One Cleveland Family’s Struggle to Find Help During a Mental Health Crisis

Anika (Francis) Williams was in a difficult position. The native Clevelander currently lives in Atlanta but she was concerned about her mother back here.

Sakeenah Francis, diagnosed with schizophrenia, had been living a happy stable life. She and her daughter Anika even wrote a book together, about five years ago, that told the story of how their family had overcome the darkest moments of the illness.

Things were going pretty well, according to Anika, until a new doctor changed Sakeenah’s medication dosage. The doctor thought she was doing so well that she could take a lower dose, the daughter said.

Even long distance, over the telephone, Anika began to notice a change in her mother’s behavior.

The two women normally spoke on the phone every day but then the mother stopped answering the phone or returning phone calls.  After a while, she stopped taking her medication altogether, Anika said.

“By the time she was completely off the medicine, at that point you definitely know because she starts to hear voices. She can get very delusional. She's usually a very sociable person. She gets really withdrawn so she starts kind of getting upset with all the family members -- cutting everybody off,” Anika said.

With the help of the Greater Cleveland National Alliance of Mental Illness, Anika alerted the Lakewood Police Department about her mother’s condition. In the case of an emergency, she wanted a trained Crisis Intervention officer sent her mom’s home.

“That was heartbreaking because I know that sometimes they can start she might start to wander. I worried about her just being out on the street,” Anika said.

Anika’s decision to alert the police paid off. Eventually her mother had a crisis and Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Officer Ron Bunner went to her apartment.

“She thought someone was pumping gas or heat in the vents and someone had poisoned her milk and her ice cream,” officer Bunner said.

As a CIT officer, Bunner received 40 hours of training on dealing with mental health crisis situations.

“My goal is to get them to talk to me and if they need to go to the hospital we’re gonna go to the hospital,” he said.

Officer Bunner took Sakeenah to the hospital, which resulted in a month long stay for her.

Anika said her mother is responding to her medicine and is getting back to her old self.

Anika has advice for people going through the same situation.

“You really have to start to educate yourself because you are, a lot of times, you are gonna be an advocate,” she said.

 

Here is a list of Mental Health Resources in Cuyahoga County

Urgent Intervention:

  • Frontline Services 24/7 Crisis Hotline -- 216-623-6888
  • St. Vincent Charity Medical Center Psychiatric ER -- 216-861-6200
  • Crisis Chat 24 Hour Support -- Text: 4Hope to 741741
  • Suicide Prevention Hotline -- 800-SUICIDE (784-2433) www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
  • Child Abuse Hotline -- 216-696-KIDS

Other Mental Health Services:

  • NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) of Greater Cleveland --216-875-7776
  • United Way First Call for Help -- 211 or 216-436-2000
  • Frontline Mental Health Services (Housing) – 216-623-6555

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