A father's journey: When helping a son meant coming to terms with his schizophrenia

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's very difficult for homeless providers to convince chronically homeless people with severe mental illnesses to get help.

But advocates say recognizing the signs of mental illness earlier could prevent many from ever falling into homelessness.

Tim Davidson says he was in denial for years about his son Scotty's mental illness. It wasn't until he jumped off of a freeway overpass that he accepted his child was suffering from schizophrenia.

"He thought he was being chased by apparitions that were going to torture him. He wasn't trying to kill himself. He thought he was better off jumping to try and get away from them," Davidson said.

Scotty survived the fall.

For his father, the ordeal was a wake-up call. Davidson admits the signs were there. He just didn't want to accept it.

"He was a fun-loving, athletic kid. A good student. All of those things you would hope for in your child," Davidson said. "Then his freshman year in college he had a psychotic break. He was cutting himself out of family pictures and started to believe everyone around him was out to get him."

Davidson turned to Hawaii's National Alliance on Mental Illness. The organization provides education and support sufferers and their families.

"I went through the family-to-family training with NAMI, which finally educated me on what a schizophrenic is feeling, what they're going through," Davidson said.

But at that time, Scotty was refusing to take medication and eventually ended up living on the streets. Davidson says his son believed the family was trying to hurt him.

NAMI outreach workers started building a relationship with Davidson's son. It took nearly two years, but Scotty eventually agreed to move home with his family and in April started taking medication.

"He gets the shot and it makes such a difference. He can think more clearly now. He's not having the hallucinations or the voices," said Davidson.

"Anybody that has an inclination that your son, daughter, sister, brother is possibly battling severe mental illness go to one of those classes. And as soon as possible because the sooner you as a family member can get on board with what's really happening to your loved one the better opportunity you'll have to help them."

Davidson says being apart of the organization, he now understands schizophrenia is just a medical condition.

"For a diabetic they have to get a shot everyday," he said. "That's no different from a person with schizophrenia that has to get a shot every two weeks or every month."

The National Alliance on Mental Illness will hold it's annual walk Saturday at Honolulu Hale. The event begins at 8 a.m.

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