Firsthand: Resilient Mind

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My name is Kurt Sass. I’ve suffered depression since 1979, but the really bad depression, the one that lasted around 11 months, that was in 1998. That was the one that I was actually in bed for six months. I was having suicidal thoughts everyday, cutting myself up to 70 times a day, and I was really in awful shape.

What actually got me out of that depression was a total of 22 ECT treatments–electro-convulsive therapy. The cutting stopped completely. The thing with the suicidal thoughts: I still had them, but I didn’t have the impulse to act on them. Before I used to get the suicidal thoughts, and I’d be immediately thinking, jump out the window. I can joke about it now, but I remember actually thinking, cursing myself because I only lived on the second floor.

I have a son who’s 20 years old who’s mentally retarded, autistic, and he’s bipolar too. He lives in a group home. He was a happy kid, even though he had his development disabilities. All of a sudden, he was about five or six or so, he would start laughing uncontrollably. Then he started being violent for no reason at all.

So what happened after two years and seeing six group homes, it was like nobody was going to take him, mostly ’cause of the violence. So one day we’re in a children’s psychiatric emergency room and this ER doctor calls us aside. What he basically told me was, the only way to get your child in is that you have to pretend to be an abusive parent.

So I went back the next day, but there were people from child welfare there at the time. I yelled at my son. I called him every name in the book. But the worst part was the look of fear in his eye. That was awful. So they said, you can’t have your child back, which is what I was hoping for. And, by some miracle, all of a sudden, next day he’s in a group home, in the Bronx, close to the house.

In ’98, when I left the hospital, instead of just five days’ supply of medication, they made sure I had the referral for my therapist and they gave me a list of all these support groups. From that, I started volunteering at NAMI [National Alliance for the Mentally Ill], just stuffing envelopes. But then I started going to support groups, leading support groups. These groups are great, because you meet other people that are going through the same exact thing that you’re going through.