Troubled Teens: Father recalls son's struggle with mental illness

Published: May. 10, 2013 at 3:08 AM CDT|Updated: May. 10, 2013 at 1:43 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn
Pat Milam
Pat Milam

Parents dealing with a mentally ill child know how difficult it can be.  Some, though, believe the system that's supposed to help them is failing.

Matthew and Michael Milam were brothers and best friends. Pat Milam, their father, loved his boys but as they began to get older, life wasn't so easy.

At 13 years old, Matthew was diagnosed with ADD and ADHD.

"At that point in time, you really think he's going to grow out of this. This is one of those phases," says Pat Milam.

Pat says, through the years, they dealt with Matthew's diagnoses.

Meanwhile, his younger son Michael began using heroin and his drug use progressively got worse.  In 2007, Pat lost Michael to a heroin overdose.

Matthew, at the time, was also acting out and began abusing drugs and alcohol. He had been seeing a psychiatrist and Pat and his wife were heavily involved in his treatments.

Health care laws quickly became a roadblock, though. "Shortly after he turned 18, the meetings, the conversations, were all cut off," says Pat.

Health privacy laws in Louisiana prohibit a physician from sharing the medical records of a patient 18 years or older without the patient's permission.

Pat says he continued to send information to Matthew's doctors, but because of the HIPAA laws, he was essentially cut off from what was going on with his son.

"Matthew got into some trouble and they put him in the diversion program here in Orleans Parish. We found a place in Baton Rouge that seemed like they had a really unique plan to deal with people that had substance abuse issues and mental issues. We sent him up there for six months. He did really well and gained weight," says Pat.

Matthew moved back home, but in the months that followed he started showing signs of a severe mental illness.

"I came home one day and he was frantic. He said the FBI had been here all day. I said, 'What's going on, Matthew?'  He said, 'I've discovered the black hole and I have all the information in the world. The government is after me,'" Pat recalls.

Pat says Matthew became so paranoid, he asked to be driven back to the Baton Rouge hospital.

On the way there, Matthew tried to commit suicide in the back seat.  He swallowed a whole bottle of pills.

"It's terrifying when you're a man driving your car and your son is behind you dying. We got to the rehab center and they actually helped us. We called the police and we got him into the rehab. He was diagnosed with bipolar paranoid schizophrenic. They kept him for seven to 10 days and they made him take his medication. He was doing fine," says Pat.

Matthew continued to see a psychiatrist, but once back home, he wasn't always taking his medication.  Matthew attempted to kill himself again.

"He thought it was some of these FBI agents after him from out of space. He grabbed a knife and ran into the bathroom. Luckily my wife was home at the time. She ran over and realized something was going on. She broke through the door and my son had cut his carotid artery, thank God not all the way through. She called me and I walked in the door. Blood was shooting out, and I just don't think anything can prepare you for that," says Pat.

Pat tackled his son and held him down until help could arrive. Matthew lost two litters of blood, but survived. He spent about a week and half in the hospital and was released.

"They cannot be treated in a week because 70 percent of the people lie and say, 'No ,I'm not going to kill myself so let me out,'" says Pat.

Pat now feared his own son. He remembers a time when Matthew asked for money to go to a school fair. When the answer was no, Matthew became enraged.

"He took a pair of scissors and broke them up and proceeded to tell us that he would cut us up. He called my wife the devil and said, 'I will put your blood on the walls.' When you say things like that, I think you mean it," says Pat.

The police were called to calm the situation.

Still, each day became scarier than the last for the Milam family. They began to document his behavior.

One afternoon, Pat says he decided to search Matthew's room.  He found propane tanks, gas cans, rat poison and shotgun shells.

Because he worried about Matthew's safety, Pat confronted him.  Matthew became violent and began breaking things in the house. Police were called and he was once again taken to the hospital.

Pat says he knew his son needed long-term care, and in an effort to prove it to doctors, he began collecting signed affidavits, documents from various people who had witnessed Matthew's outrageous behaviors and attempted suicides.

"I actually gave them pictures of the propane tanks so they wouldn't think I was making it up. I mean, that should tell you something," says Pat.

A few days later, Matthew was released.  He was home for a few days when Pat says he was getting ready to bring him to his outpatient appointment.

Matthew had gone upstairs to get ready; Pat says something wasn't right.

"All of a sudden, we heard a noise like 'bam,'" says Pat.

Matthew had used the propane tanks, gasoline, fireworks and shotgun shells to make a homemade device that exploded and killed him instantly.

Pat lost the battle to save his second son in October of 2011.

Watch FOX 8 News at 10 Friday for the second part of this special report.