we can't see what's in their heads. When they come and ask for help, I think we need to deal with that accordingly because we don't know what's going to happen 24 hours from now.

As a nation, we see more and more of the bad things that happen. And I don't think we put enough resources into mental health.

LESLIE LIPSON
So people with psychiatric disabilities oftentimes experience rejection. They can be rejected by their family or by their community. When people with very serious psychiatric disorders go to an emergency room seeking care and then they're turned away, I think it feels like a last door that's shut in your face.

BRIAN BRIESKE
My brother Jim, he has a long history with Mercy Hospital. If they would have called someone, he could be alive today.

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