Parents scared of own children say they need more from mental health agencies

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LOUISA, VA. – There is a reason the inside of one Louisa County home looks more like a vault.

Mother Renne Swymer is trying to safeguard herself and her youngest son from someone else living inside the home.

“It’s worrisome. It’s scary. I mean, I hate it,” said Swymer.

Swymer is scared of her now 13-year-old son, Tony. She said he has several mental disorders and his behavior has taken a severe turn for the worst within the last year.

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Renne Swymer is trying to safeguard herself and her youngest son from someone else living inside the home.


“He's become someone I don't know; he's angry, he's violent,” said Swymer.

She said Tony has also called police, to let them know he wanted to kill his mom --by stabbing her and cutting her up.

Swymer said Tony’s been to the emergency room frequently, has weekly visits from an in-home counselor and takes lots of medication, but it still doesn't work.

“I'm frustrated,” said Swymer. “How can I get help for my child when the help is so complicated to get?”

“They've put up so many obstacles,” she added.

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She now wants Tony in a 24-hour, live-in treatment facility, but said the process has been held up because various healthcare agencies seem to stand alone and are not communicating effectively with each other about her son's needs.

VCU Physician Dr. Aradhana Sood has extensively researched and written about children's mental health for more than two decades and she sits on the state's mental health task force.

She said the goal is to streamline all health services, so it's easier and faster for children like Tony to get the appropriate treatment.

“You know that the person is in crisis,” says Dr. Sood. “You know that they need help, but there is no structured mechanism. There's no institutionalized way of kind of saying, come on in, we will assist you.”

She said that the larger problem is many pediatricians and family practitioners aren't qualified to treat mental illnesses; a problem because these are the doctors caring for children the moment they're born.

“In their training curricular for medical school, they do not get any mental health training,” Dr. Sood said.


Kenneth Briggs says he's in crisis mode.

Kenneth Briggs says he's in crisis mode.

That’s why Dr. Sood wants to develop the curriculum to better train those who are not educated on the issue, which is what a father in Urbana wants.

Kenneth Briggs tells CBS 6 reporter that he's in crisis mode.

He said his 16-year old daughter has been diagnosed with several mental disorders and threatens to kill him and her classmates, which is why he locks away knives in his bedroom.

However, Briggs says her doctors and counselors seem clueless about the best way to treat her.

“Her counselors tell me, just tell her to stop talking that crazy mess,” Briggs said.

Briggs said he feels helpless because he just doesn't know where to find the treatment his daughter needs. It’s a feeling he said that no parent wants to live with, and Swymer agreed,

“I feel guilty,” Swymer said. “It makes me wonder what I did or didn't do that has caused them to be this way.”

After nearly a year of trying, Tony has finally been admitted to a 24-hour treatment facility.

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