Sunday, July 31, 2016

The devastating effects of schizophrenia in one man's life

A powerful story of the deteriorating life and death of once-respectable Sacramento citizen, Mike Lehmkuhl,  is told by  reporter Cynthia Hubert in Sunday’s [7/31/16] Bee.

Lehmkuhl is described as a very likable guy with a sometimes-goofy personality that went along with a formidable intelligence. He was a “standout wrestler” in high school and an “accomplished gymnast at Sacramento State” where he graduated and then got into the building trade before going on to run a contracting business and have a home proximate to Country Club Plaza.

Friends describe him as being “happy” and “sanguine” at that time in his life, when he was about age 50.

But, by 2011, when Lehmkuhl was 53, he was hearing voices in his head and his life began to fall apart. He tumbled into a homeless life, combatting demons in his head that spoke to him.
   
The Hubert piece provides a comprehensive picture of a good man beset by a devastating condition: schizophrenia. Lehmkuhl had good friends and loyal family members who tried to help. The Catholic Church that Lehmkuhl belonged to tried to be of aid, as well, but schizophrenia had a firm hold on Mike Lehmkuhl’s mind.

Read the full story at the Bee; it’s devastating: “Did Mike Lehmkuhl have to die? How California's mental health system failed one family

Also of great interest, Letters to the Editor re the Lehmkuhl story: "Letters to the Editor"

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Tom, here. I've been away from the degradations of day-to-day homelessness for several years now, though, obviously, since I continue to write this blog, the welfare of homeless folk continues to be of keen interest to me.

A lot of people in Homeless World, Sacramento suffer from mental issues, which certainly includes schizophrenia.

Dale wearing many layers of clothes in summer.
There was a point in time where three people who had mental problems were getting my attention. One, was a fellow whose name I understood to be "Dale," though others told me that that name was wrong. I would often see him sitting under the overpass on North 7th Street, north of North C Street. Once, I gave him some money; he took it but seemed to be insulted by my gift.

In the heat of hottest summer, Dale would wear four layers of clothes while he would try to wash other clothes he had using water he filched from a Mission hose. He would put the wet clothes on a fence that ran along the north side of North C St, near the mission to dry.

One day, Dale came over to me while I was standing in line to get into the mission. He spoke to me, but it was all gibberish to my ears. I told Dale that I was sorry but couldn't understand what he was saying. He blanched and walked away, hurriedly.

Another person I wanted to help was a black woman -- I'll call Rebecca -- who stayed near the Central branch of the Sacramento Public Library and would sleep next to the Subway sandwich place, near 7th & J. I tried to talk to her once, but she told me, "You're not my husband. Get away from me. Don't talk to me."

She had four carts filled with her belongings. To go anywhere she would have to move one cart at a time which made her journey eight times more difficult than someone who had, say, one cart of belongings.

I was at the Subway on 7th & J, eating my lunch one day when Rebecca came into the restaurant and was rudely ordered to leave the place. "You know you can't come in here," a sandwich-maker told her.

Another person I wanted to help was a fellow I would see sitting on a bench on Northgate Ave. He was a white guy whose face was turning beet-red from sitting there, day after day, in the hot sun. I gave him some sun screen, but he didn't seem to use it.

I called "Sac Steps Forward" to discuss each of these people. I was told that they knew Rebecca very well. She had refused their help to get her into housing. Dale's circumstance seemed to be similar; they knew about him, they said. As for the fellow on the bench: I was told they'd look into it.

5 Comments:

Blogger Steve said...

What a sad, sad story! And I wonder how many more like it tragically unfold every year in this country.

The thing is, this poor guy had many seriously concerned friends and family trying to help him, yet they couldn't. And what of the countless suffering souls who have no one in their lives who care?

It seems that changes need to be made in our laws to facilitate the provision of care for those whose mental illness is not only ruining their lives but also preventing them from acknowledging and seeking the help they need to get better.

But precisely what kinds of changes should be made that don't unduly impinge on an individual's rights? This is a question for far smarter and better informed persons than little old me.

Moreover, even if the conundrum above can be solved, there is perhaps the even more vexing one of where the money will come from to provide adequate treatment for all those seeking it for their debilitating mental illness.

And finally there's the problem of finding more effective treatments for such severely disabling conditions as the various schizophrenias. The anti-psychotic medications now prescribed are often incompletely effective and can sometimes produce side effects as bad or nearly so as the schizophrenia itself.

All in all, this is a very tough nut to crack, but we as a society have to keep trying and not give up on these tortured victims of mental illness.

August 1, 2016 at 8:49 AM  
Blogger Thomas Armstrong said...

I agree with all you are saying, Steve. I would guess that if I came to be affected by schizophrenia, I would do everything not to be institutionalized. But would I be in the right mind to make a decision like that for myself?

August 3, 2016 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I wonder if there's variation among schizophrenics, just as there is in inebriates, in their degree of self-awareness and in their corresponding ability to judge their need for help up to and including institutionalization.

August 14, 2016 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Thomas Armstrong said...

An interesting point, Steve. I'll look into it. In the case of Mike, the subject of the Bee story, it seems like the malady was advancing through the last 8, 10 years of his life -- sort of in line with his brain breaking down or coming to be disorganized in some distinct manner. I'll look into the matter and post another comment with whatever I learn.

August 14, 2016 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger Thomas Armstrong said...

Well. For what it's worth, I think I found a good breakdown on what schizophrenia can be at the "Mental Health America" website here: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/schizophrenia

And a link from that webpage, this -- http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/infographic-life-psychosis -- is very interesting. Life is not easy for many, that's for sure.

August 16, 2016 at 12:15 PM  

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