After a 13-year struggle with Bipolar disorder, Scott Baker took his own life.
It’s a tragedy that his mom, West River resident Dottie Pacharis, said could have been avoided. And in an effort to help other families get the help they need, Pacharis is sharing her story at Woods Memorial Church in Severna Park on September 11, as part of National Suicide Prevention Week.
“I will be talking about what happened to my son during his 13-year roller coaster ride with Bipolar disorder and my family’s inability to get him treated,” Pacharis said. “Also, the damage that was done to his brain each time he was allowed to go untreated for long periods of time.”
Author of the book Mind on the Run, Pacharis says what many people don’t understand is that once someone turns 18, as an adult, they have a civil right to refuse treatment for mental illness.
Pacharis’ son Scott Baker, who took his own life at the age of 40, was voluntarily committed 15 times in five different states during his battle with Bipolar disorder. Pacharis said it wasn’t that he refused treatment, but that “he didn’t feel anything was wrong with him.”
“Each and every time my son was allowed to go untreated for long periods of time, he sustained further brain damage,” Pacharis said. “I feel that what happened to my son, and sadly continues to happen to others, should not happen in this country.”
By stating that she is not a doctor and only speaks as a parent, Pacharis says she hopes that her story helps others see that they are not alone, and also raises awareness that there needs to be a change in mental health care.
“I am finding that nothing is quite as powerful as a mother’s voice,” Pacharis said. “I have lived through the situation—as has my family—for 13 years, and I really feel strongly that stories such as mine and others are important in education and advocating for changes in our mental health system.”
Pacharis’ presentation at Woods Memorial Church at 7 p.m. on September 11, will share the story of her family’s tragedy. Following the presentation, a panel of representatives from Anne Arundel Medical Center and Baltimore-Washington Medical Center, schools, churches and the community will discuss suicide prevention, crisis-response programs and resources for families.
“I have become an advocate for reforming our mental health laws,” Pacharis said. “And I take advantage of every opportunity to speak to groups and share the story of a suicide that proper treatment would have prevented.”