Kudos to Miami-Dade County Judge Steve Leifman for his efforts on behalf of the seriously mentally ill. Finally, someone realizes that the mentally ill do not belong in jail, they belong in hospitals. (Criminal mental health program in Dade seen as a model for the nation, May 22)
I have suffered from bipolar disorder for 53 years. My life has been a struggle. Fortunately, I was able to excel in school and earn a degree in business administration, although it took eleven years because I was institutionalized three times for weeks at a time. I raised a wonderful young man without the benefit of a father or child support, and hold many important positions in the arts community of South Florida.
Bipolar disorder doesn't have a magic cure. It is hit and miss. I have been given a multitude of different medications with horrific side effects. Recently, I suffered a seizure and was hospitalized where I was given yet another new medication.
Thank God for my son who has been a constant source of support, bringing me groceries and checking on me daily. This illness has not only cost me my career, it has stolen the best years of my life. My friends have all deserted me, most of my family no longer speaks to me and I live with shame and the stigma of mental illness.
I have been homeless, penniless, lonely, experienced incredible highs and devastating lows. I have attempted suicide many times going back to age nine when my parents divorced and my perfect world crumbled. I now exist on a small social security check and have no car as I wrecked it after church Easter Sunday and cannot afford to replace it.
After reading about what Judge Leifman is doing, I hope to help others with mental illness navigate their way into treatment. I feel blessed because I have not had to go to jail like so many seriously mentally ill people. Thank you for shedding light on the plight of mental illness.
Lisa A. Oliphant,