Phillip Haynes, Roswell, GA, December 21, 2012
ROSWELL, Ga. -- Earlier this week, a Metro Atlanta mother came forward in response to the mental health issues raised in connection with the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
Her own, 25 year old son, she told 11Alive News, is dealing with mental illness and she hadn't been able to get help for him, or convince him to get help. He was choosing to remain homeless. She kept struggling on his behalf, and wanted other families suffering from, and dealing with, mental health issues to know they are not alone.
On Friday, there was a positive development:
The transformation in Phillip Haynes, between Tuesday and Friday, is stunning.
Phillip Haynes on Tuesday was homeless, sullen, frightened, and choosing to deal all alone with his mental illness that includes Bipolar Disorder. And, on that Tuesday, he was again refusing his mother's renewed attempts to hospitalize him.
"So you're going to stay here, then [on the streets]?" she asked. "Yeah, I'm not going to go into a facility," he replied.
One Mother's Battle with Her Son's Mental Illness
But, Phillip Haynes three days later was smiling, upbeat, engaging:
"Now I'm doing really good.... I'm just excited about things to come, good things."
He was grateful, hopeful.
"I just tried to reach out to him as best I could," his mother, Denise Haynes, said Friday night.
Denise said that since her face-to-face encounter with Phillip on Tuesday, she continued talking with him.
So did his father.
And 11Alive News learned about a program that would turn out to be just what Phillip needed, and told Denise about it: Grady Memorial Hospital's mental health professionals have an outreach to the homeless, part of the Assertive Community Treatment, "ACT," team. They make house calls on the streets, seeking the homeless and others to offer them help.
"I have people from Grady helping me, and I couldn't be more grateful," Phillip said.
Phillip agreed to take part in that out-patient help from Grady. It turns out a big reason he was refusing his family's attempts to get him into medical treatment was that he simply did not want to be admitted to a hospital.
Phillip is the one who called the ACT team. He and his mother were sitting in her car in a convenience store parking lot Friday and she made one more pitch to him about how brave it would be for him to seek help.
"I sat with him and I said, 'You're doing a wonderful thing if you do this, and getting help is, everybody has trouble in their lives and you have some, and it's okay to get help.' And at that point he took out the card [from the ACT team member] and called him on my phone. And set up an appointment. I was very surprised and elated at the same time. I was so happy... He said [over the phone], 'I will agree to meet with you,'.... I was almost frozen and trying so hard to not react. I've been holding back and when I'm by myself I cry all the time. And I was trying my best to try to... keep him calm so he could follow through."
It was important, Denise said, that Phillip is the one who made that phone call for help.
"Because he is the only person that can do that. And I could make all the suggestions I want, but ultimately it is his choice. It is his choice."
She took deep breaths as she spoke of this moment she can only hope is a positive turning point in her son's troubled life, she was trying to stay composed for the reporter and news camera.
The minute he agreed, she said, to the out-patient care, she offered to rent him a room at an extended stay motel in Roswell, and he accepted immediately with thanks.
And that afternoon, Phillip was settled in his room and having his first meeting with a Grady mental health professional.
"The best part about it," Phillip said, "is they're working with me and they're going to come out and see me, I think they're going to kind of make something personal for me, based upon my past history and my current situation. I couldn't thank them enough."
"I can't either, I can't thank them enough, either," Denise said later, fighting back tears.
Denise said that since Tuesday, as she continued to try to get Phillip into treatment, she's heard from other families struggling with seemingly unsolvable issues of mental health who have encouraged her, and thanked her for bringing the struggle into the open, and for not giving up on Phillip.
"Up and up, things are moving up," Phillip said with a smile. "And that's all I can ask for, really. Just happy for things I have, especially right around Christmas."
He's eager to get a job, any job, and maybe someday buy a car.
"I have never given up hope," Denise said, "and I hope that no one else [dealing with mental illness in a family] does either. Because you can see in communities where you might feel like you're pushed aside that there really are some great people out there [eager to offer support and help]. And where I might not have ever thought that there were, I am convinced that there are, I'm 100 percent convinced. And grateful, as my son says. Grateful.... I pray he continues to cooperate and get the help he needs. Certainly a wonderful way to start Christmas."