The mother of the man who killed Aplington-Parkersburg football coach and athletic director, Ed Thomas, says the mental health system failed their family for many years. Joan Becker, the mother of Mark Becker, spoke this week about mental health at a celebration for the United Way.
“There was a whole lot that we had done and we had experienced with our son Mark with what we now know was paranoid schizophrenia — which we did not have the diagnosis at the time. But what I’ve found speaking out throughout the state at various entities, is when we share our story, it becomes very apparent where gaps where in our particular family situation in the whole mental health system as it stands today.” Becker said.
Becker said we need to find a way to change people’s attitudes that mental health issues must be kept behind closed doors and shouldn’t be openly talked about. “Because we ran into that same situation ourselves. Because you have a child or a loved one that is attempting to live in a world that doesn’t understand and doesn’t maybe even want to accept that mental illness exists,” Becker explained.
“When this happened, it was that very night that my husband and I were holding and crying together and God convicted me that we need to share our family story in the hopes of helping others. Because they maybe can’t speak out, we can.” Becker says they’re trying to encourage individuals to contact the organizations that provide support for those with mental illness.
“They need to seek that help. I also want to open up the doors to the professionals, to the legal system to the judicial system, to everyone — and this is so huge, mental health is so huge– because there’s got to be communication between all of these entities,” Becker said.
“There’s gaps that can be closed up if we can get them to work together and get a good system in place to get a continuity and a quicker diagnosis.” Becker says the legal system has better addressed mental health issues since what’s happened with her son.
“The regionalizaton is coming to pass, and I have gone to some of those meetings, I am aware of some of the things they’re going to try and implement.. One of my biggest concerns with it is who is going to make it accountable and who is going to follow it up to make sure it’s being done, and that people are getting access to the services they need,” Becker said.
Becker spoke at the United Way of North-Central Iowa’s 90th anniversary celebration in Clear Lake, which also served as a kickoff for Mental Health Awareness Month.
By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City