Loved Ones Living with Severe Mental Illness: Paul and Frank’s Story

By March 25, 2024No Comments

Two masculine-presenting people hug. Younger one is turned away from the camera (young adult)“Paul” was a charismatic and smart but socially challenged child. As he got older, Paul’s father “Frank” noticed his anxiety increasing to the point where he sometimes couldn’t get out of bed and avoided going to classes in high school. Anxiety started to become a regular part of his life. Paul’s parents didn’t realize he was struggling with mental health issues but tried to provide ways forward, such as outdoor school due to his love of nature and the outdoors. Once Paul graduated, he wandered for five years, taking odd jobs and developing a substance use disorder. After a few years, he experienced psychosis and was admitted to a local hospital in early 2016. Despite access to a telecare recovery program and housing through a different agency’s rental assistance program for two years, he wasn’t doing well. In 2018 he once again was back in complete psychosis, visiting the hospital roughly thirty times during that summer.

In 2019, Paul was admitted to one of New Narrative’s licensed residential sites, where he also received support from a caring clinician who looked at his symptoms and diagnosed him with bipolar disorder with manic psychotic episodes. Frank commented, “Having that office environment, that physical location was important. I think just being in an environment where it’s not just you but other people as well, you’ll see other people going through hard things.” Paul trusted the clinician and within a year was working a full-time job, which he kept for one and a half years without missing a day. He stopped using drugs while living in New Narrative housing. He had also started taking college courses in 2022 before another psychotic episode interrupted his educational aspirations.

What “Success” Looks Like in Mental Health Recovery

Navigating severe mental illness can be hard, not only for the participant but their loved ones as well. Frank knows: he has witnessed the roller coaster of major progress alongside significant setbacks in his son’s mental health. Frank said, “It’s been a major challenge, but New Narrative has been a huge part of the positive experience through Paul’s journey. Having a clinician involved on-site, talking about his goals and medications with him, it made an incredible difference.” He noted, “Living in the structure of a home and having his meds administered to him was really important. Sharing responsibilities, cleaning, helping each other and other people.” He noted that Paul has spoken about wanting to accomplish something, helping people, being active outdoors, and healthy eating as some of his goals. “My number one goal for Paul above everything else is that he remain healthy going forward and avoids having major setbacks like what he’s experiencing now. Is it possible that there could be a future for him where he doesn’t have manic psychotic breaks? I don’t know at this point if that’s a possibility but that’s my number one goal for him.” He also hopes for Paul to find a future path that is fulfilling. “He’s really smart,” Frank adds. “He could become an expert at a trade, even.”

What Loved Ones Should Know About Mental Health Struggles

Frank emphasized that most people have no idea or understanding of what a loved one may be going through. “There are a lot of things in life you can’t learn until you go through it,” he said. “I think the knowledge, compassion, insight for people and families going through this is priceless. For New Narrative’s staff, this is their passion.”

Resources for Family and Friends of People Living with Mental Illnesses

Most importantly, you are never alone. Mental health resources are available to friends and family members struggling to support a loved one living with severe mental illness. Here are some suggestions if you are unsure of where to start looking:

Join us in supporting families and their loved ones on their mental health journeys. Donate to New Narrative today.