I watched this beautifully put together HBO documentary on Monday night.
Mournful and emotional, “Boy Interrupted” is about a mentally ill boy who committed suicide when he was only 15 years old. Having experienced the same tragedy, I really wanted to see how the story could be told without being exploitative or sensationalized. They couldn’t have done a better job……..the parents put the film together. Both of them are in the film industry, but a good part of the documentary was made from actual “home” movies that they and that Evan, their son had personally filmed. Some of the clips even give you a sense of how difficult life for Evan was when he was struggling with his bi-polar illness that wasn’t diagnosed until he was eight years old. Eight years old??? I’m sure you’re thinking that’s incredibly young…..and it is. But, it happens. And in Evan’s case, he started threatening suicide as early as age five.
His parents did everything they could to get Evan help. Finally by age 10 he was experiencing some normalcy in his life with the help of medication, therapy and family and academic support. Tragically, at age 15 when all seemed to be going well he ended his life by jumping from his bedroom window several floors up. He left a note explaining how disconnected he felt…….something many 15 year old boys will experience. But, for Evan his sadness was overwhelming and his bi-polar illness prevented him from facing another day. In my case, I always say, schizophrenia took my son. – I know he wouldn’t have purposely “ripped my heart out.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness about one in ten children have a serious mental or emotional disorder, but fewer than half receive any mental health services in a given year. Over half of students with a mental disorder age 14 and older drop out of high school – the highest dropout rate of any disability group and many of the teenagers that have a mental disorder “self-medicate” with illegal drugs. Despite effective treatment, there are long delays, sometimes decades, before people seek and receive treatment.
These are pretty grim statistics, but I’m hopeful. As I have said before, I see people every day that have achieved mental health recovery. It’s something they have to work on- every day, and who knows, maybe one day we’ll find a cure or at least something to stop someone from wanting to end their life. Suicide causes unimaginable pain for those left behind.