By Buddy Terrell
My son, John Terrell, began having bipolar episodes at the end of his freshman year at VCU in 2005. The journey has been both frustrating and tedious.
We kept hoping that the next doctor or counselor would help our son. Most likely, we think John also suffered Borderline Personality Disorder which prevented him from being honest with professionals due to feelings of embarrassment.
Eventually this led to his loosing employment and health insurance. At this point, the bipolar disorder was rapidly cycling and choices were limited at the Chesterfield County Mental Health Department. The personnel there did everything they could do to help John within those limitations.
John did not qualify for subsidies for Affordable Health Care Act and the Medicaid portion of the bill is not permitted in Virginia.
HIPAA rules, designed to protect patient’s records, blocked our being able to intervene. There were numerous calls to 911 and the Crisis Center Hot Line.
Five times John was hospitalized after attempts to die by suicide. After a couple of days we would collect John and hope that somehow he would get better. Unfortunately, he was self-medicating.
We were told we had to remove him from our home and support in order for him to get housing and assistance. This usually takes two to three years with the involvement and cost of a lawyer. How many homeless people are mentally ill? Are the mentally ill capable of being self-advocates?
We tried to get him the right counseling and medication, but the rules and the system, along with John’s mental state and choices at the moment, did not help.
On Tuesday, December 8th 2015, I found John’s body in his car. He left us a note that lamented a broken heart, personal sacrifice to prevent pain for an unborn daughter, and a loss of hope with his medical treatment.
My wife, his sister, brother and I are trying to do everything we can to heal after years of pain and frustration.
John loved to paint People, Places, and Things. He expressed in those visual nouns a passion to use color in patterns that revealed their form. His art was two dimensional, but his placement of color against color made them pop from the surface.
This is particularly evident with his “Skull” paintings. White bone was interpreted in patterns of color that brought life to these objects found on his countless walks in the woods behind our home. His drawings expressed mark making that showed hatchings and texture on his surfaces that were controlled with an active imagination. Many of his illustrations took his noun imagery on narrative adventures.
Where: Artspace Gallery in Richmond, VA, Zero East 4th St.
Richmond, VA 23224
When: October 28 – November 20
Proceeds: NAMI, Full Circle Grief Center, and Virginia Chapter American Foundation of Suicide Prevention
Hosting the International Suicide Survival Day:
Saturday, November 19, Artspace will host an International Suicide Survivor Day event 11:00 am – 2:00 pm. Free and Open to the Public